Eileen is my older sister and she is, and always has been, a role model for me. My sister is the reason I pursued a degree in science. She is the reason I pursued a career in the environmental industry. She is the reason I moved to California, where I ultimately met my husband. She is the reason I have done a lot of things ... including attend church regularly and cease any consumption of tequila. (Not exactly in that order.)
Eileen's daughter Emily is brilliant, beautiful and athletic. Last year, she turned down several golf scholarships and instead, accepted an academic scholarship for a top notch university in California. Last week Emily turned 19-years old and a few days later, she completed her freshman year.
My sister will often slip up and call Emily "Jen" because she says that her daughter reminds her so much of me. And yes, I can maybe see the resemblance ... if I was six inches taller, 30 pounds lighter and had absolutely perfect skin, hair, teeth and nails.
Emily Rose is beautiful.
Not only on the outside, but on the inside.
I know this, because for the first few months of Emily's life ... I was her nanny. And I know for a fact that my life would not be the life that it is, if not for that beautiful girl.
In the Summer of 1991, I moved to California for what was supposed to be a one semester exchange. But in the Fall of 1991, right about the time I met Charlie - my sister told me that she was expecting. I'll never forget the moment she held up her pregnancy test and said, "Do you want to see the first picture of my baby?" as she showed me the + sign.
I had just met the man who would become my husband and was certainly not ready to derail my future plans for a guy I hardly knew. But I was ecstatic over my sister's news and promptly decided that there was NO WAY I could move to Idaho to complete my second semester exchange, when my sister who was living in Northern California, and was the sole reason I decided to move to Northern California in the first place, was expecting her first baby.
So I stayed.
And soon thereafter, Charlie and I fell head over heels in love.
Emily Rose arrived in to this world on May 9, 1992. That summer, I lived with my sister when she returned to work and for three months, I had the privilege of taking care of my precious niece. One night, when Emily was particularly fussy, I scooped her out of her crib before she could wake up the rest of the house. After I gave her a bottle, we retreated to a dark living room where I powered on the radio, turned the volume down low, and slow danced with her in my arms to Madonna.
Just as I was starting to feel
smug proud about my ability to keep a tiny newborn quiet and get her back down again without any assistance, she projectile vomited all over my neck and shoulders and I had no choice but to wake my sleeping sister so I could take a shower and start a load of laundry.
Ah, the memories...
Tonight, I received a phone call from my sister, Beth.
Eileen and Emily embarked on a 56-mile bike ride today, around the northern part of Michigan. At some point during the ride, Emily was descending a steep hill when a car cut in front of her. She lost control of the bike, flipped over the handle bars and landed on the road. Her bike helmet was cracked in two and she was critically injured.
I spoke with Eileen tonight and in my 40-years of life, my big sister - who has always been a pillar of strength for me - is completely broken.
Her first born daughter is in the Intensive Care Unit at a northern Michigan hospital. Her skull and collar bone are fractured, along with several bones in her face. Although she is stable, she is slipping in and out of consciousness and the full extent of her recovery path is not yet known.
Every so often, I find myself questioning the purpose of life and whether or not there really is a higher power behind it all. As a scientist, I see the strides that science is making in disproving so many religiously founded concepts. And it's hard not to wonder whether or not there really is a reason we are here walking around and consuming energy.
During my conversation tonight with Eileen, she told me that when the car who cut Emily off and caused her horrific accident continued on their way ... the first person who just so happened to be driving past at that exact moment in time and stopped to help, was none other than an Emergency Room trauma doctor who knew exactly what to do to stabilize my injured niece until the ambulance arrived.
Coincidence or Guardian Angels in our midst?
Tonight, while Emily is in the ICU, my sister Eileen is on her knees praying for her daughter's recovery. And I am on my knees, praying for the beautiful baby who has grown in to a beautiful woman.
If you are of the praying sort, I do hope that you'll send one up for my sweet niece and for my dear sister, who is absolutely heartbroken over this ordeal.
My family sure would appreciate it.