By the time I was six and a half years old, there had been enough tragedy and change in my life than most people experience into adulthood. I can vividly recall holding tightly to my sister’s hand as we stood in horror and disbelief watching our father die in our mother’s arms, just days before Christmas. Then on that very Christmas day, while waiting for our grandfather to come and visit us, we received a phone call informing us that he too had died. Grandpa had suffered a fatal heart attack in route to our home!
As time went by, my mother became very close with a man who had made it his mission to take care of our needs after my father’s death, and eventually, that man became our new dad. Before we even had time to adjust to life with a new father, I was told that there was a baby to come. We then moved away from the only home I had ever known and within months, my big brother also passed away. What’s more, all this took place in only two short years. At six years old, that was one third of my life!
I remember being somewhat excited about the prospect of a new baby, but to tell you the truth, at that young age, it didn’t quite seem real until the day arrived when my mother was coming home from the hospital with baby Janice. We rode in the car to pick up mom and the baby. Maureen and I sat in the back seat, while mom held her new baby ever so close to her from the front passenger seat and dad of course, did the driving.
Finally we were in our home and I was permitted to touch baby Janice on her rosy cheek. Her skin was soft and she had a beautiful fragrance that I had never smelled before. I was told that it was what new babies smelled like. Then I was seated in a chair and Janice was gently placed onto my lap for me to hold. That moment right there, holding this precious and fragile new member of our family, changed my life forever.
Although saddened with grief, something inside of me, as I held onto baby Janice, made me feel hope. I felt unexplained joy and caring fill my heart because of her. For the first time since my father died, I felt like I belonged. I knew that somehow, everything was going to be alright.
I remember wondering, is this the family that God had intended for me now? Then I looked back down at Janice’s happy and rosy face, and knew the answer.
Of course our family continued to grow, blessing me with two more sisters, whom I love dearly, but I will forever view Janice as God’s way of healing our family and as the beginning of a new and happy life to come.
Today we celebrate my sister Janice’s birthday. She is now a grown woman, happily married with two grown children of her own. Janice is a teacher of fourth grade students, and her special brand of love, kindness, and humor makes her a favorite and memorable teacher who truly makes a difference in her students’ lives.
I couldn’t be more proud of the woman Janice has become and of all her accomplishment, but I must admit; to me, she will forever be the beautiful baby whose arrival was the beginning of all things good for our family.
So Happy Birthday Janice, I hope your day, and the year (and years) ahead, are as special and wonderful as you are. I love ya kiddo!