So, it's been awhile. I've let my letters subside in lieu of texts and instant messages, the occasional flashback photo, maybe even a Skype if we're lucky. I admit that in the first few days and months, the things I wanted to tell you filled my notebook, as well as my aching heart. Living so near, and then moving quite literally out of reach, felt like a tear in our fabric. You stayed with the rest of the wardrobe, while I donated myself to charity (literally).
It's no one's fault, though. This is what time and distance does. Why wouldn't we get a little out of sync, too far apart to keep perfect rhythm? Time gives us new normals, distance plugs the hole with fresh faces. We aren't replaced, of course not. But we are getting on with it. And for the most part, doing just fine.
This is growing up: we are adults living separate lives on separate continents. Perhaps our children no longer ask after one another. Maybe the memories dim just a bit. Maybe fresh teenagers don't harbour the same sentimentality their mothers do. That's ok, too. Our roots are still intertwined, running around and through one another, underground and out of sight. But the branches reach further out, ever growing and straining beyond and away. Still attached, but pointed in different directions.
But to say all this is reality, to remind myself it isn't all bad, to count the cost is to admit the loneliness may not ever go away. I sit with it awhile, stare at it from across the living room, walk with it through shops and cobblestoned streets. I think, "If my sister were here..." but she's not.
It is a sacrifice I made myself. To give up a life side-by-side with you. I think I really did know what I was doing, "answering the call" and all that righteous jazz. Jesus made it plain:
Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands because of Me, will get a hundred times more. And you will get life that lasts forever.
You've given it up to Him as much as I have. Aren't we all learning how to be obedient from where we stand, showing each other what faith looks like? We've always been independent, strong-willed and brash. Why wouldn't sisters like us do our thing? We've never been much for apron strings.
But I think now - eight years on from that first move - I neglected to see myself as a mother in a new phase, a wife in a new role, forgot that you'd not be here to hold my hand through broken bones and bad news. We would have no coffee dates, no shared Mexican dishes, no dressing room disasters. Even our fights are no longer in person, battled only in silence and empty inboxes.
Yes, yes, I know. It's not like we're dead. But the dream does not exist for me, the one we grow up with unawares in the beating, beige heart of America. The picnics I have are not with you, the stories we tell do not include one another, the fellowship we have is quite literally foreign.
And many of the ones who plugged that sister-shaped hole have now gone. Some have moved and some have died and I'm lonely for all of them, for you. Lonely for a decade's worth of history. Lonely for a lifetime of stories. Lonely for the comfort of non-newness. Lonely for a love that needs no reintroduction.
Let's blame this melancholy moment on summer doldrums, or let's name it for what it is: a grief I'm only just now processing, a realization that this too - like everything - shall pass. A gratefulness for those who remain here with me, and those who do walk side-by-side with you.
I will see you at Christmas, or in the New Year, or when we return on home assignment. I will give thanks for a love that will pick right back up, if we play our cards right, if we do not forget. I will see our children together and remember the day each was born. I will praise Him for the gift of you, for though we are out of sight, maybe even some days out of mind, we are never out of heart.
After all, we are the lucky ones, aren't we? Loving each other against some very unkind odds; blended, not broken. Everyone should be so lucky, to have a sister, a soul mate, a kindred. On the loneliest of days, I remember: you are mine.
Hug each other. Love each other. Forgive each other.
And come visit.