Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Tribute To A Sister’s Enduring Love

Published September 1, 2005

I would love to see the launching of a national celebration called Sister’s Day.

I’d be first in line to buy a greeting card telling my big sister, Rosemary, how much I love her, despite all the tribulations of our childhood.

My sister and I didn’t hit it off very well from day one. When our mom came home from the hospital, carrying a tiny bundle in a blanket, which was me, she reached down to show Rosemary.

“This is your new baby sister,” our mom cooed.

A miniscule hand was dangling from the blanket, and evidently Rosemary, who was 2, couldn’t resist taking a nip. I screamed, Rosemary wailed—and thus our stormy relationship began.

On summer vacations, when my sister and I shared a motel bed, we drew an invisible line down the middle, threatening each other with mayhem for invading the other’s territory.

If we had to split a slice of cake, we feared the division would be unfair, so we invented a rigid law: The sister who wielded the knife never got first choice.

Despite the conflicts, though, I can’t imagine my childhood without my sister. After all, she helped me experience a glimpse of the unconditional love God has for each of us.

Let’s face it: Kids often feel that parental love has a few strings attached. I always felt that my parents’ affection was contingent on good report cards and my willingness to do household chores.

My sister, on the other hand, loved me despite myself.

I must confess that I was a mean little sister. I’d pitch a king-sized fit until my mom let me tag along with Rosemary and her friends, and then I’d tattle on their activities.

And when we played Monopoly and my sister was winning, I would declare myself bored and wander away.

At times she took her revenge, and I can’t blame her for that. I had a stuffed Pluto dog named Poppa, which I loved passionately. And when things became particularly unsettled between us, she would threaten to hurl my beloved dog against the wall or, worse yet, to decapitate him.

Despite these conflicts, when I think about my sister, I remember St. Paul’s words in Corinthians. He wrote about a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

That part about love believing all things really hits home. Because I had a deep faith that, no matter how much I annoyed my sister, she would still protect me.

We shared a room, and if the monsters beneath my bed woke me up during the night, I knew my sister would chase them away. She never let me down, no matter how much we might have sparred earlier in the day.

Like many sisters, we also had faith in each other when it came to keeping secrets, especially from our parents.

On Saturday mornings, for example, while our folks were asleep, Rosemary and I would liberate our pet turtles from their bowls and let them loose in our beds.

When our parents were out shopping, we’d allow our parakeet to swoop gaily through the house and then remove any evidence of his indiscretions from the white brocade couch.

As for St. Paul’s description of love bearing all things, our love certainly did.

We were both plump and suffered the common nightmare of fat kids, which was surviving the torture of tumbling class.

Well-meaning as they might be, our gym teachers simply failed to realize that kids like us would never, even in a million years, be able to execute a somersault.

As we grew up, our paths diverged: Rosemary married at 18 and became a mom a few years later, while I headed off to the University of Florida to major in English and philosophy, with a minor in rebellion.

I came home on college breaks espousing the latest hippie agenda, while Rosemary was knee-deep in Tupperware and diapers. She did not, however, utter a word of criticism about my miniskirts and peace symbols.

Instead, she revealed how a sister’s love bears all things: She handed me the latest baby to cuddle.

The big tragedy of our lives unfolded when I was 29 and in graduate school, and Rosemary’s second child was just learning to walk. Within six months, our mother and father died.

We were both devastated, but the tragedy hit Rosemary particularly hard, because she lost not only her beloved parents but also doting grandparents for her children.

After that, we clung even more tightly to one another because, after all, we were the only ones in the world who shared the memories of being our parents’ daughters.

Looking back, I realize that my sister gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life, which was the honor of being called “Auntie Raine” by her sticky-faced little children, who eventually grew up and turned me into a great aunt.

These days, Rosemary lives in Oklahoma City, and we only see each other about twice a year. Still, we talk on the phone often, write each other and pray for each other.

And to this day, if I have a nightmare, I awaken with her name on my lips.

St. Paul definitely had it right. There really is a love that bears all things, believes all things—and endures forever. Just ask sisters.


Lorraine V. Murray writes a column every other Saturday for the Faith and Values section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her latest book “How Shall We Celebrate? Embracing Jesus in Every Season” (Resurrection Press) is available online, along with her other two books. Readers may e-mail her at