“She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is
your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.” ~Barbara Alpert
Perhaps more than ever, I have been reflecting on the importance of sisters this week. Early Wednesday morning, the youngest sister of a very dear friend of mine succumbed to the injuries she sustained in a sudden and tragic accident. She was 31. The same age as my sister. In fact, she and my sister had been good friends when they were teenagers.
The morning after I received the news, I was driving my daughter to school. As it goes on most mornings, I had not yet had my coffee. So, in the midst of my morning fog, I was annoyed by the noise coming from the backseat. My older daughter had a stuffed monkey she had brought with her on the ride, and she was making it do a dance for her sister. This dance was accompanied by a song. The baby responded to the monkey’s antics with gleeful giggles.
This song and dance routine lasted for the entire trip. Despite my annoyance, I resisted the urge to tell the monkey to sit the next one out. The two of them were having fun. And more importantly, they were forging their sisterly bond. A bond I don’t always fully appreciate.
The age difference between my two daughters is roughly the same as it is between me and my younger sister. So, when I look at my children, I get a picture of what we were like at 6 and almost 2. There are moments that make a mother want to pull her hair out, but most of the time, they absolutely adore each other. The older one loves to make the baby laugh. And wherever big sister goes, little sister is right there behind her. On long car trips, if the older one is sleeping, the baby is uttering loud syllables in her sister’s direction to try to get her attention. I imagine she’s saying, “Hey, do the monkey dance again!”
When my girls get older, they will likely be much like my sister and I were. Like most sisters do, we fought. (And sometimes these fights got messy. One rather memorable row involved grape juice in the face.) But, we always made up. And at times, we conspired not to tell our parents because we knew we would both be in trouble, no matter who started it. (Yes, it was me who threw the grape juice, and I am forever grateful that my sister helped me clean it up.)
But the fights are not what I remember the most about the time my sister and I spent under the same roof. Among my fondest memories are our late night talks. We shared a room until I was in the fifth grade, and each night, when we were supposed to be asleep, we would whisper and giggle until our father yelled from the front of the house, “Go to sleep, girls!” While visiting my parents recently, I found myself yelling the same thing at my daughters from the room my sister and I used to share.
Today, my sister and I live in different states. Because we both lead busy lives, we don’t talk very often. Yet, we are always there for each other through the good and the bad. When my first child was born, she hopped on a plane and traveled halfway across the country to see us. When she had her son, I hopped in the car for the three-hour trip to see them. She was there for me when I went through my divorce. I was there for her when she lost her father-in-law.
In the midst of a tragic loss, we often reflect on the people we have in our lives. We feel guilty for neglecting the loved ones that are still with us. We want to say to them the things we should have said long ago.
So, to my sister, I say thank you. For the lizard shadow puppet and cow-milking pantomime that still make me smile. For excitedly jumping over the fence to hold your niece for the first time. For bringing me reading material while I was in the hospital on bed rest. For helping me clean up the grape juice I threw in your face.
To my daughters, I say keep doing the monkey dance, and keep laughing with each other. And whatever else happens, love your sister.
Finally, to my dear friend and the sister that remains with her — The loss of your sweet and spunky sister is felt by all of us who knew her. She was a beautiful person, inside and out.