“Yeah, that’s right. Hold it like that,” said my sister, her scissors poised over my right ear. “Just wanna get this little bit—there—done. What do you think?”

In the hand mirror I catch her lined smile, evidence of deep willingness to help out, whenever or wherever. Although her mailing address is with her daughter’s in Edina, Minnesota, she crisscrosses the country in her navy SUV and hangs out with the overwhelmed until their crisis has passed. For decades, playtime in one of her timeshares has enhanced her family’s bonding and restored much needed balance among her guests.

For several years she has been tracking my admissions to the hospital and rehab, bringing tasty salmon dinners from Michael’s, apples and other snacks, even small plants for over-the-bed-table. Her exuberance buoyed my beleaguered spirit, worn down by the high drama of roommates, with the seriousness of house doctors and specialists engorging the computer with more data of my functioning. And there have been other haircuts.

And today she reminds me, “If ever you need me, just call. I’ll be on the next plane.”

Again, I look into the mirror as my sister brushes loose hairs from my sweater sleeve and removes the towel from around my shoulders. When I speak to the beauty of her selflessness, she chortles and says that she’s well named—after Martha in the Gospel of John. This is so true.