Albert had returned home from Sleepy Eye six weeks ago after the shattering diagnosis. He had climbed the mountain with Laura and the school class, played his last baseball game, and things had pretty much gotten worse since then. The nose bleeds had increased daily to the point that he could no longer leave the house.
It was a cold damp day in January. As the rain continued to fall on the tin roof of Laura’s house, the sound reverberated throughout the large structure. The fire crackled in Albert’s room as Carrie peeked in to see how her brother was doing. It was eleven o’clock in the morning and he was still asleep. As she looked at him, she thought to herself about how this horrible sickness had reduced her brother to a shell of what he was. It was breaking her heart slowly, piece by piece, day by day.
She had come to Walnut Grove over her Brother’s objections. He had been pretty straight forward about the fact that he did not want his brothers and sisters to watch him die. Carrie would have none of it and had left school to be with him. It was the only time in Carrie’s life that she had defied her mother and father when told to do something. When she had arrived two weeks ago, Albert had not objected. He could see what Carrie was going through simply by looking in her eyes.
As Carrie sat down beside him he awakened. She couldn’t help but think of how he still had those boyish looks that endeared him to just about everybody he met. The dark brown eyes and thick jet black hair was still there, along with those dimples that had stopped every girl in their tracks in Hero Township. That was her Brother, her only Brother that she had absolutely idolized since that fateful meeting in Winoka.
“Mornin Sis.” Albert said as he wiped the sleep from his eyes. “How are you feeling?” Carrie asked. Albert smiled at Carrie and said “Well little sister, I can recall better days, but it is what it is. It’s these night sweats that are awful. I’m just so weak that I don’t look forward to waking up in the morning. I can’t even dream good dreams anymore. But having you here has made it better.”
Carrie reached over to the night stand and wet a cloth to wipe Albert’s face with. As she began to wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead, she held his hand and tears began to roll down her cheeks. “I came up here for a reason Albert, because I want to tell you something that I’ve wanted to say for a long time.”
“That’s fine Sis, but you have to promise me one thing. No tears! OK?” Albert replied. Carrie smiled and replied “No tears, I promise.” After putting the cloth away and fluffing Albert’s pillow, Carrie began to speak. She had wanted to say these things to Albert a long time ago, well before he got sick, but circumstances had simply prevented her from doing so.
“Brother, I just wanted to thank you for always being there for me. You see, I was always the one that seemed to be left out until you came along. It wasn’t that Ma and Pa and my sisters didn’t love me. I never felt like that. It was just the way things were. Laura was always Pa’s favorite, and then when Mary got older, a lot of attention went to her. Ma always spent a lot of time with me, but it wasn’t the same as having someone to be with or play with. I was always too little to do this and too little to do that. But when you first came to live with us, you always went out of your way to pay attention to me.”
“Those days you would come home from school and take me out to pick berries, or let me go fishing with you will always be in my memories for as long as I live. I even remember the night you took that thorn out of my finger up in the loft. You were writing a letter and you didn’t say a word when I interrupted you. You just smiled and took it out.”
“After Laura left home and James and Cassandra came to live with us, you never forgot me. I think that is when we became the closest; going to school together and you helping with my homework and never complaining once that I was being a nuisance. I was simply your little sister and that was that.”
“I want you to know that I love you more than any natural sister could love a brother. You have been so sweet to me that it is hard to put into words. But I do know one thing. I love you for it, and the memories I have of how you treated me as a child, will live with me for the rest of my life.”
“And Albert, there is one thing that I know for sure. There is a heaven because I have dreamed about it. And the one absolute that I know of, is that one day, I will be up there with my big Brother.”
A tear fell from the corner of Albert’s eye as he wrapped his arms around Carrie. He simply said “We’ll pick some berries together Carrie. You can count on it!”