It was a Christmas party, all jollity and camaraderie. I was an elementary school kid. Our parents introduced me to the pre-teen children of my father’s work friend. The boy and girl were twins, one or two years older than I. This was my first experience with multiples. At the time, I remember being confused because they were fraternal, not identical, twins. They looked more to me like “just” a brother and sister, but I was still enthralled with the idea of those two people as a unit.
We spent most of that first meeting playing with He-man action figures and other toys upstairs while the parents talked and chattered with their clinking drinks downstairs. I also remember reading some of my new friend’s Choose Your Own Adventure books. Eventually, after many rounds of snacks and drinks, and after a well-timed visit from Santa, it was time to go home.
We met once or twice again throughout the year, attending a BBQ or two with the family and hanging out poolside that summer. But it was the following annual Christmas party that I remember most vividly. I recall the twin sister falling down the long carpeted stairs of the house, while I looked on, unable to help. Amidst the confusion that followed, I learned that she was actually quite sick. She had a brain tumor that would occasionally make her dizzy, confused, and disoriented. This invisible invader had likely caused the fall.
Her parents fought to save her as hard as they could, and she fought as well. I learned of their visits with countless pediatric specialists and more than a few late-night visits to pediatric urgent care centers and the E.R. In the end, she succumbed to her cancer a few months later. I wouldn’t consider us close friends of the family, but I do remember that the mother gifted me all her daughter’s books, the same ones that I has enjoyed reading the year before. I found that notion very hard to digest.
I always wondered what it was like for the remaining twin, to lose both his sister and twin, to a fatal disease for which they were unable to find a cure. I know it must have been painful for the whole family to go through, but especially hard for him. I imagine he experienced a roller coaster of emotions from guilt, to confusion to anger to sadness, and everything in between. Eventually I know that the family was able to make their peace with her death and move forward though life, but the shadow of the pain always remained."[#Twin loss] taught me to love my family despite their flaws." Click To Tweet
Years later, after all of us “kids” were married, I learned that the brother twin was blessed with twins of his own. That must have been an amazing full-circle moment for him. It must have brought up buried memories of grief, but the moment would also be made golden by the joy of meeting his own beautiful twin boys, whom I am happy to say are healthy and thriving today.
Parents of twins, and twins themselves, often speak about the beautiful bond that their children share. For those of us who have not yet been blessed with the experience of twins in our lives, it can be hard to understand all the challenges and celebratory moments. But whenever I see twins or triplets now, I think back to my first experience meeting this duo of real live twins. I marvel that they were around to share each other’s company and love for as long as they could.
This experience was formative for me. From a young age, it taught me to love my family despite their flaws. I learned to give extra care and love in the hardest moments. We don’t get to choose what challenges life hands us, but we do get to choose how we react to them. I now know that even in the face of the most excruciating circumstances we can always choose to respond with compassion, love, and grace.