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  • Writer's pictureJanet Asbridge

Chris and Christy

My big sister Christy and I were as different as hot and cold. I was quiet and fearful. She was bold and brave. Her hair was chestnut. Mine was blonde. I loved angel food cake, and she laughed like Cruella de Vil as she dug her fork into a chocolatey slice of devil's food.

When we were children, we were close, lazing around the house, watching TV and playing dress-up. I even loved it when we played mean mother, and she scolded me for imagined infractions before sending me to bed without my pretend supper.

When Christy turned thirteen, she developed her own teenage world of independence and our relationship changed to reflect her new status. Gone were our play times and games. I felt particularly shut out when she drew an imaginary line down the middle of our bedroom that I could not cross.

When Christy went away to college, I grieved her loss. And at the end of her freshman year, she came home a changed person. She demanded we call her Chris. And while I loved her new pixie haircut and cute plaid shorts, she kept her distance and talked happily about returning to school. She was kind to me, but I missed my old friend Christy with all my heart.

I was pleased when Chris married and had two sons. Her home and family were her life and she tended them lovingly. She moved a lot, always to a bigger and more beautiful home. But wherever they went, she kept a giant pot of blue hydrangeas on her porch.

When I married, I worked to reestablish a close relationship with Chris and was rewarded by calls, emails, and visits. I was delighted to have my big sister back and enjoyed every minute I spent in her presence.

But then I said something to hurt her feelings and she shuttered herself behind an icy curtain. I apologized for hurting her, but she couldn't forgive me. And while we continued to see each other at family gatherings, she held herself aloof.

For years, I grieved her loss and berated myself. If only I’d been more sensitive. Why didn't I hold my tongue? I apologized to her again and again, and prayed that God would restore our relationship but it seemed irreparably broken.

Then one day, Chris gave her life to God. I watched in awe as her frosty exterior melted away. On one of the happiest days of my life, she told me that she forgave me. I was delighted when we developed a new, close relationship and I knew with God’s grace as its foundation it would stand the test of time.

I was shocked and devastated the day Chris called to tell me she had ovarian cancer. Over the next year, I watched helplessly as she suffered rounds of chemo, hair loss, and pain. My heart was truly broken when we said our final goodbye.

A few months later, her son and his family stopped by on their way to scatter Chris’ ashes at the beach. He had the shine of tears in his eyes when he handed me a small box. “I’d like you to have this.”

I was honored and a bit unsure when I opened it to find a small portion of her ashes. How could I memorialize my beloved big sister?

After thinking and praying and thinking some more, I drove to Shorty’s Nursery on a mission: Find a blue hydrangea like the one that Chris kept on her porch. I would plant it in my flower garden as a memorial.

After purchasing the hydrangea, I set it in the passenger seat and drove home with tears streaming. I only felt a little silly as I spoke to the hydrangea all about my big sister Chris­, her love, sense of humor, beauty, and the way that God had transformed her into a woman of grace.

At home, I dug a hole in the garden and poured in her ashes. Then I planted the hydrangea and christened it Christy with water from the garden hose.

But winter came early that year and I watched helplessly as a layer of freezing rain coated Christy’s blue blooms. I was devastated when the ice storm was over and the only thing left of her were brown stems sticking up from the dirt like a skeleton.

I berated myself. If I had waited to plant Christy in the spring, she’d have been able to grow deep roots and make it through the long, cold winter. My mistake reminded me of when I'd said something to hurt Chris and our relationship froze. I grieved her loss anew.

In spring I decided to plant a new hydrangea. God had healed my broken relationship with Chris. Her ashes were still there, and He could grow another hydrangea. But when I gathered up my gardening gloves and shovel to kneel beside Christy's skeleton, I stopped with joy and surprise. Tiny spring-green leaves covered her old brown stems. Nearby, new leaves pushed through the warming earth. I laughed aloud as tears of joy spilled from my eyes.

God's reminder to me was as clear as glass:

I couldn't see her now, but I’d see Chris again in heaven

just like I see the blue blossoms of Christy each spring after the long cold winter.

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