My husband has one sibling a sister born nine years after him. The family legend has it he was not so enthused by this new addition when she arrived home, saying to his mom, “We’re not going to keep her, are we?!?”
A lot has changed since then. They have been each others' rock through some tough times including the loss of their beloved mother. She is my "Bonus Sister" to the three I have through biology and those I have added through deep and abiding friendships.
My Bonus Sister and I share a few obvious things. Our names start with E, both have birthdays in late November, are approximately the same age, enjoy good food and wine as well as both adore her brother/my husband and her niece and nephews/my kids.
The list of differences is longer and more substantial. She lives in Athens and speaks Greek; I live in Seattle and speak English. I finished graduate school and followed a reasonably traditional career path; she finished high school and has made a name for herself in music production and now restaurant management. Her life revolves around a group of key friends many of whom didn’t married or have kids. Mine revolves around my husband and our kids and close friends who mostly chose a similar path.
We don’t have an easy time communicating although I am fully confident of our mutual love and respect. She shared recently how much my blog post about her mother meant to her. She said she read it again on the second anniversary of her passing when sadly her mother's older sister passed away this year too.
As I was walking in the Greek sun after having said, "Good Bye for now," to my Bonus Sister, I felt some melancholy. I hoped she knew how much she means to me. I realized I don’t express these feelings explicitly often enough and don’t want to miss this chance. So I hope she doesn’t mind, “I put down the words”.
Below are the top three qualities I admire in my Bonus Sister:
- She is a giver. Evangelia resembles her mother in this respect. She is happiest if she can make others’ lives more enjoyable. I can see that is why she was successful in her music producer career and now with her restaurant management one. She pays attention to people. She really sees them and connects to them. And with this knowledge, she truly elevates their experience. This trait was fully on display last year. She celebrated her brother’s his first marathon in Athens by planning parties – pre and post --and creating a banner in anticipation of success. My superstitious husband wasn’t sure he was happy with the pre-celebration initially. She is the official god-mother to our middle son but beautifully connects in a different way with each of our three, who light up around her. Before she left, she cooked a week’s worth of our mouth-watering Greek favorites so we could enjoy our remaining time together more easily.
- She is a survivor. Times have been tough for Evangelia and I am sure I only know a bit of it. The Greek economic woes have created real innocent victims of ordinary people. My Bonus Sister is one of them. She lost everything she had worked so hard for the previous two decades. And her chosen vocation was no longer viable. As a forty something single woman, she needed to start over with nothing. And she did: no complaints, no pity party. With a smile on her face, her amazing connections, and her willingness to put in both the time and effort, she started a new career as a restaurant manager at It Restaurant in Athens. She helped make it hugely successful and it recently expanded and now includes It on the Go. This is all the more admirable since she only finished high school. She created two successful careers for herself with sheer determination and deep resilience.
- She is joyful. Most of my memories over the years of Evangelia involve her creating laughter around her. Even with the language barrier, she is super funny. She is the first to defuse a tense situation with a joke. And she is the one who can always get a table or room full of people to burst into side splitting laughter, over and over. Often you will see tears streaming down the smiling faces, with the mock request, "Stop, now, Stop, PLEASE." I also know she has times where laughter doesn’t come easy. But still, she prefers to choose joy and laughter in those situations. And in consistently doing so, she lifts those up around her too. The world needs more joy and laughter. And Evangelia is doing more than her fair share contributing. She is a true light on this earth.
So my Bonus Sister, Evangelia, I hope you know how much you are appreciated. You wrote me some amazing sentiments when you visited us in Seattle and I cherish them. Now this is my turn.
I also want to leave you with some pieces of sisterly advice if I may.
- Take as good care of yourself, as you do of others. You have worth and value that needs to be fully cherished first by you so you can continue to give joyously to others.
- As you survive, also take time to pause and enjoy your beautiful journey. I love that you spend time with dear friends and recently took up attending yoga retreats. Please continue to do more things like this.
- And finally, don’t let your laughter mask pain you don’t want to share. You have many who care about you, starting with your brother and me. They would honored to share your burdens as well as your joys.
You are a truly amazing woman, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and godmother!
I will leave you with a favorite Irish (apologies, don't know any Greek ones) blessing which says it best:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
σε αγαπω παρα ΠΟΛΥ, Evangelia Angelidou, η αδελφή μου!!