Older Sisters

It's almost three hours we've been talking for now, three hours that stretched long and hard, me silenced and unsure of what to say. The hours stretched over two days, over a table with benches and a bridge that we dangled feet and shoes off of, a pavilion and a bench and now a bench in a shelter, watching rain come down, or the possibility of it coming. I don't remember which it was, now.

It seems like it should be raining and grey. The stories are all broken and weary, and I look at her face when I dare and marvel at the wrongness of it. She's barely the age of my youngest brother, and this all hurts for so many reasons, but her face and her voice say that she doesn't let it hurt, not any more.

I guess that I wouldn't either.

I still wonder how we connected, why she decided that I'd be the one she'd talk to there. Because when I thought back on it, I realized that she had been my small shadow even in the days before I especially noticed her. And it is right, but I didn't know at the time where my attention should be, and I wonder how she did.

Somewhere in there, both of us giving and both of us taking and both of us reaching for a place where it is safe to say these things, I must have asked something.

Maybe it was something like, What do you need?

Her answer came clear.

"I wish that my older sister would just talk to me about it."

I'm not her older sister, I can't be that.

"She's been through the same stuff and I just want to know how to deal with it."

And my heart cracks all over again, sadness at so many things in this sad story.

And I agree with her.

When I was younger, I thought being the oldest kid was the best. No one to boss you around. No one's shadow to fall under, no one's reputation to live up to.

And then I came to college... and it wasn't long in at all, interacting with older students, that I thought...

God has been gracious in giving me, a few years later than I would have liked it perhaps, a number of girls who I consider "older sisters".

And so I in turn seek to find out: What makes someone a good older sister? I have four younger siblings, two of them sisters.

I have begun to ask. Girls with older sisters: What did she do well? What do you wish she had done? Girls with younger sisters: What do you do? What do you wish that you had done?

The conversation sometimes fizzles away into awkward, uneasy looks, or a few short sentences. But sometimes it's all love and memories, wrapped up with heartache. Sometimes it's raw pain and warnings to do better.

Here is the answer I seem to have gotten most: Be there.

For me, it's been having someone saying,
"...you're not alone...
...I know where you're going, and it's not that far...
It's too far to walk, but you don't have to run...
You'll get there in time."
[Jars of Clay]


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