26th Aug 2019
Nora Quoirin’s tragic death was a reminder for writer Holly Hughes of the need to celebrate the people without whom life is simply unimaginable: our sisters.
I have spent the past few weeks searching for hope in a global sadness occasioned by Nora Quoirin’s death. Unable to stop thinking of the siblings left behind without a sister, it occurred to me that, too often, it takes tragedy to loosen our lips and become verbose on the subject of love.
Too often, we take the love of a sister as a given – a fact of life so unfalteringly constant that we seldom acknowledge it and rarely celebrate it.
My tribute to Nora is my tribute to the women who have made me all I am: to the sisters – biological and otherwise – who are the lighthouses that keep me swimming (sometimes floundering) towards who I would like to be. To the paragons of encouragement, integrity and inspiration that bolster and buoy me when life feels too much. This is my love letter and the reminder that life is too fleeting, too transient to risk the regret of the unsaid.
This is my reminder that we must, on a daily basis, celebrate the extraordinary ordinariness of sisterhood.
Sisterhood is believing she will always be the most beautiful thing. Without make-up, sprawled on the couch in Saturday languor, running to a job interview in a brand-new blazer, cradling a mug of tea in mascara-smudged self-loathing, dancing around the kitchen to Taylor Swift or some other guilty pleasure. Sisterhood is the staunch and unshakeable belief that she is light personified, goodness exemplified, beauty amplified.
Related: Daisy Buchanan on sisterhood
Sisterhood is preferring her company over anyone else’s. Even when she’s moody for no apparent reason, even when she brings up your childhood penchant for breast milk when it was no longer socially acceptable (in front of new lovers, no less). Even when, worst of all, she questions your fashion choices as if she doesn’t know you are a style icon.
Sisterhood is becoming closely and intimately acquainted with inadequacy, envy and sometimes (can we all just be honest here so I don’t feel completely terrible) resentment. It is cheering her on with all your furious heart as she conquers the world. It is secretly hoping that world isn’t quite ready for her so you get to keep her a little longer.
Sisterhood is a Killing Eve level of fascination as she remains at once the most familiar and enigmatic of creatures. It is being able to predict her exact reaction to any given situation down to the incline of an eyebrow and yet still bee floored by whatever outrageous comment escapes her incorrigible mouth. It is knowing exactly how not fine “I’m fine” is and when to answer that sentence with a hug, or chocolate, or backing slowly out of the room.
“If there was a penny for every time I made myself ridiculous in search of that laugh, I would own property. In Dublin.”
Sisterhood is knowing every one of her laughs and going to frankly embarrassing lengths to illicit the elusive cackle reserved only for the truly hilarious. If there was a penny for every time I made myself ridiculous in search of that laugh, I would own property. In Dublin.
Sisterhood is finally discovering the joy of hoop earrings aged twelve only to be told by your oldest sister that you look like a slut. Real sisterhood is bawling your eyes out in response while she laughs hysterically because she doesn’t know that her opinion was and is the only one you’ve ever really cared about.
Sisterhood is the realisation – after perhaps one too many failed relationships – that no partner is ever going to be able to know, understand, or support you in the way that she does. It is the calm acceptance that her gift for empathy, insight and inspiration is unique; there is no point seeking it in others because in your bond you have all of the soulful fulfilment, the nourishment you could ever need. And it’s the joyful realisation that you wouldn’t have this any other way.
“Sisters, I’m sorry I don’t say it enough but please know that I’m here.”
Sisterhood is knowing you cannot hold on to her forever. I know this now more than ever as I jealously watch boyfriends steal your smiles and time, as study takes you across oceans and adulthood is awash with new and shiny friends who can engage and entertain you in ways I never can.
I know that life is a room with a window that will one day open. But I also know that people, however and whenever they leave, are never truly gone. The outpouring of love for Nora is proof of this.
Sisters, I’m sorry I don’t say it enough but please know that I’m here. Sometimes it might not seem like it because I’m terrible at contact, consistently give bad presents and always forget when that important life event you’ve spent three weeks harping on about is but I promise, I’m here.
I am with you through every crisis, every success. I am here to catch the wobble in your voice on the other end of the phone that says at once “please don’t ask me but please ask me”.
I am here to celebrate when you downplay your next achievement you’re too humble to brag about. I am here to pick up the pieces when he leaves…and to advise when he inevitably comes back again.
I’m here. Waiting patiently with Robyn on full blast, a pint of Guinness in one hand and a garlic cheese chips in the other. Waiting to make more mischief and do all we can to squeeze every last pimple of joy to be found in this confusing, terrifying, overwhelming, unpredictable life.
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