When I think about you I recall standing in the redwood forest in Northern California, next to a 2000 year old tree larger than a whale swimming in the ocean—feeling the immensity of its existence, the culmination of its life thus far, the sweetness of its enduring patience, the fragility of its time on this earth, and in awe of its majesty, might, and dominion—and I am carried away to a place that is safe, ever-so-rich, and imbued with love…
I remember the day we moved to Persia, Iowa. You were one year old, I was six. I had fallen asleep in the truck as dad and I drove ahead of you and mom to the new farm. I must have been really tired because it was early evening when we left and the next thing I remember was waking up in the dark, in my new bed, in our new room, in a new house. I felt a little dazed and disoriented and then I remembered you were there, asleep on the other side of the room. As the fog of confusion cleared I walked over to your bed, watched you sleeping with such peace and serenity, and snuggled in next to you—feeling both protective of you and safe and secure because of you.
So much has changed since that move, since our time together in that old house, but each new experience and every passing day brings to mind memories of that night—memories of a love that ran deep and strong; memories of a devotion that has grown in both complexity and intensity over the years; memories of a stillness inherent within you, a calmness no storm could shake.
As I continue to find myself in new and ever-evolving situations and places, sometimes feeling a bit disoriented and confused, I think back to that night and how, without any effort on your part, you were my lighthouse on a stormy night. You’ve always been such a steadfast beacon of light and love to all who cross your path. No matter how uncertain the waters may have been you’ve held to your course and acted with integrity. You were born a leader, the best kind of leader, the kind that in all honesty and utmost humility lives her life with grace and poise, unaware that everyone else stands in awe of her majesty, might, and dominion.
Kelsey, you are capable of untold beauty. I know this because your smile shines like the sun. You heart radiates waves of a kind of love that is unbiased, uninhibited, and unlike any I’ve ever felt before. The warmth of your spirit traverses the oceans, bringing comfort and solace to those wayfaring travelers sojourning through this world in search of a truth. That truth is that it is possible to love without bounds. It is possible to stand tall in who you are—in all your lightness and darkness—and be an example to all those around you. It is possible to be both vulnerable and wholehearted. It is possible to embrace your nobility by living it.
I know this truth exists in the world because I grew up with you. You’ve taught me what it means to be selfless. You’ve taught me how to be detached from the storm and present to the grace that surrounds me. You’ve taught me how to be both vulnerable and wholehearted.
As I stood in the redwood forest in Northern California, next to a 2000 year old tree larger than a whale swimming in the ocean—feeling the immensity of its existence, the culmination of its life thus far, the sweetness of its enduring patience, the fragility of its time on this earth, and in awe of its majesty, might, and dominion—I was carried away to a place that is safe, ever-so-rich, and imbued with love…
I was brought back to the memory of you sleeping on the other side of the room, and I felt at home.
To be your sister is one of the greatest gifts of my life, a gift I hope to never take for granted. I love you sisterpoo.
Dear Kristin Ann,
I had never been so scared nor felt so empty. It was March 26, 2009 and our hero had fallen. Grandpa Dan had passed to the next life. I was surprised to have felt so lost and confused. I guess I did not expect to feel so alone. Grandpa was an anchor for countless individuals, communities, and institutions. He carried himself with such grace and passion. He centered his deliberations on the needs of the time. And, he was the first to hold you, unconditionally, regardless of the weight of time. You, Kristin, sheltered me from the this mighty test of time.
For nearly 29 years now I have shared this beautiful planet with you. Although I will fall short in putting into words the love, respect, and gratitude I feel for you, I feel it is the least I can do. That is, to share with you experiences, sentiments, and lessons that I have learned from you. In addition, I hope to express, from the deepest recesses of my heart and soul, my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the unquenchable, raw, and limitless love you offer our world. You have assisted me in the acquisition of skills, abilities, qualities, and characteristics that I simply could not live without. Please take note that I am doing my best to bring into reality those attitudes and convictions to do right by you, to live into the person you see me as, and to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization on your behalf. In a way, I would say we are in this together. ; ) You are my gift! In short, my letter would read, “Dear Kristin Ann, I love you”.
First, I am thankful that no definition of sister, no matter how elaborate or descriptive, could even come close to expressing the role you play in my life. What I appreciate most about our relationship is your ability to hold me in your heart or hearts, without judgement, and love me to the end of the earth. On your 30th birthday I wrote, “Not a day passes without my heart reaching out to embrace yours — hoping to soften the blows from the many competing forces in this world. I look to find ways to honor your essence, to strengthen your resolve, to build on your keen sensibility. And, all the while, each year passes and my commitment to each of these objectives only strengthens. Although a majority of these actions, those taken to further these objectives, take shape behind the scenes — beyond the visible eye — I never once feel my connection with you fade.” I meant it then, and I mean it even more today. Yet, even with those thoughts, there is one thing that I wish I would have know, given what I know now. I wish I could have always remembered, regardless of the moment, your vulnerability; the raw and tender resolve with which you approach the world. And, having this in mind, I wish I would have been better about respecting, appreciating, and keeping such vulnerability sacred. Us humans, we are so fragile. I would hope that whenever your fragility was met with my anger, jealousy, or hate, that your soul was able to navigate and find higher ground.
