by Christina Weigand
Forty five years ago this October a baby girl was born to a young couple. Sixteen years ago on September 20, this baby girl, then almost twenty nine years older, died.
In her twenty nine years she touched many lives and became the inspiration for a few of those lives. This is some of her story told by one of those lives she inspired.
She was my younger sister, more precisely, one of my younger sisters. I am the oldest of eight children, but thatís a story for another day. Cheryl was number two, although over the years it often felt as if she was number one.
I canít tell you her whole story, because I donít know all of it. When we got older, I got married and moved away, and then she joined the Air National Guard and moved away. We kept in touch, but we could have and should have done more. We didnít know that we only had a few years left.
We spent her whole life competing with each other. I often felt that I was second best next to her. I envied the life she had. Cheryl seemed to have all the things I wanted. It wasnít until it was too late that I realized she felt the same way about me.
Compared to Cherylís life mine seemed rather dull. I was a wife and mother, while she was traveling the world and learning to fly. I envied how brave she was. She was doing the things I would only dream of doing. When I look at my sons, I see that quality in them. She was a risk taker. I donít know of many things that would hold her back. If she saw something she wanted, she went after it. Maybe she had a sense that her life would be short, because she definitely lived her life to its fullest.
A few years before she died, I decided it was time for me to go to college. Cheryl had already been going to college. She was living in Alaska by then and we sent infrequent letters to each other. One letter will always stay in the forefront of my mind. She supported me, reassured me, and most of all, congratulated me. I felt as if I had finally measured up in her eyes.
Soon I was immersed in school and raising my family and our letters were few and far between. I was taking my first Oral Communications class when Cheryl was killed. Of course I missed a class or two because of the funeral. When I returned to class we were preparing to do one of the many speeches that were class requirements. The instructor would videotape our speeches, and then if he thought one was exceptional he would use it as an example in his other classes.
One evening, while I sat at home preparing for class the next day, the phone rang. It is my instructor. I thought this was unusual; instructors didnít usually call students. First he told me that Cheryl had taken his class a few years ago and that he made the connection that she was my sister. Also, he had recorded one of her speeches and was going to play it at our next class. He was letting me know ahead of time just in case I didnít want to see it.
I went to class the next day and watched the video. It was upsetting, but I didnít leave the room. I watched the whole thing. It was good to see her alive and vibrant again, doing something that she loved. I hadnít seen anything like that since months before she died. I think it helped me have some closure, since we hadnít gotten to say goodbye.
Months after she died, I started sewing more. Our mother did a lot of sewing when we were kids. All of us girls learned to sew, some better than others. Cheryl was one of the better ones. She would make clothes for us on birthdays and holidays. She worked in a fabric store and some of the things she made won awards. After she died, I wanted to believe a small part of her had possessed me, and I sewed more than I had been. Soon, I realized that although I could sew, I was not meant to sew like she did. I was too impatient and cut corners. So I still do some sewing, but keep in my mind that God has given me other gifts.
I learned a lot of lessons from Cheryl. One was to take advantage of every opportunity to communicate with the ones you love, for you never know when they will be taken from you. Secondly, donít be jealous of the life someone else has but, live your own life to the fullest. Finally, God gave me talents. They are different than Cherylís. That doesnít make hers or mine any better or worse. You canít compare them. God has a plan for all of us, and they donít hinge on someone elseís talents. So, love, laugh, and share with those you love, and live your life like today is your last, because it just may be.
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The relationship between these sisters reminds me a lot of the relationship my older sister and I have. In fact, I could almost see my sister watching me in that classroom. What a beautiful (but sad) reminder to live life to its fullest while we have it to live.