On Sunday nights, Katie, my sister, loved to watch the TV movie of the week. This particular Sunday she was especially excited because the movie was about a girl that faked a pregnancy so that her boyfriend would stay with her. The girl cut out circular shapes of a quilted blanket and positioned it just right so as to form her pregnant tummy. Katie was very much looking forward to this movie. However, she was exhausted from talking all day on the telephone and therefore decided to take a nap. She left me with instructions to wake her up at the start of the movie. Like any soldier with orders, I took my job seriously, and watched the clock carefully, not wanting to disappoint my big sister. When 8 o’clock rolled around I went to our bedroom, turned on the light, and went to shake my sister awake so that we could spend the next two hours glued to the television screen.
I’d done this countless times and on this particular occasion something seemed to be different: Katie wasn’t waking up. I shook and shook and still she didn’t emerge from sleep. Her face was dripping with sweat and she’d soaked her sheets and comforter already. I realized straight away that something was out of sorts and therefore relied on strategy two, “Katie! Wake up! Katie!” I screamed in her ear. She just remained limber and pliable under my hand as I shook her shoulders and yelled in her ear. This was when I decided it was time to go to strategy three which I’d advise for any and all scenarios: go and find someone more qualified to deal with the situation.
My mother toddled behind me as I led her back to Katie’s bed. I showed her the situation by jerking my sister’s shoulders back and forth and shouting into her ear. “See, she doesn’t wake up.” I explained. Mother looked perplexed and I believe we both realized the complexity of the situation. The weight started to fill up my head and I thought about a world in which my sister never woke up and I’d be one of those traumatized children that had lost a sibling to Scarlet fever or some other rare disease I’d witnessed on one of the TV movies of the week.
Once my mother checked over the scene she seemed to know exactly what to do. She ran off to her room and returned later with her hymnal and a knowing look. This is probably at the point that I should explain that we were as my mother would classify us: Christian Scientist. To those of you unfamiliar with this religion, it means that you rely on your connection to spirit to heal all things instead of medical science. This involves spending countless hours reading work by a lady named Mary Baker Eddy and truly believing. The thing is that any shadow of a doubt will cause the magic not to work and that was the chief reason for not using medical science. If you admit you need help then you give power to evil and then you’ve given up your own power thereby losing the battle between good and evil. This is just a rough explanation and I sincerely apologize to those that practice this religion and take offense at my explanation of the craft.
When mother came back with the hymnal I knew exactly what she had in mind, but I was completely resistant. In my opinion this was not a time to stand by your religion and follow its principles. Rather I felt it was the time to rely on medical science and rush to the nearest hospital 45 minutes away. However, my mother explained that it was precisely the time to trust our faith and that under no circumstances could we give power to evil.
We prayed. Katie slept. We prayed. Katie sweated profusely. Mother read from the hymnal. Katie tossed and tangled herself in her bed sheets. I tried to keep the faith. Katie just lied there. By morning I was completely exhausted and fell asleep somewhere between Katie and the floor. My mother, realizing the full extent of this particular challenge, not to mention the legal ramifications, prayed diligently and studied the “lesson.”
When the sun fully peaked its head up over the horizon I was fast asleep in my own dream world where pregnant teenagers were healing third world countries and the homeless were offering nuggets of wisdom in exchange for a warm place to sleep. Somehow I ended up in my own bed, which was more than strange to me since the last thing I recall was having my face pressed against the railing of Katie’s bed and thinking over and over again, “She is a child of God. She’s a child of God. She’s a child of God.”
I remember bolting straight up upon waking, completely rigid with fear. Looking straight ahead I made a mental note that when I turned my head sideways I should prepare myself to be looking at the dead body of my sister, laying lifeless in puddles of sweat from the night before. I’m sure my mother had fallen asleep by now and truthfully I’m not sure that I saw her for that entire day. She had truly drained every last fiber of her body through the ritual she’d practiced so assiduously the night before.
The stirring shook my attention first. When I turned my head and saw Katie rolling coherently towards the light of the window I realized that maybe there was hope under my levels of skepticism. However, later I would conclude that all the hope in all the world is not what saved my sister. Honestly, I’m more prone to believe that my sister’s survival from whatever strange ailment that had stolen her consciousness was more related to stubbornness. I’m pretty sure the reason my sister is still alive to this day has less to do with religion and more to do with her own persistence and tenacity. This judgment is loosely based on the very first thing she said to me upon waking on that faithful morning. Sluggishly she sat up in her bed, her face red with heat and under a furrowed brow she hollered, “Damn-it Anna, you forgot to wake me up!”* Photo compliments of fairangels. All rights reserved.