Why I am Thankful for My Little Sister: A Love Letter to Sarah

The month of November is a great time to develop a gratitude practice. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the spirit of the season seems to set the tone for gratitude.

This blog series, #30DaysofGratitude, hopes to share bits of gratitude and create an awareness of how gratitude can change our mindset.

Every day this month, I, along with other writers, teachers and friends, will post about all things gratitude. Come along for the ride and let me know what you are most grateful for every day – I know we can inspire one another.

Written by: Martha Zeeman

Martha and her baby sister Sarah.
Martha and her baby sister Sarah.

I’m the eldest child in my family.  I have one younger sister by three and a half years, which is just enough difference that we weren’t friends or enemies growing up. Sure, I pulled some mean older sister stuff, like when I blindfolded her and made her eat mayonnaise, but I also saved her butt when she had an out of control party and introduced her to older boys!

There was just the two of us and although we were very different, we got along just fine. Growing up I was the serious/ rule follower/ first born and she was the more fun loving/free spirited/ baby of the family. That all changed though when our Dad killed himself after a long battle with depression.

I was 24 and Sarah, 21. People who knew us before say after our Dad died, we switched roles. I started taking life less seriously and she became a rule follower. Neither of us really understand why that happened, but I’d like to think that 25 years later, we are both somewhere in the middle. I am certain that 25 years later, we are best friends.

Lots has happened in those 25 years. We both got married and had kids. She married a local boy and stayed close to home. I married someone from Chicago and I’ve lived all over the world.  Our Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003. Sarah lived close by and had to deal with a lot of crap, like going to the hospital in an ambulance with my Mom and taking her to almost every chemo treatment. 

I lived in Chicago and had three young kids and a husband who travelled for work. I went to Boston once a month for a week with my youngest son while paying a babysitter to stay with my older two school-aged kids. There were definitely moments I knew Sarah had the bad end, and there were moments when she was pissed that I lived far away. We had some tough interchanges, but realized in reality –  it sucked for both of us.

What could easily have torn us apart instead brought us closer together. When the end was near, we promised our Mom that despite the distance we’d see each other all the time and we’d spend holidays together. We do. We also do so much more.

I talk to my sister nearly every day. Sometimes it is for 20 minutes of family/town gossip. Sometimes it is for two minutes to tell each other something cool/fun that happened. Sometimes it is for 45 minutes to talk about whether we made the right parenting decision. Sometimes it is for hours when we share our heartbreaks or personal failures. Sometimes it is for five minutes to ask what she’s making for dinner or if she can send me the recipe for that dish I had when I was at her house.  Sometimes it’s for 10 seconds to just yell “AAAAGGGHHH”.

We never call each other back after those 10 second calls because we both know there is no need. I am grateful for every telephone call from my sister. I know when she’s calling because I gave her her own ring tone – Keith Urban’s “Who Wouldn’t Want To Be Me?”   I usually answer saying “Who wouldn’t want to be you?”

My sister knows everything about me – the good, the fantastic, the bad and the really bad – and she’s willing to point it all out when needed. She’s my biggest fan and my toughest critic. I know there are many siblings who have strained relationships and that makes me even more grateful for Sarah’s love and friendship.

Life’s challenges and the physical distance between us could definitely have taken their toll on us but instead we are stronger. The hugs she gives when we see each other after a while make up for the distance every time. I know my husband loves me, and I’m truly  grateful for him, but let’s be honest, is marriage truly 100% unconditional love? The thing with my sister and me- it is 100% unconditional love and at my age I realize this is a rare gift. The day she was born, I won the sibling lottery and I am truly grateful for my sister Sarah. 

What are you grateful for regarding your siblings? Let us know in the comments below!

Martha Zeeman is a wife, a mom, a sister, a yogi, and a volunteer addict.   She lives with her husband,  her three children, and her dog, but not with her sister.

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Previous Post:  Five Everyday Things That Make Me Grateful

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