Why this one is different.
I have a confession to make. I've been very detached from the wedding planning process with my sister and her fiancé. I had even convinced myself that it was because I had four children and I didn't want to bring Littles to wedding appointments. I had too much going on, too busy. Besides they had it under control, I wasn't needed. And while that last part is probably true, I've been lying to myself... It wasn't that I was too busy, it was that I was in denial.
We went to the family cabin over Labor Day weekend and on our drive back home, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My sister was getting married. MARRIED. And moving away. The tears and the lump in my throat stayed the rest of the day.
Most won't understand the bittersweet feeling that we're drowning in right now. After all, a wedding is a joyous occasion, a love and a union to be celebrated, and we are thrilled for Alli and Brian. There is not a doubt in my mind that they love each other and will create a wonderful life together.
She's our Alli.
For as long as I can remember, it has been my job to protect and take care of Allison. It started in elementary school when the other kids her age didn't want to play with her, thinking she was always younger than she said because of her small size. I can't begin to number the times that Allison came home in tears because the kids teased her and told her that she was really in a grade lower than the rest of them. It was those early years of Allison's school career that Mom and Dad requested we look out for her on the playground. And we did. If we saw our sister playing alone, we'd swoop her up in whatever game we were playing, or would break from our friends and join her on the swings. Anything to protect our sister from feeling lonely or having hurt feelings.
It was a role that we all played, from oldest sister to the youngest.
Allison's struggles continued... from a learning disability to difficulty in finding good friends to heart murmurs. Every time something new happened to Allison, or every time she got discouraged, we were there.
Then when she was 14 years old, she became anorexic. She was admitted to Children's Hospital on her 15th birthday. She weighed just 58 pounds. Mom and Dad took us to see her a few days later, and walking into that hospital room was more than I could bear. As my eyes scanned the room, from the tiny, listless body on the hospital bed to the heart defibrillator by her pillow, a sense of utter despair and failure washed over me. And while it doesn't make sense and I know that its not true, I felt I had failed her. I couldn't save her from this disease, I couldn't put myself in her place, nor could I fight it for her. I managed to maintain my composure while we were in her room, but the moment we got in the elevator, I collapsed into a weeping mess.
Alli was in and out of the hospital for months, doctors would bring her weight up just enough to release her from the hospital. But they never dealt with the emotional aspect of the eating disorder, so in a matter of weeks, her weight would be low enough to warrant another hospitalization. It was a vicious cycle, and it was fast becoming obvious that Alli wasn't going to be healed at the hospital. My parents made arrangements to send her to Remuda Ranch in Arizona, which involved an intensive 3-month, inpatient program. Meaning our sister was going to be away from us, living in another state, for months. We said our goodbyes and driving away from the facility, from Allison, was heart wrenching for all of us.
We returned a couple of months later for an intense family week at the ranch, a prerequisite to bring Allison back home. We parked the car and made our way onto the grounds, our eyes searching for Allison. And when the small figure with the pixie haircut broke free of a group of girls, we ran to each other. The sound of feet beating the pavement as we ran across the shadowed grass. Oblivious to the Arizona sun, we ran to each other and wrapped our arms around our missing link. Sisters reunited. Even Mom and Dad allowed us this moment, despite the fact that they'd missed her just as much. There wasn't a dry eye to be found.
I can't begin to explain the emotions of seeing our sister after the time apart, but most importantly, being able to see Allison when we looked into her eyes. For months during the eating disorder, her eyes were devoid of anything resembling our sister, but seeing the sparkle return to her eyes made the months apart worth it.
This is what makes this wedding so different from the rest... Its a celebration of all that she's conquered in her lifetime, a testament to her strong will and stubborn spirit. Its going to be a beautiful day, watching these two join their lives together, but its also the end of an era... the last of the Sanchez sisters... the sister who helped bring our family back from a very dark place.
She’s getting married in 10 days and it’s so bittersweet.