I have five sisters.
That’s right, there are six of us. No boys. People say, “Your dad must have really wanted a boy.” But I know he was happy with his girls.
We have different personalities, different jobs, different gifts, different needs. But as we grow older, I’ve noticed we’re starting to sound and look more and more alike—more and more like our mom, in fact. We grew up during a transitional era when most moms, though not ours, stayed home to raise the kids. By the late ’60s , daughters were beginning to explore other options—going to school, preparing for a career—even if our imaginations didn’t stretch much beyond becoming a nurse or a teacher.
My sisters live in two countries in six towns or cities, and most of the time we stay in touch by email or the occasional phone call. But every other year, for the past couple of decades, we’ve carved out one week to spend together. Just the six of us, away from spouses and kids.
We rent a cottage and hang out. Take turns cooking simple meals, read books, drink wine, swim, talk, laugh, cry, sing, pray. Because it turns out there’s some kind of blessing about being together that only increases over the years. Even though both our parents are gone, we feel their pleasure in our coming together.
We’ve supported each other though the deaths of loved ones and through illness, job transitions, and seasons of unemployment. We’ve celebrated the birth of grandchildren and prayed for each others’ kids. We’ve named each other’s gifts and celebrated bold ventures—from accepting a challenging new job to mastering a headstand.
Don’t get me wrong. Like any set of siblings, we have our differences, and sometimes we’ve hurt each other by our words or actions. We don’t always see eye to eye.
But no matter what, we see God in each other—and in the gift of sisterhood.
For many years, we rented a cottage in Ontario’s rugged Muskokas—Canadian Shield country—for our week together. Driving along a highway blasted through solid granite, we’d point out inuksuk topping the jagged cliffs. These are figures made of piled stones; they were used by the Inuit as a way to communicate. I recently read that in Inukitut, inuksuk means “to act in the capacity of a human.”
So it’s fitting that the first year we stayed in that cottage in Northern Ontario, we canoed to an uninhabited island and created our own inuksuk, carefully choosing and fitting together the largest boulders we could heft. When we finished, we celebrated by pouring water over its head like a kind of baptism while naming and giving thanks for all our loved ones.
Thanks be to God, who knew we need each other and who so kindly placed us in families. Claiming that blessing, we find ourselves for one week in a sacred space where God’s presence is as close as a sister’s touch. As close as the yeasty aroma of a loaf from the oven or a gale of helpless laughter. Together we live out what it means to “act in the capacity of a human.”