Life Lessons I Learned from my Big Sister

big sister, geese
Just talking to the geese.

As we waited in the airport, anticipating her arrival, we couldn’t believe the time had finally come.

She had been gone almost 17 years. She left just before my 21st birthday and I’m now 37. Due to a crazy course of events earlier in her life, my big sister had left home and travelled across the country, coming to rest on the west coast.

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Of course, we had talked, texted, Facebooked and had even visited her a few times over those years but now she was coming home. She wasn’t moving home forever, just long enough to take care of some personal business but still, she was home.

My mom, my three younger sisters, my two daughters, my niece and I anxiously waited for her to walk through that tunnel.

And all of a sudden, there she was. Her petite frame brightly colored in a fitted bright orange t-shirt and pink and purple galaxy-printed leggings.

With tears in our eyes, we walked to each other and hugged. “You made it,” I said. “You’re finally here.”

“You made it,” I said. “You’re finally here.”

After all the welcome hugs were handed out and we picked up her luggage, we let her gather her thoughts with a bottled water and snack and off we went.

Her and I lead the way out of the airport to the parking lot. We started talking like 17 years hadn’t passed. Like we were hanging out as sisters years ago, before life became real life.

Conversation flowed easily and she was just the person I had remembered, even through all that life had thrown her way.

During her stay, she’d be living with me and my family. I didn’t know how long that stay would be, how long it would take for her business to be taken care of but it didn’t matter.

She was welcome for as long as she needed a home here.

Our new house guest ended up needing a home for six weeks. She had her own space but most of the time was spent together as a family.

She ate meals with us, came to all family events, volunteered to go on grocery trips with me, walked to school to pick up my daughters and really just became a part of the family.

The personal business she needed to take care of was very stressful. There was a lot of unknown and waiting to see what the outcome would be. Even with that going on, she was upbeat and outgoing.

Sure, there were times of some tears and venting about the situation but the majority of the time wasn’t like that. Our house had more singing, dancing and playing in those six weeks than it had in a long time, maybe more than ever.

Our house had more singing, dancing and playing in those six weeks….

Just a few weeks before her arrival, I found out that my job of 15 years would be coming to an end in six months. As soon as I shared that news with her, she was immediately putting a positive spin on it and still emphasizes how great this could be.

How any company would be lucky to have me, how this is a great opportunity to pursue a new path, how she knew something great would come my way because I worked hard and deserved it. I still use that as a source of inspiration as I navigate through this life change.

I look back on those six weeks often, thinking about how great they were for me and my family. Having such a unique and positive source of energy infused into your house changes you.

She helped me see life through different eyes, from a different point of view, and I’m eternally grateful.

Life teaches you things all the time, you just have to pay attention.

My big sister unknowingly taught me several life lessons during her six week stay.

Dancing and singing can get you through the best and worst of times.

Whether she was having a really great day or struggling, she would break into song or dance randomly throughout the day. It lightened her mood and everyone around her. Come on, you can’t help but smile when someone busts a move to “Baby Got Back”.


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Say yes to playing.

My mind is often taken over with all the responsibilities I have to worry about. I’m in my own little world of being a grown-up.

When my kids asked to play, I had often answered with the usual “I’m too busy” or “There’s (blank) to be done.”

During her visit, my sister had big things to worry and stress about but when the kids were playing outside, she jumped in, showing them how she can do a flip.

Cartwheels, wheelbarrow races and jump rope ensued with all of us jumping in. Another day, an impromptu game of kickball took place in our backyard.

One night, we even played a made-up game of “keep the ball off the ground” in the garage and it was fantastic.

These times of play put smiles on our faces, got our blood flowing and made us forget about being a grown-up for a little while. We also made memories with my kids and each other that we’ll look back on fondly for years to come.

I realized that I could make a lot more of these memories with all the important people in my life just by saying yes. Yes to playing, yes to participating, yes to fun.

Money doesn’t make you who you are.

It really, really doesn’t. It’s inspiring to see someone with just a small suitcase full of clothes and a little money in their pocket bring happiness to the world.

Money isn’t required to share a laugh, volunteer to help with chores or lend a listening ear.

Whether you’re at the peak of your career, between jobs or just trudging through a job to get by, you are who you are and that person can be pretty awesome.

Show gratitude every chance you get.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar

That about sums it up. My sister told me that she makes sure she says thank you to everyone.

She said that during her travels, she had so many people help her along the way and she wouldn’t have gotten where she was now without help.

Knowing how important that was to her life, she is sure to go out of her way to let people know she appreciates them and things they’ve done for her.

I’ve always used ‘thank you’ but hadn’t really thought about the great importance of showing that gratitude. She really made it hit home with me.

Take time for you.

Since I’ve become a wife and mother, the focus of my life has definitely changed.

I had always taken time for myself before, spending time alone whenever I wanted to read, do projects or just hang out by on my own. Nowadays, my time is stretched between family life, work life and trying to find that time for me.

During my sister’s extended visit, we spoke several times about how busy life is. She had even asked me once what I wanted to do, now that I had a chance to change jobs and try something new. I honestly had no idea.

For years, I hadn’t given much thought to me. I was worried about keeping the house clean, planning every aspect of our family’s lives, paying the bills, and so on.

I knew taking time for yourself was important but hadn’t realized how little I had actually done it.

Since her visit, I’ve given more thought and effort to ‘me’ time.

Now, sometimes the dishes will sit a little longer, clutter will linger in the living room or supper will be leftovers again so I can take a run or a nap or just veg on the couch with some tv and a coffee.

(Preacher on AMC is my summer show of the moment. Anyone watch it? You should. I’m also a big fan of ghost shows and I’ve gotten my 10 year old daughter hooked on them too.)

I’m so glad I got to reconnect with my big sister and that her stay stretched into six weeks. Spending time with her helped me remember where I came from, how important our relationship really is to me and how to appreciate the little things. I can’t wait for our next visit.

Do you have a similar story? Have you learned valuable lessons from family members or even from a chance encounter with a stranger? I’d love to hear about them!

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  1. I love this post. I love that after 17 years you all were able to have such a great meaningful time together and bond. The lessons you learned are just as meaningful and me do some reflection of my own. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is an amazing story! It really hits home. What a positive outlook and a great reminder to what truly is important..that stressing over everything is not healthy. Thank you for sharing This!

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