A Sister’s Promise
My sister and I both dreamed of far away lands. For all our differences, we had that in common. Our reasons may differ, our interests may vary, but we both longed to act upon the wanderlust within our souls.
My sister did know better about taking hold of opportunities in impulsive moments. When the chance presented itself, she was there. She went on more beach trips, weekend getaways, and road trips than I did. Instead, I was holding onto illusions of responsibility. I missed family vacations because a job would state that leave -and unpaid leave, at that- would not be granted, and they argued my attendance at work was crucial. So, for a meaningless summer job that wasn’t really crucial in the long run, I would miss out on family memories. I said no to concerts and adventures during the years of my first career because I felt compelled to make each teaching day count, a notion that was no doubt laden with hubris. Other opportunities were also missed because it just wasn’t sensible right now. It was something for the future and not for the present. One day, I would have the time. One day, I would have the money. One day, I would be able to do it. But I wasn’t there yet.
When are we ever ready for life and any of its adventures? I’ve been waiting to do things for so long that life has been passing me by. In the last couple of years, I have been striving to break free of my habit of hiding in “responsibility” and “practicality,” while waiting for the right time. I have been trying to carpe diem. Even in the small moments I try to live my best present. It has been a slow process, and some days I get frustrated by that which I can’t change. Some days I am just emotionally or physically drained by the daily toll of life, but, even in this, I see the adventure.
While I have been working to live more fully the past couple years, the sudden death of my 28-year-old vivacious sister served to prioritize this change. None of us know how long we have on this earth. I want to live my best life now. And out of love for my sister, to do anything less would be a disgrace.
We had a fund for our first international trip. It started when my sister casually asked me to name countries I wanted to visit. She stopped me right away. “Ireland.” She had decided. We would go to Ireland. Together. On my sister’s prompting, we began to set aside money. I kept it in my savings account. Every birthday and Christmas, we tucked money into it rather than giving each other gifts. For the first Christmas after we began our fund, Katie tucked her deposit to our account in an Ireland travel book. Inside she penned a playful message, just for me.
Now, as I prepare to make my first international trip (a trip to Scotland), I think of that message, of her words to me. Words that mean more now than they ever did before. Words that reminded me of my promise to be her partner in adventure. “Don’t forget to take me with you.” I snorted when I read those final words in her message. “Like you’d let me forget you,” I chided. Even now, she cannot be forgotten behind.
I will take her with me. On all my greatest adventures, I will carry her with me, I will honor her, remember her, and smile with her. She will go with me and always be a part of me. Rather than grieve at all the experiences she had still to fulfill, I will live them for her and in honor of her. I will live bolder because my sister is with me. And in this bold life, I will gaze upon new views, experience new thrills, and know that she approves. Katie hated boring.
In my good days, I want to bring my sister along. As a tangible token of bringing her a long, I wear a necklace of hers: a carved lion pendant that hangs from a simple black cord. I wear it on days when I expect an adventure and I want to honor my promise. I wear it on days when I want to be strengthened by her boldness. I wear it on days I want to be happy and need a little encouragement.
In carrying my sister with me, I know those days must be the most thrilling, outlandish, exciting, or scandalous days. I’d hate to carry her with me and to bore her with a mundane life. So when I put on her necklace, it’s a promise to her to live my best life that day. To live my most fierce life. I’m wearing that necklace today, as I prepare to travel across the ocean. I’ll be wearing that necklace when I finally go to Ireland and have a pint in her honor. One day, I even hope to see the free-roaming lions in Africa, as she had dreamed. And everywhere I go -necklace or no-, I could never forget to take her with me.
She did, after all, make me promise.