Salt Lake City stood besieged by purple 20 years ago this week.


A parade of purple flags connected to car windows or antennas whipped past on every highway and side street.


Tattoos of purple-lettered posters covered the fronts of rich houses, poor houses, middle-class houses, shacks, apartments, condos and even doghouses


A huge television office building in Salt Lake City featured the two-or-three-story high banner “Show Me The Title.”


Salt Lake City was in a championship mood back in June 1998.


The Wasatch Valley had hugged the Utah Jazz firmly to its bosom and sent them off with a kiss on their quest to derail the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.


As a displaced Utahan, I reveled in the Jazz’ juxtaposition with destiny.


But, I hadn’t planned to witness the purple craziness in Salt Lake City.


That all changed sometime in May.


The phone call.


The one too many families have experienced.


My sister had cancer.


Just eight years earlier, our mom had died from the disease. Now it was my sister’s turn.


These things never happen at a convenient moment. I had no plans, until that phone call, of taking a vacation home that summer.


But, that changed after we hung up. I made an airline reservation in order to be there a day or two before she went under the knife.


Specifics escape me about most the trip. Someone must have picked me up at the airport — I don’t remember whom.


I stayed at sis’ place — the same home where she and mom lived when mom went away.


On the morning of the operation, I visited with her and then watched them wheel her away. Suddenly, an unshakable fear grabbed my heart — would that be the last time I would see the sparkle in her eyes or talk to her?


Oh, how the next few hours dragged — like a worm pulling a bowling ball. Uphill.


Despite occasional childish squabbles — when we were children — we had always been best friends.


I thought back to that Christmas Eve when we snuck out of our respective bedrooms crept into the living room and tore little gashes in the wrapping paper of our presents to get a sneak peak at what Santa had dropped off.


For some reason, he didn’t catch us.


But, mom and dad spotted immediately in the morning the jagged ravages of our furtive mischief.


The punishment hadn’t been too severe — but we never felt tempted again to rush the anticipation of Christmas gift wonder. I still don’t remember who was the mastermind.


I thought back to the many Halloweens we haunted the porches in our vicinity to accept the candied generosity of friendly neighbors and strangers.


Perhaps I remembered the double-date we had gone on, or the time she talked her best girlfriend to go to a movie with me.


I remembered how her and mom drove my car more than 800 miles to San Diego to attend my Marine Corps graduation — and how we made it back home despite axle damage.


I thought of my sister’s courage in providing for herself and meeting with faith and benign resolve the ordinary challenges — and this extraordinary test.


I remembered back to the night before our mom passed away. With their small place full of relatives in the downstairs bedroom, we both slept in the livingroom — me on a cushion on the floor and Pam on the couch — where my mom also lie in her hospital bed.


It was the first time in many, many years — since my sister and I had been little children — the three of us had slept together in the same room. Unless one counts the time we had tried to get a few hours of shuteye in my car — during our 1,000-mile drive to Texas to visit relatives — at a highway rest stop. The motel we had planned to rest in that night had included bugs — free of charge — on the bed mattress, which had chased us back into the car and some tired miles.


I don’t recall my other thoughts as I waited for word about my sister’s cancer operation.


My grandfather, my Aunt Marsha and other relatives kept company with me in the waiting room. But, nothing distracted me from the dreadful foreboding.


Finally, a doctor contacted us. I don’t remember if he spoke to us in the waiting room or in some other place.


She was going to be fine and back home within a day or two.


It wasn’t until then I could wrap myself in the purple-tinted excitement. We watched much of finals on my sister’s television. The Jazz lost in six games.


After about a two-week stay, I boarded a jet on my boomerang journey back to Bartlesville.


The purple had been put away; the prayer had been answered.