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Even though I know the reality of life, the news of someone's death still surprises me somehow. By now I've lived through a stack of personal losses - you probably have too - grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, husband, cousins, friends, acquaintances. But a death last week reminded me of a relationship I've never experienced.

A friend with two sisters and a brother just lost her older sister. Our friendship is ancient and so over the years I've come to know how close these siblings are. It got me to thinking what it would be like to have, then lose, a sister.Actually, in a way, I guess I know. If you've read "Hey, God? Yes, Charles.", you know I claim to be an only child. That's not exactly true. I have a baby sister, born in 1953, who lived one day. Cathy entered the world with infant respiratory distress syndrome (then called hyaline membrane disease), the same thing that killed the Kennedy baby ten years later. With today's medicine, they would both likely come home from the hospital, and I'd have a baby sister. But that didn't happen and I never really questioned it. I wasn't quite four, we were a family of three, and this is probably a good time to confess that I don't remember ever being unaware of the perks of the only child : ) But if I could pick, I'd pick having a sister and I'm eternally grateful for cousins who have come really close to filling that sibling hole over the years.

Still, it's been hard for me to imagine how my friend is feeling after losing a sister who has been actively sistering her for 68 years.You also know if you've read the book that I have great expectations of Heaven. Everybody is there, and yes, just for the record, all our animals, and somehow it all just works. I checked on my friend this morning and we talked a lot about that, about sisters and Heaven. She pointed out it's a different perspective to think about a reunion with people in your life, often on a daily basis, versus getting acquainted with someone you never knew but who is still a critical part of your history. I look forward to getting to know my sister someday. I'm guessing Cathy has already reversed the private sadness that my parents tucked away the day their baby died. I'm betting she has met all the family that was denied for so long. I hope she's looking forward to meeting me. Will she have grown? Will she still be a baby? How does all that work? It's a neat thing to contemplate really. I just hope she doesn't expect me to share.

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