Growing up, my sister, Mary, and I shared a bedroom. When I was about 11, I received a teddy bear as a gift. Inside the bear was a music box, and I enjoyed hearing the music coming from that bear so much that I made the little thing play and play until off to sleep I went. Of course, Mary, being one year older, took every opportunity to let me know how childish I was, but nothing stopped me.
One night I pretended to be asleep, and when that brown bear ran out of music, just who do you think came over to my bed to make the bear play again? Yep, my dear sister Mary, that's who. I sprang up in bed and said, "Gotcha!" She confessed that every night when I fell asleep first, she would come over and make my bear play for her.
We both grew up. About four years ago, Mary was at my house having a not so good day. She had contracted hepatitis C in her late teens, but after years of the virus lying dormant, it began wreaking havoc on her body, especially her liver. On this day, she said she just didn't have any good memories from her past. I ran up the stairs and into the bedroom. I put our little bear behind my back, and back down the stairs I flew.
I could feel my eyes well with tears as I put the bear in her hands. She took one look at him and collapsed in tears into my arms. The little brown bear went home to live with Mary that day. I didn't know then that he would come back to me again so soon. After fighting her illness for the last 10 years of her life, she suffered a fatal heart attack while waiting for a liver transplant.
Today, I have moved from the nightmare of her loss into a different reality that I am comfortable calling "a new me." And our bear has a place of honor next to my computer, so he visits with me daily. Glancing at him, I am reminded of Mary's smile and her contagious laugh. I will always miss Mary, but she will be, for forever and a day, my sister.
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