Tonight I'm tucked in bed upstairs in my parents' house. Downstairs are stacks of crates and luggage, their weight labeled on Post It notes. My sister and her family are moving to Laos tomorrow. They are moving to a place I can't even picture. I have no experience with this country, no connection.
Sitting in the middle of all of the packing tonight I thought to myself, "How did we get here?" How is it that this integral part of my life for the last 36 years will fly to the other side of the world tomorrow? How will she live in a house that I can only picture in my head and go through days and routines that I am not a part of?
Our relationship has ebbed and flowed over the years like most sisters' do. There was a time when we were young when she was just an extension of me, although a much braver and more daring extension. She always pushed further than I was willing to go - higher up in the tree, longer under the water, even pushing the limits with Mom and Dad further than I was comfortable with. There were times I was sure I hated her, and times I thought I couldn't live without her. And then she left for college and I would go sit in her empty room and cry. I didn't like being an only child. As soon as I could I joined her at college. That first year she shared her apartment and her friends and her car with me until I was bold enough to go out on my own.
The first Christmas I was married and I didn't crawl in bed with her and read The Night Before Christmas I knew things wouldn't be the same anymore. She put up with my new life and she loved my babies when they came. She was there for all of their important moments and we enjoyed so many amazing trips together. It wasn't until she fell in love a few years ago, though, that we could really share everything again. I was the first person she called the day she found out I was going to be an aunt.
And now she's doing it again - pushing further than I was ever willing to go. Sure, I've talked about the mission field, but she's actually going! I don't know how we got here and I'm not sure what it's going to look like from here on out. I don't know how to have a family gathering without her there. I don't know how to celebrate my nephew's first birthday through Skype. I don't know how to comfort my parents when they miss her, or her when she missed home, or my own children, or even myself. This is totally new territory for us and I'm a little scared. But this family I was born in to has a lot of love for one another and we'll figure it out as we go.
I'm proud of my big sister. This is not the life she pictured or planned, but she's embracing it. I pray for the strength to say goodbye well.