In my family, I am the oldest sibling. Well, not exactly. I'm technically the middle child, but a tragedy struck my family almost 30 years ago that, for a short time, left me with no living siblings. You see, when I was four years old, my family, which consisted of my mom, dad, older sister, Tuesday, and myself, went on a family skiing trip to the mountains of North Carolina. I had just turned 4 years old, and Tuesday was 8. After a fun day out on the snow, it was time to go home. Shortly after we got in the car, we had an accident which left me in serious condition (with my head split open) in the NC hospital, and my older sister didn't quite make it. Luckily both of my parents weren't severely hurt, but that meant one parent had to stay in the hospital with me, and one had to make the long trip back to Charleston, SC, to bury my older sister.
I distinctly remember that day. They say most children don't have good, solid memories until they are closer to 5, but I have some pretty hard core memories of Tuesday. She introduced me to Olivia Newton John. My favorite color was purple because her favorite color was purple. She taught me how to blow bubbles with my gum. And she was also the reason I was afraid of the dark for so many years (a little bit of sibling fighting that lead me to be locked in a dark room for a while...scary!) But she was my best friend. I looked up to her more than anything else in the world. So it's no wonder that those moments between talking to her in the car before the accident and waking up in the hospital without a living sister that I had "a moment" with her between this world and the next. I will never forget the bright, BRIGHT light, the intense feeling of peace, and my sister looking beautiful as she told me she had to go to Heaven. She spoke words of advice to me and gave me a specific job to do (one that I will not share here, but for those who personally know me, I will be more than happy to share it with you). When I woke up in the hospital room, my mother, who chose to stay with me, told me of Tuesday's death. Looking back, I fear my mother thought I didn't care because of my response, but honestly, I was at peace with the situation. I knew where she was...I practically walked her there myself!
My parents made the decision to have another child, my little sister, Jill. and I suddenly had big shoes to fill.
If you know anything about birth order, the oldest child typically tends to be the more mature, responsible one. The one that is goal-oriented and focused. The middle (or last child) tends to be a little more carefree, outgoing, imaginative, and creative. (Now don't get your feathers ruffled. There are always an exception to the rule). At the core of me, I am that middle child. If you know me personally (especially if you have known me since childhood), I am outgoing, creative, and all those other things that are typical of the middle or last child. So when my older sister died and my parents had my younger sister, I was suddenly cast into a role that goes against who I am. I suddenly had to be the responsible one. I had to be the one who was the guinea pig of my parents, and I had to learn to lead by example.
To this day I struggle with being a natural leader to my younger sister. As a typical baby of the family, I just wanted to spend as much time with both of my sisters as possible. When my younger sister came around, it was only natural for me to take her with me everywhere. And not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Jill seriously went everywhere with me (as all of my ex-boyfriends would say...she went on almost all my dates with me). And because I was a "spirited" child and young person, I don't think my sister really minded all that much. I was always looking for ways to include her. But as we got older, and our lives took different paths, my sister wasn't always so inclined to be with me as much. And it is times like these that I wish I had my older sister back to give me advice, to set an example, and to tell me which things to fight for and which things I need to back off on.
So on this day, Tuesday's 37th birthday, I reflect on sisterhood. I reflect on my sisters. I evaluate myself. Am I being a good sister? Would I do Tuesday justice? Do I take my job too seriously? When do I back off and let my younger sister do her thing? and When do I step in?
Society, today, has so many mixed families where a child can go from an only child to one of many (in the case of remarried parents). As much as there is no set line anymore for what a typical family looks like, there are many of us who are suddenly put in a position that goes against what our birth order says about us. I ask that you parents recognize that struggle and be patient. I ask that the other siblings (who may not be affected by the change) also be considerate. It seriously is hard to fill shoes that we originally weren't supposed to fill!
|Tuesday (on right) and Me|
|Jill (on left) and Me|
PS: I know that some may want to respond: "God planned for you to fill that new role", and I totally agree. He knew I could handle this task. But there are days/times (like wedding days when your sibling is not there to be a bridesmaid) when it hits hard that there used to be another role for you. :)