Going First


How do you thank a sister for being big and bold, for taking life on first?

How can I thank her for knowing everything and explaining our parents’ divorce to me when I was in 5th grade? How can I thank her for taking me to Australia to swim in the Great Barrier Reef and pet wallabies? For enduring hardships I only had to taste?

Is there a Hallmark card for a woman who did it her way first in marriage, career and kids, giving me an example to look at and freedom to say, Me, too! or No way! and never judged me for my choices—even the ones she would’ve never made, the ones that landed me on my ass?

How can I thank my sister for creating a marriage masterpiece for herself and loving someone unconditionally when for me it was only a concept? How can I thank my sister for not throwing a fit when I didn’t pick her to be a bridesmaid in my first wedding? For fully supporting me in my second marriage—both the beginning and the end?

There’s no way to measure how my sister’s destiny spreads its arms before me like a world map.

How can I thank her for all the times she told me what to do and I defied her—like the time I wanted to make a pie in elementary school and I didn’t need her help! I forgot to cook the crust. She’s the one who got in trouble from my dad. It happened often because I was the baby and I knew how to play it. I was just a kid, but so was she. How do I ever thank her for that?

How do I thank Jayne for taking me on dates with her boyfriends and later taking me in to live with her and her husband? I was in high school and left halfway through the time I’d allotted to stay, never thinking how it might cut her to have me—the only family she had in Michigan—run home to New Mexico.

Is there a bouquet I can send that says thanks for opening your home to me in college—as you and your husband juggled a baby and low-paying jobs, while I squandered my education and exercised my independence like it was a marathon?

How could I possibly thank you (but I do) for going before me in losing your great love to death? Then, with a brutalized heart, encouraging me to trust love and the man who lit up my life in all the ways I longed for? Without her permission, her presence, safety, and security, would I have made the leap?

How do I thank her for giving me more than a place to stay—a real home in a way I hadn’t known, after being kicked out of and running from so many?

Can I send a card, a letter, a parade to say thanks for what you went through when my lover died and you had to relive your loss while watching your little sister get slapped by the same?

How do I thank my sister for smiling in the mornings, and when she comes home, and loving my dog who feels like my lifeline?

Jayne’s love is action, but it’s more. Have you ever seen someone look at you like you can do no wrong—even with all the evidence?

One way I can thank her for the thousands of ways she’s lifted me is life itself—living mine to the fullest, even when it’s dark and I’m lost.

There’s more, though. My sister says she could never endure the loss of me. So, I promise to live longer. Losing her would be brutal, but I’d go through the shredder for my big sister.

Besides, we’ll be in our 100s by then and I’m sure I’ll have a handle on this grief thing, right?



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