Am I a Sibling if my Siblings Have Died?

“I am the middle of three, and sadly, I lost both my sisters.”

This is who I am.

As a bereaved sibling, when asked the challenging question, “how many siblings do you have?”, I sometimes hold my breath. I struggle how to answer the question, and often reply, “it’s just me.” Now, after decades of not revealing the truth, I understand that I am forever Judy, the middle sister. This is my identity, past, present, and future.

The Siblings

The black-and-white photograph of the three Lipson sisters squished together on the slides is one of my favorites. Layered from top to bottom by age, Margie the oldest at the top, me in the middle anchored by the two, and Jane the youngest on the bottom. I look at this picture daily using it as the screen saver on my computer, holding Margie and Jane close to me.

In the frayed Polaroid, the distinct personalities of three sisters are portrayed. Margie and Jane, similar in their attire–wearing flip-flops and sleeveless tops. I remain different wearing sneakers, a short sleeve top, and a watch. My two sisters had bubbling extrovert personalities, I am the shy introvert.

Deaths of my Sisters

For decades I suppressed the grief of my beloved sisters and today I relish sharing my sisters, constantly looking at photos, and discovering more about me and my cherished sisters. Jane stands in a navy blue dress to attend a formal and I did a double take and thought the picture was me in a navy dress in college during the Happy Pappy weekend.

People often mistook Margie and I as twins, but I never knew of the resemblance to Jane. On the anniversary of Margie’s death, I flipped through photos and came across one of Margie at age four at a birthday party held in our basement, wearing a dress with a fluffy petticoat, black patent leather Mary Jane’s, a paper hat with an elastic under her chin. I did a double take, a carbon copy of my first grandchild Benji.

Sisterly bonds remain deeply close despite the differences, competition, fights. In Jane’s eyes I was never cool enough, yet the cards she sent me expressed endearing love for me. Who knows what our relationship would have developed into? I loved having a little sister and wanted to take care of her, protect her, despite her antics.

Margie was my idol, and despite the challenges of her mental illness, our closeness remained. We talked all the time and Margie knew me better than I knew myself.

Still a Sibling

I will never be whole without my sisters. They will always be a part of me. As the years go on, I miss them more. I want them by my side to share my children and grandchildren. Most of all I miss having sisters, no one can replace having sisters, a person you have an unwritten code, no words said, a glance, a tone in your voice, a look in your eye, only a sister understands, your true confidante and champion.

I am grateful I had the gift of Jane for twenty-two years and Margie for thirty-five years. Some individuals do not have the gift of having a sister.

Margie and Jane, you are forever beside me and in my heart.

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Judy Lipson

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 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. Ice skating is a sport shared by me and my sisters and a chord throughout my life. It has brought me full circle to pay tribute to my sisters and bring me joy, peace, healing and the recipient of the US Figure Skating 2020 Get Up Award. My memoir Celebration of Sisters: It is Never Too Late To Grieve will be published in December 2021. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

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