My Big Sister
It is with a heavy heart that I received the news of the passing of my older sister Judy Macchia-Kornafel. I grew up knowing her as my big sister. She was three years older than me, but she never held that over me. She always related to me as an equal growing up, except when I needed her to be the big sister. She never let me down in those moments. For example, when I was in third grade our school had a strict rule about walking on the campus lawn. Anyone who did it had to spend time after school in detention. Judy and I always walked home from school together. We were leaving the main building of the school on our way home one day when I decided to walk on the school’s lawn several feet as we were leaving the campus so as to avoid a group of children coming our way. An overly strict teacher happened to see it and ordered me immediately inside the building for detention. Boy did my big sister ever read him the riot act! She defended my “transgression” with the courage of a mother bear and the skill of a first-rate lawyer. That teacher was six foot tall, but in that moment, she seemed to tower over him. To my utter amazement, he let me go! I remember walking home with her that day feeling a sense of pride. My big sister had my back. And was she ever ferocious! I don’t know how I could have made it through my childhood without her.
Her protective side was more than matched by her generosity. She took a job at a department store nearby (Sears) when I was in high school and every pay day she gave me an allowance. How many big sisters do that! I took it for granted then, but I think about it differently now. It was generosity, something with which she graced my life many times throughout the years. Before I was old enough to drive, she sometimes took me and a few of my friends to get a hamburger or see a movie. Of course, she always paid. I recall once on the way to the movies she told us to wait in the car while she briefly visited one of her piano students. While she was inside, my friends and I began to wrestle with each other inside her car. When she returned, the back of the driver’s seat was broken and lying flat! She was in a state of shock, which quickly turned to anger when I asked, “Does this mean we’re not going to the movies?? Believe it or not, she still took us, driving the whole distance sitting up straight without the benefit of the backrest! Many years later, she sent generous gifts to my daughters for every occasion of their lives. I’ve always known her to give generously, not only materially, but also in other ways. She gave generously of her talent and her time. She was never happier than when she played the piano and sang in church. And when she sang, the depths of her feeling and yearning for God came through with every word. It all came pouring out in abundance like healing waters for the soul. She never wasted her talent, she invested it in those many lives who grew just a little closer to God every time they heard her sing.
She belongs to God now, she always has. Paul wrote in Romans 14:8: “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” This is the one thing that never changes. Not even death can change that. In fact, death only enhances our belonging to God. God lends us to each other in this mortal life only to reclaim us later. And when we’ve been reclaimed, we will live eternally in the divine embrace, in the communion of the Triune God that triumphed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’ll see you again Judes. In the meantime, take your place in the heavenly choir and sing for joy.