For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands. (Christina G. Rossetti)
I am thinking of my dear sister and her family out in the suburbs where I grew up and lived for most of my adult life. As the closest member of my dear “family of friends,” it is not an exaggeration to suggest that I’d be lost and alone without my precious sister. I love her with all my heart.
Although my sister and I have always been close (except for that one “fight” we had the week before Christmas one year and playfully replicated for many years after), it is true that we continue to grow closer with each passing year. With last year’s death of our mother who was the loving matriarch and communications hub for our nuclear and extended family, we have felt the need to reach out to one another more than ever before.
As older brother and younger sister, we send short “xo”-laden emails every few days, talk on the phone every week or two, and get together every month or so as schedules allow and birthday celebrations dictate. Although less urgent than in the initial days and months of our grief, we continue to relish every moment to better understand the past, find ways to live more fully and faithfully in the present, and still prepare and dream for the family’s future. This, coupled with precious time with my niece and nephew, is restorative and healing in every way. For every enriching opportunity, I am so very grateful.
Whether by email, on the phone, or in person, my sister and I share a mixture of everyday cares and troubles and more existential wonders and worries. We take solace that we, like so many others, are living life’s questions and doing our best to make our way in a perplexing twenty-first century world. Despite my avowed love of “words of wisdom, wonder, and wellness” and our many collective years of learning from literature and life, we have few pat answers to give one another. Decades of deep knowing, the overwhelming ironies of life, and true love afford no platitudes.
Although we are all people of paradox and truth can be relative and fleeting, there is, however, something that underpins every email, phone call, and visit between older brother and younger sister. Something rock solid, permanent, and ever-lasting.
With the same insistence that I had as a four-year-old who knew for sure that I’d be getting a baby sister and the same exuberant pride I experienced when I had the honour of giving her away on her wedding day, I know now that my sister and I connect in a way that transcends time and space. I love her and she loves me. We always have and we always will. In the poignant but understated words of Marion C. Garretty, “A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”
After more than forty years, my love for my sister is comparable only to my love for her precious children, my dear niece and nephew, for whom I feel a fiercely loyal and loving protectiveness. This, of course, is also what I felt for younger cousins who honour me as their “Uncle.” It is more than just a feeling. It is a deep, abiding, parental sense that I would give anything to assure their continued well-being and happiness in the world. Although short on words of wisdom, it is this love that I want my sister to knows she can count on.
I’ll conclude now with the rhyming refrain from an extended narrative poem I once wrote for my precious sister, so very much more than “a little bit of childhood” who is always with me:
I love you my Leetles
My sister, my friend.
I’ll love you my Leetles
From beginning to end