Judy Mandel

Judy L. Mandel

Replacement Child

My Sister's Lessons

Her bravery is still an inspiration when I need it most

Posted May 16, 2013


I watched Linda go into the hospital once every year from the time my child memory began. She had been badly burned in the resulting fire from the plane crash and needed a great deal of reconstructive surgery over the years. Not easy surgery. The breaking of her legs to realign them left her in a body cast for six months. The attempt to rebuild her ears was unsuccessful, and the new ears had to be removed. Skin grafts were done to give her more mobility and flexibility in her arms and legs.

Somehow she found the strength to submit to surgery after surgery, knowing that she would suffer sometimes months of pain. Somehow, and with my mother’s help, she could look to the other side of the pain and see how her life might be improved.

One diary entry she wrote, and later gave me for my research for my book, told of how she dealt with the worst pain:

              “I would concentrate on the pain, focus on how deep and bad it was. Mom wanted to     distract me from it, but she finally realized what I was doing and left me alone. If I could measure how bad it was, then I would know it would be less the next day.”

Linda passed away in 2009, but she is never far from my thoughts. I never felt her presence more than when I found myself in the emergency room two weeks ago with an intestinal blockage. Knowing finally that I would require surgery and a good deal of recovery, I remembered that she had much worse to confront throughout her life. I heard her words in my head that it would be ok, just let them do what they have to do, don’t panic. I swear she held me in the recovery room when I woke up in pain.

Of course, I wish Linda were here with me now, but in many ways she is. The lessons she gave me to keep pushing on when you don’t really feel like it, to believe that things will get better, that life will improve—those lessons endure. Thanks sis.