Back in 2006, Brandon, Rhema and I (pregnant with Hope) were vacationing in Michigan after completing a military tour in Germany. At the time, we knew Rhema had some delays, but in our little family, in our isolated world, she was perfect.
After being around extended family in Michigan (particularly Rhema’s cousins), I was suddenly painfully aware of the significance of Rhema’s delays. To make matters worse, all of the changes – 6 hour time zone difference, new environment, new people – virtually sent Rhema over the edge, with all of her behaviors amplified.
I remember picking up the phone to call my twin in Boston, and in anguish, I blurted the words I had never dared to say to anyone before,
“Rhema’s acting like she’s autistic! I… I just can’t seem to reach her.”
My sister let me tell her everything. She cried with me, comforted me and told me we would do “whatever it takes” to get Rhema the help she needed.
What my sister did not say was that at that moment on the phone, she was fighting her own personal battle. She was experiencing intense pain and could no longer walk.
Looking back, I realize that pain and fear and worry were gripping us at the same time, but I had no idea what she was going through. After she hung up with me that day, she called my mother and told her I needed her. Then my sister – a young mom herself – managed to get herself to an emergency room. There she was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis).
Later I asked her, “Why didn’t you tell me? We talk everyday, we share everything. Why didn’t you tell me? Her response: “I was too worried about you. I didn’t want you to worry about me.”
That’s my twin.
Last year I was visiting her in the hospital. Feeling completely helpless I started writing out Bible verses on paper and posting them all over her room. She got a call on her cell phone from a friend who had just ended a relationship. For an hour, my sister comforted her and dispensed dating advice, all the while managing her pain and being poked and prodded by nurses. Finally, I heard her friend on the phone ask, “So what are you up to?”
My sister lightly and casually responsed, “Ohhhh, I’m hanging out at the hospital for a few days…”
That’s my twin.
She has tough days, but never once have I heard her complain or say “Why me?” (as compared to me who wails Why! on a continual basis!). Today she is going for an MRI. These are always difficult for her. She has to get injected with dyes to illuminate her brain and spine. It’s painful because she has received so many infusions in the past couple of years that her veins are shot. So I’m praying today that the medical staff will be able to find a good vein! Anticipating the results of these MRIs is always emotionally draining. So I’m praying for her to have a peace that only God can give!
My sister and Rhema have a special bond, and both have already overcome so much. In two weeks, my sister will walk with us in the Greater Boston Walk for Autism Speaks. She will walk for Rhema and for all people and families affected by autism spectrum disorders.
That’s my twin.
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jer 17:14