Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)
TITLE: When They're Gone
By Carol Sprock
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For over 40 years, my blithe reply was, “Three brothers, two older and one younger. Yep, I’m the only girl.” Now I’m the only child of my parents still alive and breathing in this interminable present. I’m the leftover, as an elderly gent identified me at Dave’s funeral. Vaguely, I picture myself as the tattered remnants of a meal, the detritus from the first-time-around picks. Why was I not tossed away with the rest?
I become bogged in the semantics of sibling, its denotation of two or more requiring me and at least one other of the same biological-family rank. And that niggling verb have bears such an artless air of possession while pulsing with present-ness, here, now. Does it matter that until six years ago, I had three brothers who then became two, who in three years became one, and in three months became none, as if we were characters in an Agatha Christie novel? All that remains is the history of having, and even that is fractured, incomplete without the other storytellers. Without the Glenn I used to foot-wrestle so determinedly on the family room couch while our Pomeranian bounced between us, growling and barking at whoever was winning, yes, without Glenn, what significance does the tale have? No biological other is available to calibrate my mind pictures with our sibling record.
I must face reality. Without another, there is no sibling. My present is empty. Clearly, death supersedes my sister role.
She is waiting, curious at my hesitation to such a simple question. I decide that to represent my current status, the answer is “no.” But my brain stalls; my heart refuses to permit that single syllable to roll into the thrumming silence and allow us to chat onward, for almost outside my ken sparkles a promise: if I release all to God, He will incorporate each of us into his redemption chronicle. No, death cannot end our narrative, cannot destroy my sisterhood. I can bear witness to their sibling otherness. My three brothers do vibrantly live, sometimes in the teases I use to torment my husband or in the moments some strange expression flits across my face, and it seems that John, not I, grins so slyly.
Finally I reply, “Yes. Yes, I have three brothers.” I almost shout it, but my throat constricts the bold trek of these boisterous words, and they burble forth in stammers through a wryly twisted smile. Still, I have answered, and I gulp a breath in victory. Nonetheless, the time lag between question and answer has dragged well beyond the socially appropriate response time. She quickly wraps up the conversation, sparing me from elucidating that my answer is both lie and truth.
After three years of sisterly aloneness, I can usually forestall the burning torrents of tears until I am safely away from others, at which time the falsehood of claiming brothers becomes a phantom intoning, “They’re not here. You have siblings no more, no more. They’re gone, gone forevermore.” Yowling through the empty spaces where my brothers used to be, I wail to Abba God, “They should be here, Father. They should be here, now.”
Gradually, tenderly entering my blackness, joining my keening, comes another whose breath momentarily clarifies the murky not-here faces of John and Dave and Glenn. Ah, they are so alive. Again I remember: it is not I who writes our sibling saga but the Spirit who knows the Father’s heart as well as my own. Oh yes, precious Spirit, remind me once more. I do have siblings, I do. Three brothers plus one. And the one is Jesus, the brother who will never die but lo, is with me always to the very end.
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