Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Sister is a Priceless Gift from God

From the time I was a tiny baby, I was surrounded by love.

Not only the love of my parents, but also of my siblings, grandparents and extended family.

In big families like ours, older siblings often help with younger brothers and sisters.

I was blessed with seven siblings: four older and three younger. In this photo, my sister Kathy is holding little baby me.

What's the value of a sister? Priceless! Don't misunderstand -- I love my brothers, but it's not the same.

Sisters offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold.

Sisters watch for you to stumble along life's path and help you right yourself.

Sisters whisper to you in the dark and giggle with you from across the room.

Sisters are a girl's first friends, offering lots of advice and encouragement.

Today, my sister Kathy celebrates her birthday and we all celebrate with her. Kathy's story began in Kentucky, our parents' second daughter.

This photograph of Kathy and Mom was taken on the day of Kathy's Baptism, the day her life was dedicated to God by our parents.

Here's our oh-so-young Daddy with his two precious daughters, laughing and loving the life he was living, unaware of how much his little family would grow in the years to come.

And Mom, younger than I remember her, holding her two little girls, perfectly content in the two little blessings God had bestowed upon her, not knowing how many more blessings were in store.

Daddy was in the Army and was gone far away when Kathy was a baby, so she said good night to him differently than most babies do each night.

Army life means moving a lot -- something the older kids in our family did more than the younger kids. Despite all of the moves, Kathy remembers a lot about everywhere we lived.

Mom and Dad loved us all. You can see in this photo that Kathy was the apple of Mom's eye and Daddy's delight. Of course, they loved us all the same!

Along with Mom and Daddy's love, Kathy learned at a young age about God's great love, a lesson our parents taught all of us. It's God's love to which Kathy would devote her adult life.

Kathy was a happy little girl, filled with God's love then and now. That same trademark smile and laugh still give joyful witness to the love of God.

By the time Kathy was in sixth grade, there were six children in our family. Kathy's helping hands were a blessing for Mom, especially when Daddy was overseas.

This photo of Kathy was taken when number seven, our brother Pat, was pretty young. I'm sure the time spent helping care for younger siblings prepared Kathy well for the vocation she chose to serve God -- teaching children.

Kathy stayed in Leavenworth for her senior year of high school, living with a friend's family. Daddy was stationed in Alabama, but Kathy knew she needed to stay behind and graduate from the small Catholic high school she attended. Our youngest sibling was born in Alabama during Kathy's senior year of high school.

God gave Kathy the gifts she needed to be a great teacher. As she teaches her students math, she also teaches them about God's great love for each one of them.

After college, Kathy answered God's call, joining the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Although she embraced her new sisters, Kathy remained close to her birth sisters.

On August 12, 1979, with family looking on, Sister Kathy Atkins professed her final vows. For 35 years, Kathy has taught her students with love.

Kathy quickly gained the title of Favorite Aunt Kathy as nieces -- and later nephews too -- arrived on the scene. Here Kathy happily posed with four of her five nieces.

Although some of the siblings were scattered around the country, Leavenworth was the gathering place for those who lived nearby. Kathy always loved a good water gun battle!

A favorite aunt's gotta do whatever it takes. Favorite Aunt Kathy was ready to spring into action however and whenever her nieces and nephews wanted to play!

Kathy doesn't miss many of life's important moments with her siblings. The grown-up Atkins siblings posed at Nancy's wedding in 1994.

We joined Kathy and the Sisters of Charity community to celebrate Kathy's anniversary. What a joyous day!

The Kansas core of our siblings: Kathy, Debbie and Pat spent countless hours helping Mom and Dad as they aged.

This is what family looks like to us. All eight of us came home to celebrate Dad's 80th and Mom's 79th birthdays in 2004, bringing most of our families with us.

There's always time to be a little silly. Kathy loves the Kansas City Chiefs and the KU Jayhawks, even when they don't live up to her expectations.

God's love was mirrored by Kathy's love and devotion for Mom and Dad. She's always been just a phone call away when they needed anything.

The younger generation of nieces and nephews know Favorite Aunt Kathy's love for them goes deep, no matter how far away they live.

Favorite Aunt Kathy's kind of a surrogate grandmother to the younger nieces and nephews in the family. She's especially close to the local kids, who she's watched grow up.

What do you get when a favorite aunt becomes a great-aunt? Of course, you get Favorite Great-Aunt Kathy, who's delighted to spend time with the next generation of little ones.

Favorite Aunt Kathy's always ready to laugh and have fun with nephews or nieces -- and greats -- no matter how old they get!

Sister Kathy is faithful to God and cheerfully serves Him through her service to others.

Kathy's patriotism and love of our country were deeply rooted as a child. The feeling of pride Dad felt for Kathy was clear to see, as was Kathy's pride of Daddy.

Kathy's teaching may have been born of Mom's love of learning. Mom always called Kathy "my nun daughter" and was so proud of Kathy.

Our Sister Kathy is a loving daughter and aunt, sister and servant of God. On your birthday and always, I'm so blessed to call you my sister. A sister is a priceless gift and I'm so glad God made us sisters. Happy Happy Birthday, dear Kathy with all my love!!