It was eight years ago. I was a 24-year-old mother of two, and I was expecting my third child in a few short months.
I remember getting a phone call from my parents who were on their way home from visiting my older sister and her family who lived across the country. My mom told me the news: They were bringing my older sister, along with her three young children, home with them.
I was so excited. I hadn’t seen my sister in such a long time and we hadn’t spoken by way of phone as often as I would have liked. And with Facebook and social media non-existent at the time, communication was not as open as it is today. Anxious, I hurried and packed some bags and drove my little family four hours south to meet my sister at my parents' house.
I remember it like it was yesterday. There she was, the shell of what was once such a vibrant, confident woman. She was frail and quiet, and her voice was gone.
As I hugged her, I felt as if the tables had turned. My older sister — the one who comforted me when I needed it — was now in need of my help. Not knowing what was wrong, I felt helpless.
Over the course of a few short months, my family and I did all we could with the little information we had to patch up what was broken and to strengthen and bring life back to her.
One night, after a phone call that I never wanted to end, I told my sister I loved her, and then went to bed. A few short hours later, I woke up with a feeling that something wasn’t right. At 6 a.m. I called my dad and he told me my sister was being taken by helicopter to the hospital after an attempt to take her own life.
After five days in the hospital, my sister was removed from life support and she passed away.
There I was, a young mother just weeks away from giving birth and I had lost my older sister. Overcome with grief, pain, sorrow and countless questions, I felt so alone. Then the judgments came. With her dying from self-inflicting injuries, there was no shortage of judgment being passed our way and directed toward her. People were mean, unkind and didn’t seem to care what they were saying or to whom they were saying it.
Then came the phone call from my mom asking me, of all people, to write and give the eulogy.
While most eulogies are given as a way of celebrating life and of remembering good times, this one would be different. Yes, she led a great, exemplary life. She was kind and loving to all who knew her. She was perfect in every way, but was a victim of circumstance.
As I sat at my kitchen table with pen and paper, my mind drifted to all the unkind words and judgments that were being passed. If I was given the task of delivering the final words about my beloved sister, I wanted her to be remembered for who she was and not for what she did.
As I wrote, the words of a familiar hymn kept going through my mind: “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly?” I knew right away they came from the hymn in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hymnal, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee."
The words caught my attention because they illustrated perfectly the message I wanted to deliver. As I opened my hymn book to read the words from that particular line, I was prompted to continue reading.
What I read next flooded me with the Spirit in a way I had never before felt: “In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see."
At that moment, my focus shifted. No longer was I thinking about judgments being passed or about teaching others a lesson. It was this line in the hymn — which I had sung countless times but never paid any attention to — that made me understand my sister. More than anything, it helped me to know that the Lord was aware of her and of her sorrows. She was OK and with a loving Heavenly Father. It was something I needed to know.16 comments on this story
As I think back on that day when I saw my frail, older sister, I feel sad that I could not see the sorrows hidden deep within her quiet heart. But, through the words of the hymn and the promptings of a loving Heavenly Father, I feel comforted in the knowledge that the Lord was able to see what I could not.
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "A Mother's Write" or visit her blogs, timetofititin.com or thestoriesofyourlife.wordpress.com.