This is dedicated to my wonderful sister Laura.

I grew up with 2 brothers and 1 sister. You see I actually had 2 sisters, but one of them, my sister Laura, was disfellowshipped from my religion when I was very young. As such, she was not apart of my life to any meaningful degree. My parents had deemed her to be no longer worthy of love and normal family relationships because she was no longer part of our faith, so I grew up with one (good) sister and an “other” sibling. As I grew into young adulthood and became more and more serious about my faith, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and got baptized at 15, I became more and more disdainful of Laura. Here I was trying to do the right things in life, to follow the Bible, and there she was doing God knows what – probably sacrificing cats to Satan or something. I had no clue about her real life, because for the most part I had no part in it. Even though for the majority of the time she lived just a couple hours away.

Cut to now. I’m 32, married and 2 kids. 6 months ago I reached out to her and asked to be apart of her life. I had left my past religious ideas and wanted to reconnect and make amends. In a move that would be hard for a majority of people, she said yes. We began to text regularly and she even came down to celebrate my families first ever Christmas. I recently went with my wife to go see her at her home.

But as happy as I am now to have her in my life, I’m still regretful to have not been there in years past, and I still don’t know her all that well. (Does she sacrifice cats?) But know I have the time to fix that.

Now that I’m out of my former religion and have been shunned by my parents and the rest of my family, Laura is all I have left, and I so grateful for that. I admire her so much. She was basically ‘cast out’ on her own in her late teens and had to learn to survive in the world. She has gone through marriage, 3 kids, divorce, cities, jobs, joys and heartbreaks. She dealt with her mom and dad not being there for her or her kids. Still, she is a smart, independent, and very sassy (what’s the nice word for bitchy but hilarious?)woman, surrounded with many people who love and care for her. And she did it all herself.

So even though she wasn’t there while I was growing up, she ironically, laid the groundwork for me. She’s has been through and dealt with what I am currently going through. Through her bravery I can have hope. I used to think of her as the black sheep of the family. The weak on who couldn’t cut it with the rest of us. But now I know she was and is the strongest of us all. I love you Laura!

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