Unexpected gifts from my sister

“I can’t find my travel mug!”

My sister Kathleen frantically checked around the kitchen amidst packing boxes and bags of recyclable items. We’d both arrived a few days earlier – Kathleen from Colorado and I from Texas – to put our late sister Joanne’s home on the local California housing market. As a result of our clearing and cleaning, we’d transformed the kitchen table into our primary base of operations. That meant that somewhere among the piles of itemized lists and dishes to be donated, a certain travel mug sat hidden.

On this particular morning, though, Kathleen had an 8 am appointment at the local Department of Motor Vehicles, and arriving late was not an option. Acting as the trustee for Joanne’s estate, Kathleen worked on a list of tasks that all seemed to require immediate attention. One of those tasks included transferring the title of  Joanne’s car to its new owner. Dreading the red tape that invariably lay ahead, Kathleen knew she was going to need coffee to get through the appointment.

“I saw another travel mug in the cabinet with the mug collection,” I said, moving across the room to snag it for her.

I pulled out the sturdy Grand Canyon travel mug I’d noticed yesterday on the shelves in Joanne’s extensive display. As soon as I lifted it, however, I realized it wasn’t empty. Snapping off the lid, I saw a clump of tissue paper nestled inside. I pulled out the little bundle and unwrapped it, revealing an intricately painted gourd in the shape of a bird.

Kathleen and I both took a surprised moment to admire it, despite her impending appointment. As she left a moment later, she said, “You were meant to find it. You’re the birder.

“It’s clearly yours…from Joanne.”


 My sister’s souvenirs

After Kathleen rushed off to the DMV, I studied the lovely piece of artwork in my hand. Silently, I thanked my absent sister for tucking the beautiful little bird safely away. Always the world traveler, Joanne accumulated treasures and curiosities everywhere she went and took great joy in her adventures. She often kept diaries of her journeys and shared them with Kathleen and me, along with our older sister Karen and brother Bob. I confess I wasn’t always interested in her travel reports over the years; raising my children absorbed my attention and time. Joanne’s experiences in Australia or Easter Island or Mallorca were far removed from my daily routine as a suburban mom of five. Consequently, I often didn’t understand – or appreciate – why she collected so many quirky souvenirs from her globe-trotting.


Dancing with God

Now, though, as I contemplated the gourd-become-bird, it occurred to me that my sister knew a side of life – and God – that I didn’t: the diversity of cultures created by God. Whereas I found joy in my family-centered life of the local and familiar, Joanne had experienced God in the hidden corners of far destinations. Her souvenirs reminded her of where He led her on her earthly journey. And while it was true that cancer had cut short my sister’s years, her life had been a dance of discovery with the most wonderful Partner of all.

“Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.” Song of Solomon 1:4

Thank God for quirky souvenirs…and my sisters.