In a time when telephones had cords and children made mud pies, there were two sisters. The first sister was a pensive child, olive of skin with hair of onyx and caramel eyes. The second sister was a curious child, fair of skin with strawberry-blonde locks and storm-gray eyes flecked with blues. Never were two sisters more unalike.
While the first sister was born of the moon, a dreamer who would read books of faraway lands and magical places, the second was born of the sun, an explorer who would jump from higher heights and test boundaries to find the limits of reality. The sisters would clash and fight deeply and passionately, but they would also make up and play wonderful games using the first sister’s imagination and the second sister’s bravery.
Sometimes, they pretended they were orphans running off to the unknown, because the sisters loved The Little Princess with its storyteller who dreamed for the first sister and its exotic jungles and daring feats for the second sister. So the sisters would load up the little red wagon with their American Girl dolls and sand buckets and a stuffed animal platypus named Googles, and they would run away until their mother called them in to supper.
Sometimes, they pretended to be super spies. The mission’s objective was to sneak past their napping mother, tired from snack-making and boo-boo healing and from caring for the sisters’ precious baby brother. But even sleeping, the mother was always aware, and the girls rarely prevailed. Nevertheless, for each attempted mission, the first sister imagined daring reasons they needed to sneak past, the second sister plotted routes, and the second sister went first, because a tired, grumpy mother was as scary to the first sister as the fire-breathing dragons of her books.
Some days, the sisters searched for worms in the mud. Or they made roads with chalk and navigated them on their bicycles. They coaxed naive babysitters into games of indoor tag, and they chased the cat. Sometimes, the cat chased them. They wrestled with Daddy and gifted Mommy with dandelions. The sisters created armies out of Beanie Babies lined up for battle, because Daddy was a Soldier. Though, the Beanie Babies rarely broke out into war. Battle only happened if the peace talks failed. It was a good thing that the second sister always had her lion Beanie Baby lead her army. Lions are wise. At least this one was. He was as wise as the beloved Mufasa of the Lion King.
As girls, they were each other’s best friend and protector. Once when the first sister got in a fight trying to protect another friend, a boy put her in a headlock. The first sister was never very strong, but she had believed in being noble. The second sister found the first sister trapped by a strong foe. She called the boy a mean name in her bravest voice. She called him a “moo-ron,” and she ran away fast to get their big strong father to help save the first sister. They were two souls united as one force.
But as the sisters grew older, they changed. Adolescence was a strange monster they never imagined. The first sister grew more scared and insecure. The second sister grew more bored and restless. The first sister started playing a lot with the baby brother, mothering him. The second sister started finding entertainment with poking the first sister until she overreacted. She was a clever sister, an instigator, and, since the first sister no longer wanted to play, the second sister found that if she incited a reaction out of her sister, it was an excellent source of amusement. The first sister did not appreciate this. Thus, the sisters started to fight a lot. They always had fought but the fighting grew bitter and unresolved, and the anger festered. Sometimes, they couldn’t even remember that they had once been the other’s confidant.
Still, they would come together from time to time to play fun games. Sometimes they were games of pretend. When their parents were away, they would play restaurant with their baby brother, and they would let one sister order silly foods for the other sister to make in the kitchen and then they would eat it with their best table manners while daintily holding their cups. Sometimes they played guessing games, one sister would hum a tune for the other to guess. The second sister was a terrible singer. Sometimes, they would play video games where they fought against enemies together: games like Mario Kart, James Bond’s Golden Eye, and Gauntlet. They always had the most fun when they were on the same team. Outside, they played catch, though that was always more fun with Mom and Dad. Dad would hit the ball really far and they’d race to get it. Once, when a hurricane came and took out the power, the sisters played flashlight tag with the neighbors. The second sister was really good. She was much faster. The first sister wasn’t as good, and she ran into a fence. The sisters made a lot of friendship bracelets and beaded key rings. Their key ring specialty was a lizard.
However, the good times seemed fewer, and they did seem to fight more than they played. They quickly forgot about their friendship bracelets and how they liked being on the same team. By the time the first sister went away for college, the sisters didn’t seem to even like each other anymore. It was really sad. Each sister seemed to think they knew best and they didn’t remember what it was like when opposites worked together.
