A dear friend and I try to share lunch at a local restaurant at least every couple weeks. She and I have known each other for many years and our lives have traversed similar paths. Over the last year or so, both of her brothers have died so that now, only she and her 88 year old mother remain.
The privilege and joy of having siblings doesn’t end when we grow up and move away from our birth families. In my view, siblings become more precious in our lives as we age; they especially take on added importance after our parents’ deaths.
For my friend, this is certainly true. She’s facing the frightening prospect that once her mother is gone, she will be like an unmoored ship, bereft of the family connections she has enjoyed her entire life since she was brought into this world as the youngest among her siblings.
In my family, there were six of us siblings (though one sister died in her second year of life). Even spread across various states, we still share a loving bond that permeates and draws us together. My older brother, younger brother and I arrived in quick succession, less than four years between us, so we grew up together, having very few memories that didn’t include all three of us as a unit.
When I think of my childhood, it is linked in a thousand different ways to those unique characters with whom I shared crayons, bicycles, hand-me-down clothes … and croquet mallets. (The photo at left shows me in the center with my two brothers on the left and two cousins on the right.)
As with my friend who looked up to two older brothers, I adored my older brother! He taught me the ropes (so to speak) from the time I was old enough to note his presence and example. If there was a game to play, I followed his lead. If we were climbing trees, I watched his example and learned from him. When he took up the violin in grade school, I decided to do the same. (He stayed with it, I didn’t.)
Growing up as an only child, my mother had a completely different experience. The only “siblings” she knew were the girls with whom she attended boarding school. Unfortunately, those relationships gradually faded following high school graduation.
In fact, several years back when one of Mom’s former classmates visited and spent an entire week with my mom, the experience quickly became awkward and uncomfortable … they hadn’t seen each other in sixty years! After reminiscing about their shared boarding school experience in youth, they had little else to talk about – not nearly enough to carry a week’s worth of conversation!
Sibling relationships are such a blessing! Like the quote (at right) notes, there’s a unique quality about siblings that is timeless. But when one has never experienced sibling relationships … or those sibling relationships have been cut short by death, we also have the tremendous comfort of knowing and loving people within the body of Christ who are (because of our shared experience) also our brothers and sisters.
My dear friend knows multiple brothers and sisters in Christ (me and my Beloved included) who will love her so that in days to come she doesn’t have to feel bereft of familial relationships. In truth, these relationships provide beauty and comfort and timelessness as we age … and will last throughout Eternity!