It’s a hot Sunday evening in Michigan. I am standing with my family at my sister’s grave. We decide to wander the cemetery looking for ideas for her tombstone. Miriam was dearly loved by all who knew her and by us, her family, and we want to create the perfect tribute to her life. Among the rows of graves one sentence catches my attention. It reads, “We wish we had a second chance”. I pray silently for that family. I know how it feels to live with regret and have the knowledge that all chances you had to show you cared are gone. I am still standing by the grave remembering the day I made my biggest mistake.
Miriam had been very ill that month. The doctors told us it was likely she only had a bad case of the flu. One night, as I was completing my school work, Miriam walked into the office and asked if I would read to her. I informed her I was busy. She then gave me a serious look and said, “Angie I’m very, very sick.”
“Miriam, you are not that sick. You’re fifteen. It’s not like you’re dying,” I scoffed, barely lifting my eyes from my work. For the next two hours the only consideration I would allow her crestfallen face as she shuffled away, was that I would read to her later, but for months to come that face would haunt my dreams. Miriam really was that sick. That night she had a mini stroke and was no longer able to connect her thoughts with the words coming out of her mouth. The doctors discovered a tumor the size of plum in her brain and were unsure if Miriam would recover or survive the next eight months.
The first time I visited her in St. Jude Children’s hospital, I asked if Miriam wanted me to read to her only to be answered by her confusion. Because she was in a hospital twelve hours away, I spent all week marking off the hours until I could visit her. She was a little sister who gave everything to her family and I had been given one chance to show her that I loved her just as much but I let it shuffle away.
I literally spent long nights praying and hoping that one day, I would be able to read to her making so many promises to God in return, it’s impossible to list them. I begged for a second chance I knew I did not deserve. It was then that I learned how precious people and chances are and that, like family, you can lose them just as easily as you acquire them.
The joy I felt when, one night in the hospital, Miriam pointed to a book on the table with wide pleading eyes surrounds me as I continue to stare at the words on the grave, “We wish we had a second chance”. I was blessed with two more years to show my younger sister how much I cared and appreciated having her so that I would not stand by her grave with regret. I make a promise. I will appreciate every person and moment in my life. When I kneel to pray at night, I will never again whisper, “I wish I had a second chance”.
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