The first sister had a hard time trying to find herself. Throughout her adolescence, she had begun comparing herself to her sister, and she had grown jealous. She felt that they had become competition and she was losing. She was so busy comparing herself and seeing how she didn’t measure up that she didn’t know who she was anymore. She faded in light, diminishing in spirit. She couldn’t see the ways she excelled, nor could she see the good things she brought to the world. She became miserable and lost. In her search for her identity, she pushed her sister further away. She shut out her sister and didn’t let her back in.
This was an era of unnatural darkness between the sisters who had been born to shine. They didn’t know each other anymore. The first sister went away for college, only returning for winter and summer vacations. During those times, she only saw her sister as the source of her problems, and the sisters were strangers to each other.
When the first sister graduated from college, she knew herself better; however, she had forgotten her sister. She knew how to stand on her own, but she had forgotten how she had once stood with her sister. The first sister had been so worried about finding herself, that she lost her connection to those she loved. She no longer knew how she fit into her family. She didn’t know how to be herself around her family. Now that she knew herself, she didn’t know how to share that with her family, because the first sister was an overthinker and she overcomplicated the matter. It took her some time to share herself with her family. It took her a long time to realize she was still who her family had always known. The only thing that had changed was the first sister’s self-knowledge.
While the first sister was being so self-absorbed, she failed to notice how lost the second sister had become. As the first sister became more comfortable being herself, she thought the second sister’s behavior was that of a selfish, spoiled girl who had not grown up. The first sister did not bother trying to learn understand the second sister. For all the first sister overthought her own behaviors, she did not think much about what drove her sister’s behaviors. For all that the first sister had taken time to find herself, she never thought that the second sister might feel the same way.
Then one day, the second sister had a horrible day in which she was cruel to the people she loved. It left the family brokenhearted, and the second sister couldn’t live at home anymore. It was in that moment that the first sister opened her eyes to see her sister was hurt and she was hurting others because of her hurt. When the first sister had been suffering, she had pushed people away. Now, the second sister was doing the same. But the second sister had wounds that the first sister had been spared, and the second sister needed help.
See, the first sister always took the safest route. She guarded her heart and her soul against harm, so she had been protected from most of life’s dangers. She opened herself cautiously and slowly to people. It was one of the reasons she felt lost, because she had withheld love and then felt less loved. It was self-inflicted hurt. The second sister was never like the first sister. The second sister opened her heart to a lot of people. She had always taken great risks and she had done so with her heart and soul. She gave pieces of herself to others. Many people loved her for her honesty, her genuineness, but there were people in the world who damaged the pieces she gave them. They took more than they gave. Some of the people didn’t mean to, but sometimes people can be careless with that which isn’t theirs. So the second sister was deeply hurt, and she sought ways to feel better from the pain she suffered. But the things she did made her less of herself. And the more she lost herself, the more she lashed out in hurt.
For a long time, the first sister had been holding resentment against her sister. She had been holding anger and judgment against her sister for wrongs throughout their lives. She held grudges against each infraction, but, when her sister had her darkest moment and hurt those who both sisters loved, the first sister did something she didn’t know she could do. She forgave her sister. She forgave the second sister without being asked, without being prompted, without thinking. And then she told her sister that she forgave her and that she loved her.
This was the beginning of a new relationship. It took time, because the second sister had to find herself again. She had to learn to love herself and forgive herself, but the sisters began anew again.
It wasn’t like before though, because the sisters had learned some things. The first sister had learned how to be herself and how to be responsible for herself. She learned how to express herself so that the second sister didn’t unintentionally hurt her or misunderstand her. The second sister learned how to help herself and how to control herself, because the sun shines bright and fierce; it’s beautiful but it can burn. The second sister loved and lived fiercely, and that kind of energy scorches. The first sister was slow to love and live, but she loved her dazzling, irrepressible sister.
Both sisters had to come to terms with another issue that had long separated them. They had felt they were right in their angers toward each other, but a lot of that anger stemmed from jealousy. The first sister envied the attention the second sister got. The first sister wanted to be loved by lots of people too; she wanted people to notice her like they noticed her sister. She felt overlooked and unremarkable next to her sister. Simultaneously, the second sister envied the direction the first sister had. She was steady and constant and seemed to know her purpose. The second sister wanted to have confidence in her future too, she wanted to know that steadiness.
