I sang at a funeral recently, and I was requested to sing the Bette Midler tune, “Wind Beneath my Wings.” As I participated in the service, I considered the lyrics to this song that has become a pop standard. The pastor talked about the man who had passed away and how many saw him as the unsung hero in their lives. It made me wonder who might be the unsung hero in my life— the one who rarely gets the credit and who stands in the shadows— but who is one of the most valuable people in my life.
My thoughts quickly turned to my sister Carrie, and I know without a doubt that she was my unsung hero. The two of us grew up sharing a bedroom and going to school together; she was two years younger than me, so we were close enough in age to create a close bond. But as we moved into high school and then college, our relationship changed. In many ways, we grew apart and didn’t have a great deal in common. She was a socialite with many friends, while I spent my evenings and weekends at home with Mom and Dad while reading a book or practicing my music. She was fun, outgoing, and fashion-conscious while I struggled to develop meaningful relationships or put together a stylish outfit.
I know Carrie often felt out-of-place when it came to the reality of my visual impairment. Mom and Dad were always making sure I had what I needed when it came to medical concerns or going off to school. As I developed my love for music, I was often the one to earn the solos while she was left to sing in the background or in the choir. I knew she was cheering me on in my successes, but I knew it couldn’t be easy for her to watch me stand in the limelight.
But she stood by me through each musical triumph— from winning the Dordt talent show to taking first place in “NC/DC 2005” to competing at Immerse. She celebrated with me and was my rock in the times when I wasn’t sure I had the talent or stamina to bring the necessary skill to the table. She continued to encourage me at every step along the way.
For years now, I have tried to find ways to give back to my unsung hero. I was honored to attend her senior art show and hear the stories behind many of her pieces. I smiled proudly as she accepted her diploma at both her high school and college graduations. I was also honored to sing at her wedding; I didn’t think I had it in me to sing “The Prayer,” but she had the confidence that I could make it happen.
But of all the moments where I could support my sister, I consider this past week to be the most memorable. She had just delivered a healthy baby girl— her firstborn— and I was excited to meet little Cora for the first time. As I held my niece, I tried to find reality. When did we grow up so fast and become adults? It was crazy to think that my baby sister now had a baby of her own! But I was honored to be a part of the day in celebrating with Carrie and her husband over their beautiful baby girl. That day, my sister was in the spotlight and I was in the shadows— as it should be in moments like this.
I am thinking of the second verse to “Wind Beneath my Wings” as I close, and it goes like this: “It might have appeared to go unnoticed, but I’ve got it all here in my heart. I want you to know I know the truth; of course I know it. I would be nothing without you.” It’s true. I would be nothing without my dear sister; she is truly the wind beneath my wings.