Can you be ‘family’ with someone and not really know them?
Yes, of course.
But is it possible to deeply love someone you never really knew?
I loved Claudia Veronica Ferrada Tuemmers with all my heart.
She was my step-sister by virtue of the fact that her mom Ingrid married my dad Jim in March of 2002. But we were both adults by that point in our lives.
Born and raised in Chile, Claudia lived there all but the last year of her life. Our parents had met when her mother visited her sister Andrea in Texas. Andrea had married an American and moved to the states years before.
So – long and short – for most of the time that Claudia and I were sisters, I knew “about” her, but our relationship was based on anecdotes passed through our parents, because gathering adult step-siblings from two nations and continents is rare. Exceedingly rare. We only saw one another in person a few times, and when we did, there was a language barrier. I spoke no Spanish; she spoke little English.
But my feelings toward her changed completely when she delivered a baby boy via emergency c-section in Austin in September 2014, and spent 3 weeks in the ICU battling a fatal infection.
We were about the same age. We were both mothers. I had three children; she had two others besides this baby. We both had families who loved and needed us.
I knew how much was at stake for her to lose her life so young and with so much ahead of her. And for some reason unknown to me, God laid it on my heart to pray for her in a very public way – to put my faith forward as I’d never done before.
I started posting medical updates and daily prayers for Claudia on Facebook.
She knew I cared, and the small spark of love I had for her grew into a raging fire.
Access to Claudia was limited and I had obligations at home, so I didn’t travel to Texas. But I was able to connect face-to-face with my sister through an iPhone.
My heart pounded as Ingrid put the phone down toward Claudia’s face. I was so scared of tiring her out – of saying anything that would drain her even more.
But she was amazing.
Despite the circumstances, her big brown eyes still looked hopeful, peaceful even. The nurses had braided her thick brown hair, and the two plaits hung down on either side of her round face. I told her I was praying for her all the time and I that I loved her very much, and by raising her eyebrows, and with slight murmurs, she said, “Thank you,” and “I love you, too.”
I was exhausted when she passed, because loving means giving, and I didn’t realize until she was gone how much my soul had been invested, and yearned still to give her. I wanted Claudia to be able to rise and savor the goodness of time with her children…
But in the days that followed, I received another undeniable nudge to begin this blog – to encourage others to look around and see the love and grace that’s offered to us – and I can’t help but think that she had something to do with it.