I remember the day mom told us we were going to have another brother. We yelled, “Send him back, we don’t want him!” What I REALLY wanted was a sister after having two other brothers, but alas… my hopes were dashed. Like all truths, you just accept them and move on. Little eight-year old Dina didn’t have much else to say on the matter considering you were nothing but an idea at the time.
As we got closer to the date of your birth, I remember mom lying down on the couch, her belly swollen, big and round. She told me to come over so I could feel you move. I laid my hand down where mom told me to and waited patiently, not sure what to expect. Then there you were, kicking. I felt you push up against her skin and I know I smiled in awe and excitement. When you’re that young you can’t fully comprehend how miraculous a moment like that is, but I knew I loved you then without even meeting you. We all did.
February 13th, 1997 you were born – the most exiting thing to happen that year after the release of the movie, Titanic. It was dark out when dad drove us to Hale Hospital to meet you. We walked in and mom was all smiles in her bed, and she was holding you all wrapped up in her arms. Dad told me to sit in a chair and to make sure I held your head up before he handed you to me. The first time I held you I was nine years old, and as I looked down at you, the only thing I thought was, “He has really big hands.”
I didn’t know then how much you were going to change my life. I didn’t know how much of a better, more nurturing person you were going to make me. I now understand when parents say, “they grow up so fast.” I try to look back and then I realize our childhood was a whirlwind of memories, and I feel sad that I was too young to really cherish the idea that you would not be that small forever. I use to sing you to sleep, lulling you to the cacophony that was “You are my sunshine.” I would wash your super curly hair and change your diapers because I was your sister and I never thought twice about what my job was.
When you learned to walk, I rejoiced. When you learned to speak, I was so proud. When you learned to eat with utensils and not your hands, I was there to tell you, “good job.” I watched movies with you, played ball with you, cradled you closely because at one point in life you were actually smaller than me. Those days passed so so quickly.
I remember how excited the boys and I were to teach you how to ride a bike. We finally took your training wheels off and headed to the park. We held onto the bike as you got on and told you to just pedal. You pushed forward and left us in the dust, riding your bike like you had known how to do it for years. We stood there astonished and that was the first time I realized that you really didn’t need me for everything.
I left for college during your awkward middle school years. Every time I would come back you would grow taller, and stronger. You begged mom to sign you up for football and after only two weeks you wanted to quit, it was just too hard for you. Mom had spent too much money to allow you to do such a thing so you stuck to it. During your final home game in highschool, you would thank her through tears for not letting you quit.
You lost all the baby weight and grew to be six feet, becoming a man practically over night. When I moved back home from college, I invested so much time in your extra curriculars, taking work off to be at every wrestling match even though there were ten hours long and you only wrestled three times. I attended all your football games through snow and rain, and clapped the loudest at every sports banquet. What astounded me more was not that people wanted to tell me that you were an incredible athlete, but that you were an outstanding human being.
In a time in your life where it is so easy to succumb to your status as football and wrestling captain – your basic high school jock – you became more than that. You became someone your friends and fellow classmates could respect and someone who teachers praised for academic excellence as well as your kind nature.
I remember mom told me this story that one of your teacher’s had told her. The teacher said that they saw you in the hallway and some girl had dropped her stuff all over the ground. Everyone kept walking by but you stopped to help her gather her things. Maybe this doesn’t seem like much, and maybe it’s really easy to have ignored her and kept going, but you didn’t. You did a very simple, and kind thing that probably changed that girls day. Those little kind things about you…that’s what separates you…that’s what makes you great.
You became a leader and role model for your friends, classmates and under-classmen. People know who you are all over town and my chest swells every time I get to say, “That’s my little brother.” When I look at your I see the best qualities in this family – you embody all the good that this family holds. You’ve got Akram’s humor and Husam’s creativity. You’ve got mom’s generosity and dad’s strength. As far as genetics go, we are cut from the same cloth, born with the same curly hair, nose, hands, and height. In some ways we are more like twins than Husam and me. But if I have to give you anything in this world, I hope you take the idea that I loved you the way an older sister should love her brothers, and that your capacity to love is the greatest gift you could ever give someone.
You’re graduating today, leaving highschool for the next great chapter in your life. For some reason though…I’m not worried about you. I know deep in my heart you are going to accomplish so many amazing things but… I’m here to tell you it’s okay to mess up. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re not going to have all the right answers. Sometimes you’re going to find yourself staring vacantly into nothing wondering what the fuck you’re doing with your life. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to not know sometimes – that’s life. I’m just not worried about you.
You have so much conviction and compassion, no matter where you go there will always be support in your corner. When you need guidance, always know we’re here to help you, to listen, and to lend a hand whenever you’re in need. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your career, and whenever you can say “yes” to traveling, to new experiences, to anything that will make you a well-rounded person…always say “yes.”
Love to your fullest extent, and dream bigger than anyone else around you. Don’t be afraid of rejection and never ever, ever, EVER think you’re not good enough. You’re the best, the best there is, and you will go on to prove that to the world. To Husam, Akram, and me you are the baby. You will always be the baby, but we are also you’re biggest fans. The next four years are going to be an incredible journey, but if you ever need help, or just some kind words, you can always count on us. There is not an ocean we wouldn’t cross or a mountain we wouldn’t climb to get to you. I believe there is nothing you can’t accomplish in this world as long as you have unwavering love and support in your life.
Next year you will leave all the things you have known your whole life. Rest assured, Sam, nothing real in your life will ever change. Your best high school friends will be with you wherever you go. No other friends in the world will know you better than Phil, George and Matt because they’ve seen you through all your transitions. You are going to meet so many more people and become the best version of yourself that you ever thought possible.
So I leave you with this, my brother. I’m so proud of you and all you have done. I cannot wait to see what your future brings and all the stories you will have in time. I will always be grateful you were born, and that you were not a girl. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing about growing up with three brothers because you are the reason I am strong, independent, and can love so unapologetically. You changed our lives the minute you were born for the better. I know you will go on to change so many more. I’m so proud to be your sister. I love you, Samie.
Love always and forever,
Your favorite Sister,
P.S. Here is a little excerpt from a letter my friend Claire wrote to me when I graduated. I remember this letter whenever I experience a great chance in my life, like when I moved to California. Don’t be afraid to feel everything.
I hope you’re feeling excited by this transition, but don’t be afraid to grieve the loss of what has been. When you’re standing in that auditorium amongst the sea of cardboard hats and swinging tassels, I hope you smile from ear to ear. I hope you remember everything that made [high school] wonderful, and I hope you allow yourself to just *feel* everything you need to. I also hope that when you’re feeling the loss of the last four years, and are facing that crushing question, “What’s next?” you remember that I’m here for you, always.