I had an older sister once; her name was Brenda. She was kind, talented, and absolutely amazing – she could do anything she decided she wanted to do. She was tiny, pretty, and had the most gorgeous head of naturally curly auburn hair anyone had ever seen. Because she was about eight years older than me, I felt she was my second mom as well as a cool older sister. I loved her with every fiber of my being.
She used to tell me stories. One of my favorites was one I call “The Day of the Racing Silks”. Her husband, who had a side business of training and racing harness horses, needed new racing silks because his were very old and worn. Buying new silks wasn’t an option since money was scarce for a young family with three children under the age of five.
“I’ll just make them myself,” she thought even though she didn’t know how to sew and patterns for silks weren’t available in her world.
“How in the world did you do that?!” asked the girl (me) who sticks to doing minor repairs by hand because anything more complicated is generally a disaster.
“Oh, it was easy. I just took the old silks apart and used the pieces to make a pattern for the new ones. I figured out the sewing thing as I went along”, she laughed.
“You what? You did what?” I asked, haunted by visions of how that would turn out if I tried it.
“Would you like to see the silks? Just a sec…I’ll go get them.” She came back and handed me some of the most beautiful garments I’ve ever seen. The workmanship was flawless. I was holding a work of art in my hands.
“How many times did you have to start over?”
“This is my first try!”
Speechless at this point, I just looked at my sister in total awe of her spirit and her gifts. She brought so much wonder and joy into my life and to the lives of countless others. I couldn’t imagine a world without her in it. However, that wasn’t to be; life made me have to learn how to live without her. She died of ovarian cancer far too soon, and I didn’t understand how God could take such an incredible light from the world. But… God allowed me to share her journey and understand that there is light even in what seems to be the darkest times of our lives. What seemed to be a cruel joke became a gift to my sister. God held my sister in His love and light and used this journey to set her free.
I travelled from Texas to New York as often as I could to see my sister as she battled ovarian cancer. She was often scared and sad, and I was heartbroken to see her fading so quickly. One time, though, I walked back through her doors and saw a different person. She was completely bald, and at peace in a way I had never seen before. I had never seen my sister without her beautiful hair perfectly styled. She slept in huge rollers every night because having unkempt hair was totally unacceptable. Yet here she was bald and happy.
“Yep, I’m bald, no hair, ears sticking out like open taxi cab doors. If how I look offends people, they can just choose not to visit. It’s okay if seeing me like this bothers them, but this is who I am now. I’m not how I look. I’m more than that… I’m so much more than that. You know, when I was a little girl, I heard Daddy tell some company that I might not be the prettiest girl, but I had the most gorgeous naturally curly auburn hair the world had ever seen. He thought I was asleep, but I wasn’t. I heard what he said and took it into my heart. At that moment, my hair became my symbol of beauty and worthiness. Everything else about me faded into the background, and I became a slave to keeping my hair perfect at all times.
“Sandy, when I was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, I was really mad at God for doing this to me. Mad that people of all religions all over the world praying for my healing wasn’t enough for Him. But the anger faded as I realized that this journey with cancer was transforming me. As weird as it sounds, dying has set me free to see myself with better eyes. I’m filled with the peace that passes all understanding. I know for once and for always that I am enough”.
My sister found a way to see herself with better eyes while dying. My prayer for you is that you can see yourself with better eyes while living. I’d like to ask each of you to try an exercise with me. Walk to a full-length mirror and say what you see. Generally, we look into a mirror and judge everything as flawed. We end up thinking “I can’t stand myself. I can’t stand looking at myself.” That translates to my body and I are one. There is nothing good about my body, and, therefore, there is nothing good about me. I’m going to ask you to look again, this time beginning with your eyes. Make eye contact. Look beyond the color and shape of your eyes and see what it is that is seeing. Try to remember what it was to look before everything had a label and a name. Try to remember what it was like to see everything, including yourself, as a treasure before you learned to label and dismiss it as something you already knew. A face is only an entry point to what is beyond it – to what is the essence of the essence. Then look again. It’s hidden in plain sight, the open secret. Every day we are in touch with that which is not broken. Some of us call it the essence or the soul. Suddenly you catch a glimpse of beauty. It’s as if someone opened the cage door and let you out of the iron vise of your mind. Not one thing has changed from the moment before, but everything looks and feels and is completely different. You have just seen yourself with better eyes. You are enough.