The Gift of a Sister

Two sisters take a trip together and are presented the ultimate gift…

This post comes to us from Bethany Toews.

My sister and I are sitting in a small idyllic cafe in Venice. It is early evening and outside the pale blue day is starting to darken while our tangerine pink “spritz’s” are glowing like lamplight. We are both crying. The sweet family of 4 sitting next to us is trying not to notice. But we are really crying—the kind of cry a lifetime produces. We are crying for the 28 years we have known and loved and battled each other. We are talking about all of it. All the tricky bits, the painful parts, the stuff you avoid because it’s deep and it hurts. The struggle to connect, the desire to understand, the attempt to hold space for the difference, and the corresponding failure to do so. The tenderness that comes with loving someone you don’t always know how to love best. And it is beautiful. I mean really, life is made for these moments. Two American women, in Italy, crying in a cafe. Two women sharing the same mother, the same father, the same brothers, the same history and yet, different memories of it all, both valid in their contrast. The contrast gives shape to the truth of our hearts. And to have those shared, but dissimilar memories, this is the gift of a sister. That perspective, that sometimes tough love, that hard truth. But ultimately it is love, such a tremendous love. I know the color of your pain, and the weight of your journey, the brightness of your joy. You are my sister, we are so alike, and so different, and here we are together celebrating it all.

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And how does this long overdue cry come about? Simple really, we took a trip together. We met in Berlin, and then traveled to Munich, the Alps, Venice and finally Vienna. All in 9 days, all by train. An ambitious adventure, for two ambitious women. A guaranteed meltdown. Humans of the earth, is there something you’re aching to abstract? Take a trip. A relationship you’re trying to get to the bottom of, take a trip together. Go somewhere foreign. Have jet lag. Pack too much into too short a time. Travel a good distance. Get lost, and argue over directions, so hungry looking for a restaurant you can both agree on. Let the pressure build, the annoyance arch, and then, order a Campari spritz. Cheers to what comes next. The truth. Openness that familiar places, familial spaces, old patterns and bad habits have kept at bay. You are in a new and unknown terrain, open to roaming, slightly delirious from trying to steal much needed sleep while in transit. It is the perfect recipe for a breakdown, a letting down of walls, a peek into the private parts of ourselves we haven’t known yet how to share. Be a witness to each other’s crumbling, hold each other in the rubble, and I dare you not to either never want to see that person again, or to love them more than you thought you could. I love you more now, Heather, and I loved you so much before.


You are my little sister, but you have grown. You are such a beautiful woman. You stand so tall even though you are shorter than me. You hold such strength and grace in your quieter way. I know I was loud. It must have been hard to find a space to speak. But you spoke nonetheless. And your voice is so powerful. And I am so proud you are my sister. And I am proud of you for hoping and hopping across the pond to share this magnificent adventure with me. Your courage inspires me, as I hope to inspire you. That we can inspire each other. That we can see each other. That we may be a mirror for how beautiful we both are. Such is the gift of a sister. How wonderful it is to call you mine.

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5 years ago

That was beautifully written!! I have a tear running down my cheek as I read. Good tears though. Tears that can make me relate to how much I love my own sister and how proud I am of her. A sister is a gift and so is family! Family love runs deep and wide.

5 years ago

Every time you feature Bethany Toews I end up teary-eyed, but in the best way. She’s such an amazing writer and I loved this and all of her other travel pieces for your blog. This was beautiful and I hope you keep working with her!

5 years ago

I love this in so many ways. As compelling as it is sensitive, this is quite touching. You went (with your sister…:where Angels fear to tread and you both returned unscathed. Bravo. Many should do this…many that are EMOTIONALLY MATURE With a Deep Sense of Family. Thanks, you make my day.


5 years ago

This is indeed written beautifully. I admire the rawness of it all, and how open you are with your emotions. It is relatable in so many ways. There is a bond between sisters, and sometimes egos can get in the way of relaying emotions. However, you were able to break down that barrier and express what others feel, but they are scared to say. I love how your adventure proved to be so much more.

5 years ago

Amazing i get to call her mine :) :D :O <3
Thank you for a lovely message

5 years ago

My little sister and I have been talking about taking a trip together for the past year or so. Lately, she doesn’t seem as keen on the idea and I’ve felt some resentment bubbling up for how many times she has brushed me off in the past, when our whole lives I’ve just really loved her. Reading this makes me think we may have a similar experience. We are going on a road trip together next weekend to surprise our mom for mother’s day, but she isn’t very enthusiastic about the trip.

I’m looking forward to spending the weekend together, but I feel like she couldn’t care less. Maybe this will give us a chance to reconnect. We spent a wonderful day together the last time I saw her in January, maybe distance is just making things feel strained.

Ana Paula Araujo
5 years ago

So amazing!
I’m Brazilian and now I’m alone in coffee in Patagônia. Waiting for the sunset and thinking about how incredible would be to have a Sister here with me, and Share all this beauty (and cold). Your text encourage my next trip with that Sister (of blood or heart).
Tears of happines and enchantment from Punta Arenas.

5 years ago

This brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for a wonderful sentimental post. I’ve moved closer to my family and sister recently and I’m grateful.