This is my sister, Janet. I took this picture when we were traveling across Minnesota, through Arlington and Luverne (where my father was born and grew up), Taylor’s Falls, all the way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where our mother was born. Along the way, we scattered her ashes. It was an incredible, rich, sad, happy, big trip for both of us – one that was glorious in the details, like this image of the big, carved cottonwoods along the Mississippi in St. Paul, where we started our journey. Or the way the falls in Sioux Falls swirled and feathered the last of her ashes down the river.
I have been thinking a lot about the blessings and importance of sisters because our oldest daughter is now facing the necessity of acting with extraordinary courage in the face of her sister’s crisis. I was listening to Brene Brown’s moving book on shame – I Thought It Was Just Me – in the car the other day. She said that etymology of courage is heart, and to be courageous is not just about brave or noble deeds, but speaking with one’s whole heart and innermost feelings.
I don’t know if my sister and I have always been courageous. There is being timid, not wanting to deal with it, or feeling afraid of speaking clearly and openly. There are all the boundaries, limitations and failures of heart that are tethered to fear. Sometimes, it takes a crisis to scorch us into an alchemical transformation. – that moment when we are honed by fire and tears. For my sister and I, it was the long illnesses and death of our parents. For my daughter, it may be this crisis.