I think one of the saddest things one can see is the transformation in the eyes of a child who goes through tragedy.  This change was quite clear in my sister’s eyes, and I’ll never forget that.

My sister was an accident, to say the least.  The cult wanted my parents to have only two children.  With my sister’s birth, then, came rather serious punishment for my parents.  Actually, her birth is what led to my parents’ divorce and my father’s moving to America.  So much changed with that child.  After my father moved away, my mother sister and I ended up living outside the underground compound.  Needless to say, that was preferable.  The cult was still a major presence in our lives, but we were in society, for lack of better terms.  There was more than just them.

I looked at this as a chance to give my sister a better life.  She was only a few months old when we went above ground, and I was thrilled that she would have no memories of that.  Of course, things changed when I started my leadership training.  She was aged seven years when we were taken back underground.  Even though she had lived with some cult violence, as well as the violence our mother sometimes inflicted, she had not experienced anything close to that underground world.  The transformation in her eyes was immediate.

I tried as best as I could to protect her, but we were eventually separated so that I could continue my training.  I have no idea what happened to my sister during that time.  She never spoke of it.  She did, however, look hollow when we re-emerged, and her laugh was guarded.  Everything about her was guarded.  It broke my heart.

My sister was almost ten when we got away from the underground world and moved to London.  Eventually, she started to thrive.  She attended a school with a programme specifically for students with behavioural disorders, and she quickly proved to be the most intelligent student in her year.  She was like a little adult, for the most part, with wit and nerve that challenged even my friends, most of whom were at least seven years older than her.  Words cannot do justice to the amazing person she was.

There was a darker side to her, though, and I’m guessing that’s what led her to take her life that December almost eleven years ago.  She died three days after her twelfth birthday, and her death, much like her birth, changed everything.  I’ve ‘introduced’ her to my family-of-choice and best friend through stories about her life.  They seem to love her, although they will never get a chance to meet her.  My brother-of-choice recently said nobody should have to carry around the stuff my sister had to carry in her mind.  His words touched me deeply.  I wanted so much to protect this child who was so much more fragile than she seemed.

As my former therapist said, my sister went out on a high note.  Her twelfth birthday was quite the bash.  We had music, cake, and all of the unicorn stickers she could imagine.  We also had the people she loved.  Her eyes and her smile that day were not the least bit hollow.  They were genuine.  I’d like to think that at least her last few days were spent in happiness.

It’s quite fitting that my sister’s favourite song, ‘Shades of Gray‘ by the Monkees, carries a message much more mature and regretful than any twelve-year-old should understand.

May the gods, goddesses, and any other pantheon of beings take care of this special child who is, I hope, surrounded by love and happiness.

And may they have the strength to keep her in check.


I remember when the answers seemed so clear.

We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear.

It was easy then to tell truth from lies

Selling out from compromise

Who to love and who to hate

The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night

Today there is no dark or light

Today there is no black or white

Only shades of gray…


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