Blessings sometimes come in unexpected packages

Published 3:15 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Secrets. Usually the only good secrets are perhaps surprise birthday parties or some other happy event. It has been my life experience that other secrets sometimes cause harm and regret.

Only my closest friends know, but I lost two siblings this year. One was my big brother, Paul. The other was my big sister, Carol, who was buried today. Carol was my mother’s big secret. She was born out of wedlock and given up for adoption as an infant. I had no earthly idea that I had another sibling until about 12 years ago.

Carol lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and like many adoptees longed to meet her birth mother. Through a long Internet search, my sister finally found our mother. When I first found out about Carol I really didn’t want to know her. Things were complicated more than usual, for me, at least.

When I was 13 years of age, my beautiful blond-haired older sister, who was also named Carol, was hit by a car and killed. So now I had another beautiful, blond-haired older sister who had the same name as my sister that died? It was just too weird for me. But I could never get past the truth that my new sister, Carol, was a wonderful, loving person.

Little by little, I warmed up to Carol. Her kind and loving voice at the end of the telephone line melted away whatever reservations I had. We only saw each other a few times in person, but over the years we developed a sweet relationship.

Now, on the back side of Carol’s life, I am so very glad that I embraced the lovely lady who wanted to meet her birth family. Knowing Carol for these few years, as unorthodox a meeting as it was, has enriched my life in so many ways. I learned that blessings sometimes come in unexpected packages if I am willing to take a chance.

Carol battled stage four cancer for four years. She underwent every treatment possible to hold on to life. Carol was a woman of great faith and did not fear death. She only wanted to squeeze every bit of life out of this one before she passed on to the next.

What I would have missed if I had not opened my heart to this wonderful woman. Each and every time I spoke to her I came away encouraged by her great faith and compassion for others. One of our last conversations burns in my heart today.

“Carol, I am so very proud of you. The way you are handling your situation is absolutely awe-inspiring. I just want you know how much I love you.”

“Jan, you know I love you so much. I wish we would have had more time together, but you know we’ll have all eternity. It’s not me, Jan. I could never do this alone; God is walking with me and giving me strength I never imagined I could have.”

Today is my birthday. I am not saddened by the fact that Carol was buried today. Each year when I celebrate, I will remember that knowing her was a wonderful gift.


Jan Penton Miller can be reached at