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~ Maraleigh Francis
I can remember being a young girl, wanting
and wishing for an older sister to share my
secrets with, an older sister who would give
me advice and someone I could look up to in
all aspects of my life. When I became a big
sister, I took my job serious but without guidance,
I had to wing it.
Not saying I was a terrible sister because my sister and I have always been really close until she realized I was just a woman, until she realized that I didn’t have all the answers and until she realized that I couldn’t protect her from everything that would cause her pain.
Sisterhood, what is the true meaning of sisterhood, what does it mean to be a sister? To me, it means to lead by example, make sound choices, no judgement and to always be there when your sister needs you. Sisterhood, does not stop because we grow up, it does not stop when we marry, it does not stop when we have disagreements, it does not stop when our little sisters realize that we are only human and can’t fix everything.
Over the years, I have always told my sister the truth. I never hid my hardships, I never hid my broken heart, I never lied about my addiction, I never explained to her that my faults were lessons for her life. I never shielded her from the real world because I thought in doing so, I was making her weak and naïve. What I failed to notice was that even when I made bad decisions, my little sister was looking up to me. I was her role model, I was her entire world and I took for granted that my impact on her would alter her life as she grew into a woman.
I never fully understood the meaning of sisterhood until I had to think about the work I do. Helping women leave abusive relationships, detoxing women from horrible addictions, helping fill out school applications, giving hugs and love to women who felt they didn’t deserve it or need it, reuniting mothers with their babies, standing beside them in court, putting food in their cupboards, holding a sisters hand as she takes her last breathe, these were things I did not because I had to but because if my sister needed help, I would hope someone would help her like she was their sister, like she was somebody.
Sadly, my baby sister followed my footsteps in ways I wasn’t proud of. My sister sees the best in others, and even when they hurt her, my sister holds on. My sister doesn’t see her beauty because as a sister, I was changing who I was to fit society’s views of beautiful. My sister keeps things inside because of the times people used my story against me, I warned her to trust no one, and she doesn’t. My sister was always looking for love and acceptance, even when that love and acceptance caused her life turmoil, she held on. I taught my sister that as women, we put people in front of us, we put their wants and needs before our own, we hide what we feel to keep everyone happy, even if it kills us inside, and we keep going.
My sister is one of the smartest, wittiest, strongest and most beautiful women I have ever known. I have reinvented myself time and time again to be worthy of such a title, Melanie’s Big Sister. As a big sister, I have failed her in so many ways but never in the ways of love. Even on our worst day, my sister will know I love her like nobody else in the entire universe. My sister will know that when push comes to shove, her sissy is behind her, no matter what. I took some time for me to realize that my sister had grown up but what she fails to realize is that no matter how old she gets, she’s my baby, forever and a day, I will love this human being and be here for her, even when she feels like I’m not. I AM HERE!
As woman, we need to embrace each other and love one another because if we don’t, our little sisters will fall through the cracks that we fell through. We need to bridge the gap between women and come to grips with our stories because it is our stories that will help our little sisters grow into amazing women who will one day be a sister to another little girl or young woman.
Sisterhood is important because without our sisters, we will have no change in the future. For many years I have struggled with identity, culture, language and for many years I felt like I was unable to take part in anything to do with Native beliefs because I didn’t feel like I belonged, now, with the help and acceptance from my Native Sisters, we are working together in making a better future for our sister’s and making sure they feel welcomed without judgement.
My wish for my baby sister and all sisters in general is that you know your worth and push for something better.