Once upon a time, there were two sisters – a big sister and a little sister. The big sister liked being bigger – doing things first having more responsibility. And the little sister liked being littler – growing up more slowly and having someone to blaze the trail for her. The big sister had a dream to one day run in a race. She trained for that someday race very diligently and faithfully. After many years of training, when it was finally time to start the race, she looked down and suddenly realized that her leg had somehow become crushed and badly mangled. Stunned, she sought out help from the best doctors, who put her in the hospital to treat her leg. The doctors said they might be able to save her leg and her dream to run – it would hurt a lot and take long time – but in the end she might still get to enter a race. But there was also a chance that the big sister’s leg was too injured to save – and would have to be amputated. So the doctors went to work on her leg, trying every concoction they could think of and the big sister was stuck in the hospital, waiting. There was a big window in her room from which she could see many races passing by. Many of her friends ran in those races and a seemingly constant stream of runners flitted past her window as she lay in her bed thinking about her own racing ambitions. Sometimes it was too hard for her to watch the happy runners so close up – and she would pull the curtains shut. But the curtains were thin and she could still see shadows and hear the excited shouts and pounding footsteps of the runners.
A couple of times, the doctors thought they had fixed the big sister’s leg and they let her go out to join the runners in a race of her own. She was so happy – her lifelong dream was finally coming true. After spending so long wishing to run, she could hardly believe her time had really come, but it had. So she bought a pair of running shoes and headed off, the little sister happily cheering her on from the sidelines. But sadly, after the big sister had only taken a few steps – barely gotten past the starting line – her leg buckled underneath her, shattering again. She was out of the race and utterly devastated. Luckily, the little sister and the rest of her family was there to pick her up and take care of her as she grieved for what she had lost and began treatments on her broken leg, once again.
After a while, the big sister was growing exhausted from the operations and treatments on her leg. She didn’t want her leg to be amputated, but she didn’t know how much longer she could stand being stuck in bed, stuck inside that hospital room, unable to really move on with her life. She began to have fantasies about what her life would be like as an amputee. Life would be hard at first and she would always miss her leg, but at least she could move on and make a new kind of life. Maybe she would use a wheelchair and really become comfortable with that. Or maybe she would get a sporty prosthetic leg and eventually run in a race or two. Or maybe that next operation she had scheduled would fix her leg and allow her to at least run in one good race. Either way – anything would be better than staying in limbo, weighed down by a painful, useless leg while so many of her friends were thriving in the racing world, leaving her behind.
Just when the big sister was starting to recover from her most recent failed operation, she got a phone call from the little sister – the little sister who she thought wasn’t really interested in running – at least not for a while. The little sister called to tell the big sister that she has become runner and is registered for her first marathon. The big sister feels like her little hospital room is caving in around her, and her leg hurts more than ever. She wants to be happy for the little sister but she just can’t. She always imagined herself to be the first in her family of her generation to run a race – it was part of her identity – part of the plan – and part of her destiny – and now it can never be. She worries that she will never even get to run a race, let alone be the first. She worries that her leg will be amputated and she’ll be too broken and exhausted learn to run with a prosthetic. And she thinks it may just kill her to see the little sister in running shoes, to see her crossing the finish line, to watch her parents faces as they bask in the glow of this first-time victory, to watch the little sister and her mother share the experience of finishing a race, understanding she may never know this joy.