Photographs Help Sister Heal After Sibling Losses

There is an expression originating from a Chinese proverb: “One picture is worth ten thousand words.”  My vote is that one picture or video is worth ten thousand memories.

When I lost my beloved sisters, Margie and Jane, I scrambled to find pictures to compose a collage, to place my beloved sisters’ images into frames. I feared I might forget them. Now, after 30 years, I went through that exercise again, designating a photo album for each sister and one album for collective photos, to capture chronologically the lives of my beloved sisters. I am desperately seeking some lost memories.

When I lost my sisters in 1981 and 1990, the age of technology searing on the cusp of explosion, we did not have the resources available now. Last year, I received an incredible gift. A cousin maintained a video of my sister, Margie. How amazing to see her and hear her voice after 23 years! My eyes fixated on the images of my beautiful older sister.  I had thought I wouldn’t remember her voice, but in truth, she has remained with me always. The video came into my life when I was ready to receive it.

Please allow me to share some of the memories of the pictures of two beloved sisters:

I look at a photo of the Lipson sisters enjoying the picturesque tradition of historic Boston Common: Jane (age 5), Judy (8) and Margie (10) all dressed up in Sunday best. Coats trimmed with fake fur collars, party dresses puffed with petticoats, and white ankle socks tucked into black Mary Jane’s.

Each sister’s personality present itself in her stance to feed the hungry birds. Judy is clutching her hands together, ballet first position, in a contemplative manner reflecting a shy quiet middle sister. In the middle stands Margie, the oldest, most gregarious, her bent elbows and knees ready to run right up to the bird to distribute the breadcrumbs. The baby, Jane, seems a little timid about getting too close to the birds in case they bite. The excursion into Boston is a special day celebrating one of our birthdays that fall.

Another photo shows Margie and Jane sitting on the brick steps outside our home wearing Bermuda shorts, T-shirts and flip flops. Margie’s long straight brown hair is in pigtails. Janie’s cute blond hair is in a pixie cut and bangs. Jane sits knocked kneed between Margie’s knees, her elbows out to the side. Taken with the infamous Polaroid where pictures came into focus as you watched, the endearing message on back is in Margie’s handwriting: “This is known as a human totem pole (ha ha). Have fun. Love Margie and Jane.” I will treasure this forever.

Life comes full circle. My daughter, Janie, named for my beloved sister, bears an uncanny resemblance to her. Going through the albums, I discover a baby picture of my sister Jane put side my side to my daughter Janie. They look identical. My daughter possesses Margie’s big beautiful brown eyes and gorgeous long flowing straight hair.  My younger daughter, Amy, now in her 20s, bears a deep likeness to Margie. This warms my heart to see my sisters in my daughters.

As I prepare for the annual Celebration of Sisters to honor and commemorate Margie and Jane, it is crucial to select the perfect picture of my adored sisters for the invitation. The photograph must capture the true spirit of my beautiful sisters. It amazes me that after so many years, my sisters are forever loved and not forgotten.

Judy Lipson

More Articles Written by Judy

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit The John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. I share my love of ice-skating as a skating instructor in the learn to skate programs at the Babson Skating School and Bay State Skating School, and as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Therapeutic Skating Program at The Skating Club of Boston. I live in Boston and am the mother of two grown daughters. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

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