On September 9th, 2018, my sister was ordained at Deer Park Monastery along with nine other new monastics. It was an unusual experience to watch my sibling become a nun; I felt a mixture of pride, excitement, and something that seemed like grief.
I offered her this essay on the day she was ordained, partially because it comforted me to remember the great depth of our friend- ship and the ways we continue to become closer, even though she now has many other sisters in addition to me. If you ever get the chance to meet my sister Sister Thanh Trí, or Sister Clear Wisdom, you can see for yourself how special she is.
To my sister, on her ordination day:
If our relationship were a story, it would begin before we were both born as cells in our mom’s body. In my childhood naïveté, I imagined us, my sister and myself, waiting (side by side) in a single line of eggs to become our parents’ daughters. I did not acknowledge the randomness of all the events in the five-year span between her birth and mine that brought us into the same family. In my mind, we were together from the beginning, predetermined to be sisters.
Our lives converged when I was born, or rather my life converged into hers. I don’t have any true memories of our first years together, only those retroactively constructed from pictures: our sloppy softness and candid happiness; her milky skin and nutmeg freckles; my downy baby hair in tufts on my head.
My true memories are like short movie segments strung together.
She and I picked blackberries in Oregon. We bodysurfed at the cove in our hometown, feeling the grainy sand in our suits and then standing up to anticipate our next ride. We sang in the children’s choir—or maybe I just watched her. This memory is honey-colored. We traded candy after a Halloween evening, sitting in our living room with Charlotte and Britney (our childhood best friends), four corners of a square of sisterhood. I woke up to the white morning light in our room, my sister’s even breathing in sleep, and slid out of bed not to wake her.
My sister read to me every night when our parents left us one summer with our relatives. She cared for me, taking my hand in hers and lighting up with a rush of protectiveness when I relayed grievances. During my self-conscious teenage years, her steady approval of me bolstered my self-esteem. She slept beside me after I hit my head (I acquired a traumatic brain injury), so that I would feel safe. My sister wrote me fairy notes and tucked them in my handmade fairy houses, passing along magic.
I watched her dancing in ballrooms, playing basketball, hosting parties, and performing on her high school stage. I thought she was beautiful, and she is: smooth eucalyptus pale skin, eyes like their blue-tinged leaves, nails patterned with half-moons. Boldness, strength, and humble attentiveness—the things she cannot change. Wrapped in my love for her is admiration and the honor of being intrinsically tied to her through the stuff of our veins.
Ours is the story of two girls tangled in the seaweed: wild, joyful, and moving alongside each other.
I love you, Sara.
Megan Phelps, Sweetest Song of the Heart, is a second-year UC Davis student studying environmental science, which she hopes to use to write environmental law. She has been attending Deer Park Monastery since she was five. In her spare time, Megan enjoys singing, knitting, reading, and running.
Reprinted with permission from the Mindfulness Bell, Winter/Spring 2019 issue