Lessons From My Sister

Photo by Farley&Russin Florida at www.flickr.com

Last week I went to Disney World and the beach with my mom and three sisters. Before you get too jealous, it was a bittersweet “Make a Wish” type of trip for my sister with cancer. She’s been talking about going there for over 25 years–the last time she went as a child with our family–so we thought now was as good a time as any.

Much like Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea” (which I read on the plane coming home and highly recommend to every mother on the planet), I collected several personal treasures from my time with my mom and sisters in Florida. This isn’t really the place to go into detail, but I can tell you at least three things I learned from my sister about The Power of Fun.

1) Fun is a huge motivator.

My sister is not in good health to say the least. We planned this trip around her chemo schedule, so even though she wanted to walk through the Magic Kingdom we pretty much forced her to use an electric wheelchair. Even with the chair, she was exhausted by the end of the day since she needs to take powerful narcotics to keep her pain at bay. Still, she would not be stopped. We stayed at a park hotel so she could go back to rest during the day if needed, but she balked at the suggestion. We tracked down Goofy for a photo shoot, snacked on Mickey ice cream bars, and made it to every single ride on her list before heading over to Epcot for dinner and fireworks. I honestly couldn’t believe her stamina. At my cousin’s beach house she continued to surprise everyone with her determination to walk down the boardwalk to the beach, collect shells, and play in the surf.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get moving when all you wake up to is the work, stress, and burdens of motherhood? And how the opposite is true when you have something fun to look forward to? While most of our lives don’t consist of the two extremes of my sister’s–battling cancer with weekly chemo treatments or a week vacation in Florida–it is true for all of us that planning and then doing the things that we love (alone and with our children) brings a unique kind of energy that can really get us moving. That energy will transfer into other areas of our life. I also learned from my sister to enjoy those bright moments of fun to the max when they come along, because they can be fleeting.

2) Fun binds us together as families.

Everyone knows how important it is for a family to work together, but I think we’d all agree that having fun together is equally, if not more, important. My sisters and I kept commenting on how our trip was worth every bit of work and sacrifice both before and during our time together, but that’s not what any of us will remember 10 years from now. We’ll be reminiscing about our oldest sister dancing like a fool on the beach, my sister losing her chemo beanie in a huge wave, the inside jokes about hand massages, that special birthday dinner in downtown St. Augustine, and how wet we got on Splash Mountain. Through it all, my sister with cancer kept reminding us all about the fun memories we created in Florida as children so many years before. That was part of the glue of our sisterhood.

Making memories together while having fun is a powerful bonding agent for any family, but especially true for families with young children who are so naturally inclined to have fun at a moment’s notice. We need to monopolize on that by creating moments and memories, both large and small, that will tie us together as families for the rest of our lives.

3) Fun brings perspective. 

Laughter truly is the best medicine, and that old saying about all work and no play making Jack (Jill) a dull boy (girl) is true as well. I’m putting words into my sister’s mouth, but it seemed clear that during those moments when she was fully absorbed in the fun at hand, she couldn’t help but stop worrying about the results of her next scan or how to meet her growing medical bills. By the end of the week I dare say she felt like her burdens were a little bit lightened.

It may not be something as big as cancer, but we all carry burdens of one kind or another as mothers. Having fun can help us forget about and even rise above those things that would otherwise bring us down. But having fun isn’t just a distraction, it can actually put our problems into perspective as we turn our minds and hearts toward the joyful things in life. I think the application to motherhood is obvious.

A trip like ours was a once in a lifetime event. All of us are back home now, knee deep in every day life, but I won’t soon forget the lessons I learned from my sister about the power of fun. After getting home and finding quite a bit of chaos in the wake of my absence, it was easier than usual to ease up on my need for clean to spend an afternoon with my family hiking in the mountains on a beautiful autumn day. Life really is short. It shouldn’t take something as severe as cancer to remind us that it’s meant to be enjoyed. Just ask my sister.

QUESTION: Do you have an experience when the power of fun changed your perspective and helped you through a difficult time?

CHALLENGE: Try elevating your day-to-day perspective by adding more fun in your life.


  1. says

    Every time I lose myself in having fun with my family my stress lessens and it helps me be present in the moment. Now if I could just remember that and do it more often instead of being caught up in the day to day stresses of life that often bog me down!

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