by Connie Vandeman Jeffery—
The first Sunday of August every year is National Sisters Day, which celebrates the unique bond between sisters. I had no clue the holiday even existed until I received a card from Pati last Friday. I worked with Pati and her sister Lorraine for many years in media ministry. Her card brought tears to my eyes and totally made my day!
I never had a biological sister. My three older brothers were great. They played with me, teased me, and taught me how to throw a football and ride a horse. But I didn’t have that “sister” bond that comes from having a female sibling. The bond between Pati and Lorraine was beyond special; I’ve never seen two women who were closer. And I was envious, but in a good way. I loved being around them. They had their own secret language it seemed, even though they were five years apart.
I love being around all women who have sisters—twin sisters, big families full of sisters, any sisters. They have something I don’t have. I have BFFs and amazing girlfriends. One friend gave me a pendant that reads, “Best Friends are the Sisters We Choose!” I love that. I have a group of “prayer sisters” and several girlfriends who are as close as sisters. But there’s no one quite like Pati.
When Pati retired and moved away, we kept in touch by email and text. We’d send birthday cards and Christmas cards. Sometimes, out of the blue, I’d get cards from her that would encourage me right when I needed the lift. When I was in the midst of depression, Pati sent me a card saying that I was on her GPL: her geographical prayer list. There were 97 people on her list for whom she prayed every day—by name! Oh, how I needed to hear that, right at that moment. She didn’t know my issue, but she had included me in her GPL. I assured her that I was praying for her as well.
In the spring of 2018, Pati sent news that Lorraine was sick. I began to pray in earnest. I took Lorraine’s name to every prayer group of which I was a part. I sent cards to Lorraine and texts and emails to Pati. We shared scripture and assurances with each other. We prayed for complete healing. I made audio recordings on my iPhone of favorite hymns and songs with my guitar and emailed them. Lorraine’s husband and Pati lovingly cared for Lorraine during her nine-month battle with cancer. There were new treatments and doctor’s visits. And then there was hospice and earthly goodbyes. Pati was heartbroken and grief stricken, as were Lorraine’s daughters and husband. For Pati, it was the hardest of good-byes. Heaven didn’t seem soon enough.
It’s been nearly nine months since Lorraine’s memorial service—excruciating months for Pati as she tries to adjust to the new normal of life without her sister. Her card arrived last Friday, again at the precise moment that I needed it. In it were six pictures of Pati and Lorraine—from toddlers to teenagers to adult women. And then one sheet of paper that said, in part: “August 4 is Sisters Day, so I thought I’d send you some sister pictures. Here is what a sister means to me when I think of Lorraine. These words come from my hurting heart.”
What followed was a beautiful acronym of the word SISTER with descriptive words like sympathetic, irreplaceable, sensitive, treasured, elegant, and radiant. Each word reminded me of the Lorraine I knew. She had left such a legacy of love for all of us.
Pati added a few words I will treasure forever. “Connie, since you don’t have a sister, let’s share Sisters Day together.”
Yes, let’s do that, I thought as I grabbed a tissue and my phone to text Pati. The generosity of that one sentence filled me with such gratitude. I may not have a biological sister, but I belong to a sisterhood of remarkable women who use their own brokenness to heal others. Sisters like Pati.
Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.