In honor of Siblings Day – did you know that was today? – we have a special guest author here at Literary Escapism. Heather Summerhayes Cariou is the author of Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir:
A loving, funny and profoundly moving literary memoir. The redemptive story of two sisters growing up in the shadow of a fatal illness, and a family fighting for a child’s life.
Siblings may not be as prevalent in literature as the evil stepmother; still they are often subjects for good story telling. In the literary escapism of our youth, siblings played one of two roles: they were both ugly and cruel, as in Cinderella, or preternaturally close, as in Snow White and Rose Red. Dracula’s Daughters by Jean Marie Stein, is a grown-up tale of eight very different sisters. In Judy Mays romance series A Breath of Heat and Solstice Heat, sibling rivalry again comes into play. Wally Lamb explores the theme of sibling responsibility in This Much I Know Is True, and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper tells the story of a child being conceived for body parts that might save her older sister.
Those of us who have brothers or sisters know that they can be collaborators, co-conspirators, and role models, cruel competitors or cautionary tales. As siblings we scold and protect, torment and counsel, play and fight with each other. In many ways we are socialized more by our siblings than by our parents. Our spouses have probably not known us growing up; our parents are not likely to see us grow old. Siblings, however, are with us for the whole journey. Yet, when we suffer the untimely loss of a sibling whether through estrangement or death, our culture considers it a lesser kind of sorrow.
My sister Pam was one of the great loves of my life, which doesn’t mean there weren’t times when I wanted to drive a stake into her heart. At the age of four she was diagnosed with what she called “Sixtyfive Roses” – Cystic Fibrosis, the most common fatal genetic disease of children and young adults. I remember our mother gathering us up onto our pink chenille bedspreads and gently trying to prepare us for the reality that Pam might die, and very soon at that. Being the omnipotent six-year-old that I was, I promised my sister I would die with her. Instead, she outlived her prognosis by a number of years, and taught me how to live in the process. Together, we discovered where to find joy and meaning in an often painful and uncertain world. Then, as she lay dying at the age of 26, she asked another promise of me: to tell our story.
Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir is that story. I wrote it for anyone on their own hero’s or heroine’s journey, hoping to inspire readers to become warriors on behalf of their own lives. I wrote it to read like a novel, though every word is full of as much truth as I could swear to about the love and anguish, blame and forgiveness, laughter and sorrow we, as sisters, passed through on the way to understanding. A different kind of literary escapism.
April 10th is National Siblings Day. I hope you’ll take a moment to think about the ways in which your siblings have shaped your lives – and what kind of mark you’ve made on theirs. If you have lost a sibling through estrangement or death, remember that the relationship hasn’t ended, it has only changed. There remains a power of emotion that continues to charge our thoughts, feelings and perceptions just as potently as those who are close to their brothers and sisters.
Here is my gift to you for this day…the five most important things I learned from being Pam’s sister.
WE CAN’T CONTROL LIFE BY BEING AFRAID OF IT
So often we make our decisions from a place of fear. Fear separates us from our abilities. It does not protect us, nor will it alter an outcome. Being afraid is natural, but acting out of fear is not the same as using your survival instinct. When we choose to move forward despite our fear, our abilities are empowered, our faith is restored, and our hopes are renewed.
THE ONLY TRUE POWER WE HAVE IS THE POWER TO CHOOSE
When we cannot change what life sets before us we are challenged to change ourselves. Remember that we are defined by our possibilities, not our circumstances. At any given moment we can choose despair or hope, revenge or forgiveness, fear or faith. The choice is always ours to make, and therein lies our power.
JOY IS POSSIBLE EVERY DAY – NO MATTER WHAT
No matter what our circumstances, if we take the chance and opportunity of seeking out beauty in the world around us, there are moments in every day that can be treasured. These moments of joy may be small, but they are powerful. If you can’t find the beauty and joy in your day, create it.
THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GIVING UP AND SURRENDER
Giving up is an act of anger or despair. It implies there’s still some fight left, some unfinished business to complete. Surrender is a release, a letting go. There is peace and contentment in knowing there is nothing more to give, or receive. Surrender can only be accomplished with forgiveness and love.
NEVER GIVE UP!
Become a Warrior on behalf of your own life!