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Winner of Adam Brody Scholarship 2020

Katherine Chrisbacher

3rd Year; Medical Illustration

Submission: Everyone told me my childhood was taken from me. They told me I had to grow up too

quickly, that I had to face things that adults struggle to face. But I know, and have always

known, my childhood was something that I sacrificed for the person I love most in this world.


Our mother died in 2010. After a 3-year battle with brain cancer, she succumbed to the

disease on September 3rd, 2 days before I started the 5th grade. My older sister, Leah, was 12

years old, I was 10, and my baby sister, Julia, was 8. I remember the morning very clearly; I

woke up to commotion and looked over to Julia in her bed across the room. We sneaked down

the stairs and to the hallway where our mother’s room resided. There were so many adults, they

were all talking, they were all looking at us. I knew what was happening, Julia didn’t. The adults

in our house took our mother away that morning. We visited her in the hospital but she was

gone, her brain was dead. We lost her before the end of the day.

Even before my mother died, I had become more and more protective of my little sister. I

wanted her to live and exist in a world that wouldn’t hurt her, that couldn’t take away before it

could give. I would stay up many nights and comfort her cries, telling her that Mommy wasn’t

going to die. Mommy was going to get better. Though I didn’t believe it myself.

After our loss, our older sister became distant. Our father began to see other women, and

was absent many nights of the week. It was Julia and I on our own.

Looking back, I didn’t consciously realize I was sacrificing anything for her. I was simply

trying to take care of my sister in any way that I knew how. Cooking dinners for her and helping

her with homework turned into driving her to friends’ houses and guiding her through college

applications. The time flew by, and before I knew it I was an adult. I would find myself wondering

where my childhood went. Wondering when I stopped having play dates and started cleaning

Julia’s room, packing her lunches. When I stopped playing with dolls and started caring for Julia

when she was sick. I eventually came to the realization, along with a therapist, that I considered

myself her mother. The second we were on our own, my mind shifted into a caretaker’s. I went

from a 10 year old girl to a nanny in a day, in a second. But reflecting on my sacrifice for Julia

today, I have no regrets. She has grown into an intelligent, beautiful, happy young woman who

has amazing goals and inspiring aspirations. I can’t help but feel like a proud mother, crying

when she graduated from high school, when she got accepted into college. I love my little sister

with my whole heart, and am forever grateful for the sacrifice I had made.

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