The blessings of a big sister


This week my dear big sister Jill turned 80, and this is the poem I wrote for her.

Poem for my big sister Jill

I wanted to give you a poem
eighty years back
when you were first-born
and armies were rising
and peace receding.
You learned about consultation
in the womb.

I wanted to give you a poem
to thank you
for protecting me
and holding my hand
and showing the way
and making peace
without any fights or feuds
or atom bombs.

The poem sat in my head for weeks
waiting for Mother’s attention.
On a short dark day
lop-sided day
turn-around day
a fence of shards and sand
and shrapnel sprang up
between the poem and me.

So I clambered over the fence
ripping my shorts
on splinters
lost a shoe
and clambered back to you
the almost perfect baby
to give you what you lacked
the one thing all big sisters need:

your very own big sister
just like Jill
to shelter and protect you
and hold your hand
and take the lead
on dark days
and on bright days too
the way big sisters do.

with love from Rachel 23 June 2016

poem and photo Rachel McAlpine cc by 2.0: feel free to share or quote, but include my name as writer

21 thoughts on “The blessings of a big sister

  1. My big sister, three years older than me, celebrated her 80th birthday this month. What a coincidence! Since you have already given your permission, I’ve copied your poem and will send it to her, with your credits, of course. It’s beautiful, and says so much! Thanks, Rachel!

    1. Truly a big coincidence! So glad the poem has found a new target.

  2. Meritings says:

    Many congratulations to your big sister. May she remain hale and hearty for years to come. My big sister was 12 years older than me, and we shared the same birthday. My first 2 blog posts were inspired by her.

    1. Thank you, Peter — I have passed your congratulations on. We are a healthy lot and I sincerely hope your wish comes true. I’ve read your first two blog posts with appreciation and some emotion.

      1. Meritings says:

        Yes I still find it difficult to re read them, but I’m glad that I wrote them.

  3. Robyn Haynes says:

    As a big sister myself, I was moved by the deep meanings this poem held for me Rachel. Thanks for sharing. Happy birthday from one big sister to another.

    1. So you are a big sister! I am glad the poem rings a bell for you. Thanks, I will pass on your message.

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        A big sister to two little sisters and a little sister to a big brother. Yes, a middle child.

  4. nilu says:

    Beautiful poem Rachel, you sisters are an inspiration to us all! xxxNilu

    1. We are equally blessed in our daughters-in-law! Xxx

  5. Hi Rachel
    I was just browsing through my reader today and found your site, the title The Blessings of a Big Sister immediately needed reading. Four years ago this very week was the last time I would spend with my big sister Eleanor. She was 15 years older than me, she had been diagnosed with secondary brain cancer. She was the strongest woman on all levels I have ever known in my lifetime, my goodness!! I sought her advice countless times over the years.
    She gave me her blessing and sound advice every single time.
    Your poem is a beautiful ode to all our big sisters
    Eleanor was my hero!!,
    I have another big sister Beryl, she is my rock star!!!
    They have both truly been a blessing in my life.
    Your big sister Jill who recently turned 80 years old sounds like an absolute legend!!
    Thankyou Rachel for a beautiful poem and giving me a moment to go down memory lane with my big sisters again.
    Warmest Regards from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

    1. Annie, this is so special, thank you. I am so thrilled that the poem gave you a rush of memory, and that you appreciate your sisters as much as I do.

  6. Bun Karyudo says:

    That’s a sweet poem and congratulations to your big sister. I never had an older sibling to provide shelter and protection, unfortunately. I would have loved to have had one just like Jill.

    1. Thank you! I am happy that you like the poem. Perhaps you could find a new big sister…

  7. Mia says:

    Very beautiful poem.

    1. Thank you Mia. I am pleased you found it!

  8. Aunt Beulah says:

    This is a compelling poem: vivid, full of imagery, every word belonging and in the right place. And, of course, it touched my heart and left me with the feeling that I need to write something for my older sister, Carolyn.

    1. So happy the poem led you to this point. Lucky Carolyn!

  9. Rachel, exquisitely rendered. Anyone would be proud to have you as a sister, and long to be the sister you wrote this for.

    1. That’s such a lovely response! By the way, I am very far from perfect as a sister or anything else!

      1. I’d still have you as a sister any day, your heart is in the right place that’s more than many x