I will never forget the early morning rides to school. Of course, I would be cutting it close. That is, taking my sweet time getting ready for the 8:05 start. In spite of your many warnings and tremendous patience, I somehow managed to make us late on more than one occasion. And, true to form, here we were, time passing, and our lives in a rush. You had left scrambling leaving me to believe that you were off to school without me. Something you never did — leave without me. I rushed to the car, you slammed the Mazda into reverse, and smashed the garbage at the end of the driveway spreading the bag and its contents all over the pavement. The look of anger and complete embarrassment flooded your face … I looked at you with a smile … and we could not help but laugh. In a way, it seemed that life always found a way to remind us of our frailties and commonalities. How our actions have equal and opposite reactions. And that, given our best moments, we too are human — doing our best to move on in this dynamic world. Oh, the days of driving to and from school. I cherish those moments.
As the years pass I am constantly gifted with the ability to re-imagine the significance of having a sibling. It is here, in these moments of reflection, that I reminded of the positive values, skills, abilities, qualities, and characteristics that were largely formed living in the shadow of our nuclear family. Most importantly, in moments of tests and trails, you never left my side. And, it was your unwavering assistance that allowed me to confront the challenges of life. Our relationship has taught me so much. For example, God knows that in this life tests and trials befall us in our path. It is from this context that I wish to share with you what our relationship has taught me most. That is, perseverance. With this in mind, I wanted to share with you the following quote, words which seem to be eternally etched on your heart and soul, lines that you seem to embody every day:
O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. Bahá’u’lláh
~Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 329
Kristin, somehow you manage to keep everything in perspective. You seem to live life with such radiant acquiescence. Your ability to shower every person with unquenchable love is a model for the removal of all prejudice. You create cushions of nobility that each and everyone one of us has fallen on. You are a sweet soul. So tender. So loving. And, if there was one thing I would hope to tell you it is this, I wish you knew just how noble you really are. If only you could see yourself like you see others, with that same unconditional love, grace, appreciation, and tenderness. And, that even if everything in the world was stacked against you, the legions of the worlds deepest and darkest forces were on full attack, that this life, too, will pass. That life is not fixed nor is the hand we are dealt. And, that our job in this world is to grow; to grow in our love for God and for God’s creation, and to assist those who along side of us hope to advance in our capacities to take on our precarious and dangerous world. I cannot help but share the following words from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
O thou handmaid aflame with the fire of God’s love! Grieve thou not over the troubles and hardships of this nether world, nor be thou glad in times of ease and comfort, for both shall pass away. This present life is even as a swelling wave, or a mirage, or drifting shadows. Could ever a distorted image on the desert serve as refreshing waters? No, by the Lord of Lords! Never can reality and the mere semblance of reality be one, and wide is the difference between fancy and fact, between truth and the phantom thereof.
Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.
Rely upon God. Trust in Him. Praise Him, and call Him continually to mind. He verily turneth trouble into ease, and sorrow into solace, and toil into utter peace. He verily hath dominion over all things.
If thou wouldst hearken to my words, release thyself from the fetters of whatsoever cometh to pass. Nay rather, under all conditions thank thou thy loving Lord, and yield up thine affairs unto His Will that worketh as He pleaseth. This verily is better for thee than all else, in either world.
You taught me the value of family. You were the first to help me see that although one does not have a choice to which family they are born, that, if there was a choice, we would not change a thing. I know that no matter what we are going through or how bad things get, we will always have someone in our corner. Believe me when I tell you that you have never fallen short in telling me how much you love me and how just how proud of me you are. You have supported me in all I do. You once told me, “I love you more than any other human. You are the other half of my soul. You are my best friend. I am so proud of you and who you have become. You have an amazing and beautiful wife, and your life together is magical. You make me a better person.” Ditto, minus the beautiful wife part. ; ) Please note: I wish for you the same perfectly beautiful love you see in Lindsey and me in your future partner, one with whom you will traverse all the worlds of God. You embody the following attributes: compassion, generosity, ever-forgiving, protector, patient, all loving, abider, benevolent, giving, concealer, and unconditioned unconstrained lover.
Today, more than ever, I think of our anchor. I am in awe of how he lived his life with such astounding grace and deep passion. And, as he deliberated given the greatest needs of our time, as he was the first to hold you, unconditionally, regardless of the weight of time, I am reminded of you Kristin … and I am thankful to know that his spirit lives on within you more than anyone I know. It, to a certain degree, lessens my emptiness and aloneness. More, knowing you embody his spirit gives me the hope that our fledging world will only grow stronger. Like he is, I hope to always, in this life and the life to come, be right by your side. I could not be more proud to call YOU my sister.