This I Believe

Aliya - washington, District of Columbia
Entered on November 16, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness
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I believe in tomorrow. It sounds corny and cheesy, I know, but there are some things you can endure only by believing in tomorrow.

Six years ago, I experienced the scariest moment of my life. My sister had a stroke. She was 24 years old. Even with warnings from my family, all of the conjuring and imagining that I did on my own could not prepare me for seeing her. She had spent two weeks in a hospital, but looked as if she had been released too soon. She was emaciated. Her normally round face was gaunt and bony. Her speech was slow and slurred. Her eyelids were drooping. But it was her eyes that scared me most of all. They were unusually dull and changed focus slowly and painfully. How could this be my little sister? Things that were so uniquely her – energetic bursts of activity, using her eyes to express millions of emotions, glib comments and sarcastic remarks – all seemed to be gone. From now on, would I see her running and laughing only in my memories? I hoped that this was temporary – due to fatigue, so I told her to rest. Haltingly, she spoke words that terrified me. “I don’t want to sleep… I’m afraid that I won’t wake up.” In my mind, I see her as Strawberry Shortcake – a Halloween costume. I see her in a fluffy skirt and tap-shoes for a dance recital. I see her posing for her prom picture. We are too young for this. She, especially, is too young for this. Weren’t there supposed to be a lot more years before this happened? Weren’t there supposed to be children and grandchildren? Weren’t there supposed to be more memories? It just seemed that there should have been a lot more of a lot of things before I had to hear my little sister tell me that she was afraid to go to sleep… afraid because she might not wake up.

At that point, I did not know what to think or what to believe. Would she wake up? I didn’t know. Would she recover? If so, would she be the same? I didn’t know. But I had to believe that she would wake up. I had to believe that she would recover. Most importantly, I had to believe that we would not forever be stuck in that moment. So even though I was afraid of what tomorrow would bring, I believed in it. With that belief, I hugged my sister, again told her to go to sleep, and held her as she closed her eyes.

My sister did recover – fully. Her eyes are as bright as they were before the stroke and her movements and speech just as sharp. She still has memory lapses but these are getting further and further apart. There is one thing, however, that is very different. Six years ago, when I was praying that she would have at least one more tomorrow, I never imagined that her tomorrow would bring immortality – she has a daughter. Six years ago, I did not think it was possible. Six years ago, my sister was too afraid to sleep. Six years ago, our belief in tomorrow was limited by fear. Today, six years later, we see all the possibilities of tomorrow through the eyes of her daughter. I know that not every tomorrow brings a better day, but it does bring a different day and different opportunities. And that in itself brings hope. I believe in tomorrow.