Jonathan and Courtney – Nov. 2011
My sister Courtney and I have, well… a complex relationship. When she was first born, I was so excited to have a little sister I could play with, and be friends with. But then, things began to go wrong. Courtney started to have many, many seizures and I began to understand that Courtney was not a normal little sister. Mom and Dad spent a lot of time in the hospital and visited all kinds of doctors so I spent a lot of time with family and friends for reasons I didn’t always understand at the time.
Now, I have never been upset with my sister, even though I know she will never be the little sister I thought I would have. In fact, over the years, quite the opposite has happened. I love her so much, it hurts me to think of what she has to go through when she has a seizure, especially when she stops breathing–which is really freakin terrifying. It not her fault that she is the way she is.
Our parents, on the other hand, had a much harder time from me as a child. Because Courtney demanded so much of their time, I always felt ignored. I was rather petulant and, to be honest. A brat, constantly lashing out at my parents in order to get their attention. It wasn’t until I entered counseling a year and a half ago that I started to talk about how I felt and began to understand that what I experienced was a form of “survivor’s guilt” because Courtney had seizures and multiple disabilities and I didn’t. I have learned that it’s okay to feel that way.
After we moved to Virginia for Dad’s assignment in the Navy, I began to be homeschooled. I had never done well in public school; in fact, I punched a kid once for calling Courtney a retard. Being around my mom all the time helped to make up for feeling ignored so much when Courtney was younger. It was a great time in my life, and Courtney was always there, smiling and giggling–especially when I got into trouble. She still smiles and giggles when I am in trouble – just like a little sister.
When I was 10, my parents and Courtney went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. As Catholics, my family knew that this was a place of great healing, and we were so excited at the idea of Courtney being healed of her afflictions. However, God had different plans. I was spending time with a family in our family group, in addition to my grandparents. When my parents called while I was at Grandpa and Grandma Green’s, I was so hyped to hear what happened. But Courtney was still the same. God had chosen not to heal her. I felt so betrayed by this. I was so hopeful, I had prayed so hard, that the news that she remained as she was crushed me.
I nearly gave into despair at this point. But even after all of this sorrow, when I spoke to Grandma and Grandpa, I knew deep down that this was how it was meant to be. God had a purpose for Courtney being as she is, and my desire to have a sister who was “normal” didn’t fit into the plan. I resolved then and there never to give up on Courtney simply because she was to remain broken on the outside. I resolved to be the best big brother I could.
As I got older, I assumed more responsibility for taking care of Courtney; not like Mom and Dad care for her, but as her big brother should. I help with almost everything (except changing diapers- no way, no how!), as well as keeping an eye on her if Mom needs to go to the grocery store (my favorite thing for Mom to do) or if Mom and Dad have a date night. Courtney loves it when I read books to her, and she always laughs at all the funny voices I make. Of course, she is my little sister, and as a little sister, she has found ways to drive me crazy. Nothing says Courtney like her kicking me as I try to put her shoes on her in her wheel chair or when she sneezes while I am feeding her. I have never stopped caring for Courtney, and even now, her laughter is enough to brighten even my crappiest day.
Courtney has taught me a lot about life. It’s often the simplest things in life that we get the most satisfaction from, like her smile when Courtney hears her big brother’s voice or hearing her giggle as I read Fox in Socks. I also learned that courage can take many forms, from defending the honor of a person that none of your friends really understands, to having the fortitude to take out a REALLY smelly diaper. I also found it amazing that one person can truly unite people who normally have nothing in common (this blog is proof of that). A strong heart and spirit can overcome any fragility; Courtney has beat every dire prediction made about her future and still carries out the vocation God has given her. Finally, I believe that God not only has a sense of humor, but He tells really good jokes. I mean, why else would Courtney laugh in her sleep so much?
My sister’s fate was hard to accept when I was little. But over the years, I have accepted her as God made her. When I see her struggling, I pray for her, and it gives me hope–hope that, when her mission is fulfilled, God calls her home, and she can shed herself of the prison she must stay in on Earth. And when I die, if I am so blessed to be with Our Lord, I hope to see her as God does – perfect, beautiful and free.
Daddy and his girl – 2011
By now everyone has read this story, which Mary has struggled to complete for nearly 3 years, and I am very proud of her for doing it. My journey is a little different. As you may have gathered, I was not from a very large family, and having children was not in my plan when I went off to Annapolis that hot, hot summer of 1983.
Copyright 2011 ~ Mary E. Lenaburg
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