The two sisters finally talked to each other, and they listened to each other. It turned out that the second sister was not loved more; the love just looked differently because they were very different. But both sisters were loved deeply and unconditionally. And it turned out that the first sister was not as confident in her direction as she seemed; she was also still in search of her purpose in life. The two sisters grew close again. They began to plot again. Like they did when they were little girls, the first sister imagined and the second sister dared.
With newly learned skills of compromise, they hatched plans of a future of adventures that would belong to them both. They looked at each other’s bucket list and found commonality. They plotted Ireland as their first escapade together. They gifted each other money and squirreled it away for the day they could see the world. For a year and a half, their fund grew and grew. The second sister got the first sister a travel book, because she knew the first sister who liked to plan and be safe would read it and become a source of knowledge. The first sister got the second sister a waterproof map that included lists of taverns, because she knew the first sister was directionally-challenged and needed fun landmarks to keep her heading. The sisters bubbled with excitement, and the first sister told the second sister that during the upcoming summer they would start to make official plans for their journey.
Then, one early April evening, two suns set, and one never rose again.
The first sister did not even know the world was changing that night. She was asleep in her bed five hundred miles away. The two sisters may be as different as the day is from the night, but they were linked by their differences and connected by their blood. Yet, the first sister sensed nothing.
Who could ever sense that their opposite half – the one that challenges them, infuriates them, motivates them – could ever leave? Who would ever expect the sun to burn so bright that it is consumed and extinguished in one sudden moment?
See, the second sister had always been so brave, so protective, and – for all that the first sister failed to see it – so very, very selfless. And in one very brave, very protective, very selfless moment, the second sister left this earth and returned to the sky.
To burn so bright it leaves the world in stunned, blind awe, one must do something utterly inconceivable. That is what the second sister did and she left behind the first sister.
The first sister was lost. She had only recently learned how much she needed the second sister. They had wasted so many years. Now she was without that one person that she had always assumed would be by her side, agitating her, instigating trouble, and coloring life. The second sister had taken the light with her, and what is the moon without the sun’s light to make it glow?
Meanwhile, the world worried. How sad it all was. The second sister sacrificed her life for a creature she loved, and now her parents had lost that which they never should have to lose. The people asked the first sister to be strong. The people did not understand how it could be so terribly sad, so impossibly comprehensible for the first sister to lose the second sister. The people only remembered how the sisters had fought, because a war creates more ruckus and, with it, more notice than does peace. The people assumed the first sister was not quite as sad, and, if she was, she would heal quickly. But the first sister felt lost in a dark hole. She kept asking, how does the moon glow without the sun? People didn’t understand.
Soon the world moved on. It was sad how the second sister lost her life, but there are many other sad stories to hear, and the world forgot the story of the girl who died so bravely. People who knew the family and knew the sisters told the first sister that enough time had passed and it was time she moved on. It had been five months. How does the moon learn how to create its own light in five months? What is a moon without light? Did the moon need a new name? Soon even the people who knew the sisters began to move on too. And they started to forget and didn’t understand why the first sister was sad. It had been six months, then seven. How could they not see that the moon cannot glow without the sun? That one needs the other even when they are so very different.
The first sister continued to feel lost in darkness, but then, without ceremony, she finally began to grieve. The first sister finally realized that the second sister wasn’t coming back, that her sun would not rise again in her lifetime, that this nightmare, this eternal midnight, wasn’t going to end.
Somehow, in the grieving, the first sister learned how to glow again. She learned how to live without the sun, but it came at a price. It came with acceptance, with compromise. The only way to live without the sun was to carry the sun in her heart. She had to hold the sister forever in her heart in all of her blazing glory, the good and bad and wild. Holding the sun inside would mean becoming a bit more like the sun. It would burn at times. It would mean being more fierce and bold and passionate, and it would mean all the hurt that could come with taking big leaps, but it was the only way for the first sister to live without the second sister. It was the only way to move forward.
So the first sister began to live more ferociously than she would have ever dared. She began to be not just imaginative but brave; she began to not just love patiently and quietly but to open her heart to hurts too. She began to be both moon and sun, because to be only one without the other by her side was to live a half-life. That would have disappointed the second sister, and, knowing the second sister was caw-cawing as an ornery angel above and was as eager to be as entertained in the afterlife as she was in her earthly life, the first sister had to put on a good show.
So the first sister did. The first sister became both dreamer and doer, planner and explorer. It hurt like hell, and some days she cried in pain and sadness, but yet she did it. She lived for them both.