Today is my birthday.
I won’t tell you how many years I’ve lived, because it isn’t relevant to this post, really, but if you visit my web site http://www.advicesisters.net you may wonder why I’m called “The Advice Sisters” when there is just ONE of me. Well, it’s because my genuine twin sister and I started writing together online and off, more than 14 years ago. We were known for our double-take (two views for every question) Q&A columns. She was “Advice Sister Jessica,” and I was and still am, Advice Sister Alison. Together, we created not just a web site and columns, but books, seminars and even a CD series called “Make New Connections.” The Advice Sisters have been credited with bringing the advice/information genre, online, as described in the academic textbook: Marriage and Family Experience: Relationships Changing Society 8th Edition by Bryan Strong, Christine DeVault, Theodore F. Cohen (Thompson-Wadsworth,2004) and we were touted as the next “Ann & Abby” for the new millennium (although unlike those famous twins, we really liked one another).
Hardly a day ever went by when we didn’t chat by phone, or communicate by email, or see each other in person. We had plenty of disagreements, but in the end, blood is always thicker than water and we made up and moved forward, together.
I’ve never written about this before, but it seems fitting, on our birthday, to finally break my silence. It’s really hard for me, but it’s time:
Four years ago, in August, my sister left a message on my answering machine. It stayed there for almost a year, until the battery died and I lost all the messages, including hers. It said “please pick up a copy of US magazine with the photo and quotes about us, in it,
as I’ll be gone.” She meant the South of France, where she was heading off to the next day.
But she never made it there. And she really WAS gone.
My husband and I were driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when my my cell phone rang. My sister’s friend was calling and insisted that I pull off the road. I had no idea why (truth be told, I didn’t like her friend so I was annoyed that she had called me) but we pulled over. In a gas station on the New Jersey Turnpike, my life changed forever. Jessica had literally, dropped dead that morning, in her own bed. In shock, we turned our car around and headed to home to tell my father that his daughter, my twin sister, was gone. It was one of awful days in my life.
In the months that followed, I also lost my favorite cousin to breast cancer (and she was just 50 years old), my 19 1/2 year old cat died, and my father collapsed, near death (he finally recovered, but he’s been declining ever since). A book deal my sister and I were working on was dropped (who wants the spectre of a dead twin, the publisher told me a week after Jessica died), and more problems and challenges fell like rain, for the next year and a half.
Jessica and I were fraternal twins. We looked alike to the casual observer, but we were really not. I am shy and a bit withdrawn. You have to want to get to know me before you understand who I am. When Jessica and I were promoting our first book, Recruiting Love-Using the Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want, she couldn’t wait to be on televison. I’d sit in the green room and sweat! Jessica was a true people person. She loved being with other people, telling humrous stories with an enthusiasm you couldn’t help but absorb, and she loved to laugh, enjoy herself, and help you have a good time. Men loved her. She simply had a friendly, approachable look that they couldn’t resist. In High School and college when I thought I’d never really meet anyone great, she was being inudated with roses and love poems. She won the Miss Congeniality award at the Miss Syracuse New York Pagent one year that we were in college. I definitely was not surpised. Jessica smiled and laughed so easily, even when things in her own life weren’t perfect. She was so much fun to be with! She was a good sister.
As a life & career expert, it is easy for me to help others. Helping yourself through terrible challenges is another story. But, the process of healing as helped me understand that everyday people have extraordinary love connections in their lives, even though they don’t always recognize, appreciate, or access them. Love is nearly limitless and all around us in various forms, if we choose to acknowledge it.
Jessica and I always spent our birthday together…it was just more fun that way, even though when I was little, I resented that fact that we always had one cake that we had to share. Now, I will always have my own cake, but no sister to share it with.
Today is OUR birthday. Happy birthday, Advice Sister Jessica….Happy birthday, to US. Wherever you are, I know you are wishing me, the same.