Using Your Heart
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” — Eleanor Roosevelt.
I have several friends who are the only children in their family, and they all used to say how lonely their lives were and how my life must be so eventful and exciting because I have a younger sister, and I would often laugh at how they were correct but for a different reason than they thought. My life was and still is pretty busy, filled with various hospital visits and physical therapies for this younger sister. My sister, Sabrina, has a rare genetic disorder that displays many symptoms of muscular dystrophy and she has been using a wheelchair since she was two years old, as she has never been able to walk. Here in March of 2016, Sabrina is a month shy of being 14 years old and she holds the dearest position in my heart.
Our childhood was definitely not a normal one, but it was filled with cherished memories nonetheless.. Our Christmas nights would often be spent singing in hospital rooms, and while regular sisters would spend time jumping on beds and playing hide and seek, we adapted and camped out under the dining table or played games while Sabrina was getting tested in the doctor’s office.
When I was younger, our relationship was one of regular sibling strife, with us going back and forth with each other and it always ending up with one of my parents having to rip us apart. My mother always told me that I had to be a good big sister, and until I was about nine years old, I never understood what that entailed. Until one day I was volunteering at her elementary school and I spent her lunch period sitting with her and her friends.
As an older sister, I was always worried for how kids would treat Sabrina with her condition, as I knew how cruel young kids could be when they were ignorant. I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. These kids showed more love and affection to Sabrina than I had been giving, I had grimly realized. These kids who knew her for only a couple months were treating her as one of their closest friends. If they couldn’t understand what she was saying, they laughed and continued to be kind to her, and sometimes they even asked her again; they were always patient and forgiving. It was then I realized that I had to step up and become the sister that Sabrina so utterly deserved.
Sabrina is what I like to describe as a ray of sunshine. She’s constantly so filled with energy, even in the worst of times, and happiness follows her wherever she goes. I never realized what a pure heart she had until I was about ten years old. I thought back to all of her hospital visits up to that point, and I realized that Sabrina never complained -- not one bit. She always put up a brave face (as brave as an eight year old could get) and she never once lost that smile that she famously displayed. Throughout the countless blood samples and MRIs and biopsies that she received, she was always Sabrina; she was always the girl with the smile that could light up the room. She was, and is, always that little ray of sunshine. And when I was ten I learned to soak up those rays and embrace her.
Caring for Sabrina was a daunting task, and the older I grew the more duties I took on. Sometimes I would have to carry Sabrina from the car to her wheelchair when my father’s back gave out or when my mother was faced with illness. I often clean her up after a meal, or make sure all her toys are ready to go with her on her next hospital journey. I feel like doing these little things for my sister is the best I can do in these circumstances, and I’m more than happy to do anything she wishes.
Over these last five years Sabrina and I have truly become sisters, and I have learned to open my heart up to her. When she wants to show me a My Little Pony episode, I watch with an open mind. When she wants to draw in her coloring book with me, I jump right in. When she wants one of my famous warm hugs, well, who can say no to that? The love I feel for Sabrina is the strongest now at fifteen years old than it’s been in my whole life. And I know it’s only going to grow from here. Throughout my life I’ve learned to be open minded and live life with an open heart and my arms wide open. Sabrina has always been there for me with her smiles and I have vowed to be there for her wherever life takes us. I’m her pillar for her to lean on as she is mine, and together I know we can accomplish anything -- as long as I have an open heart.