If you have a sister or a brother you should count yourself lucky. That kind of connection is forged through years of shared moments, both good and bad that form an unbreakable bond. The dictionary definition will say it is where a boy and a girl share the same birth mother, which of course is one hundred percent true most of the time, but not in my case.
I was born to a family without a girl in the house, except of course for my mother. As my good fortune, however, we moved to a place where my familial connection quickly doubled. Martha and her family moved in after we did, but they would come to be our closest neighbors. Our new next door neighbor, which became my day care solution also doubled as my second home. In this home was the girl that I claim, whether she liked it or not, as my sister.
Martha Virginia Bryan was just a bit older than me and experienced as a sister as she had an older brother that kind of filled in as my older brother for a little while. But it is my connection with Martha that grew so strong over the years. From the time I was very young I knew I was welcome to visit Martha’s house at any time and I did very often.
I have been told when I was just beginning to understand the concepts of names I would see Martha or her mother coming and going from their home and call out across our yard “Minne-Marty”. You see to me they were both “Minnie-Marty” which was nothing but the definition of family love. I was always ultimately comfortable in their presence. When you spend so much time with another family you share their life.
I experienced my first unexpected death with Martha’s family. I was twelve years old when her father Chester or Ches died in his sleep. I can remember thinking how strange it was since I remember he came to our house the previous evening and watched Sanford and Son with my dad. I suppose it is like all those other times you hear another say I just saw him on Tuesday before he died. I knew it meant something very different would be the normal at Martha’s home.
Another major family event we shared was when I got married. Thanks to Martha’s mom, who played the matchmaker, I found my once in a lifetime mate. The acceptance of Martha and the other members of my family helped me know I was making the right choice. Martha came to our rescue after our wedding when we walked outside to find no limousine waiting to take us from the church by volunteering her car.
Martha is a nurse at our local hospital in the women’s pavilion or maternity ward. She was not on duty the night our son came into the world, but was just as excited to have a new nephew as any aunt. When it came time to leave the hospital Martha was the one who carried our son Isaac to our car. The family connection is strong even today, with Martha making it out to see Isaac and his sister twice this season as they performed with the marching band.
My bond with Martha continued to grow stronger as we shared more sorrow, namely the deaths of my only blood sibling, Kevin and her mother. Both of them were victims of Cancer which is a disease that continued to plague my family over the next few years by taking my father and my mother. I think each of these deaths affected Martha in a similar way as me because our families were so close.
I tried to be there for Martha in the losses of her family as she was with me. During my mother’s last week of life Martha spent many hours at my mom’s house, including several of the last hours of the last night and day, where we reminisced about untold stories from our shared price. As I said in the beginning it is not just blood ties that bind you together as a family but the shared moments, both good and bad.
When I got the call that Martha’s older brother and only blood sibling Johnny had died, I immediately dropped what I was doing to accompany her to the funeral home to make the arrangements. You see it is not that Martha was incapable of doing it, but she is my family and I did not want her to feel all alone. You do that for your family because you care.
Martha’s birthday is today, November 11. I wanted to make sure I remembered her birthday in a way that says I care. I am not very good at choosing gifts, just asks my wife, but I felt like this might just be a better way to honor my sister. I hope she enjoys this tribute on her birthday and the collection of pictures I dug up for the occasion.
Happy birthday sis!