Saturday, March 5, 2011


By Judy Haughton-James
     It was just before noon on October 16, 2008 and I felt as if I was in a strange place lost and groping around in the dark.  Was this for real or was I dreaming? Is this a reality that I can face?  It was at this time that my identical twin sister Janine died after a short battle with stomach cancer.
     I did not know that Janine had cancer until she had died.  Now when I look back I am relieved that neither of us knew, as it would have been an even more unhappy period for both of us.  I don't think I would have been able to deal with my twin's unhappiness knowing that she was dying.  As a matter of fact I think she died in peace.  Some 15 minutes before she died she said to me 'I no longer feel ill.'  It is memories of this moment that help me to find strength in the midst of my sadness.
     For some 47 years Janine and I were like two peas in a pod.  We looked alike, dressed alike, thought alike and did everything together. The big question that stared me in the face was how do I not fall apart and be strong in such a situation.  The constant words from friends and relatives were 'Be strong!'  I said to myself "You can say that as you are not the one in my situation."  There is that powerful force called utero bonding that makes it extremely difficult dealing with the death of one's twin. It wasn't going to be easy coming to terms with the fact that someone who shared so much in common with me, even to the point of uttering the same words in unison, was no longer with me. In other words I was alone without my best friend, companion and confidante.
     This was a moment that demanded real strength.  I therefore started reading my Bible, religious books and articles and books on twin loss. I always knew that there was the possibilty of my twin dying and leaving me someday, but I wasn't ready for it so soon in my life.  The material I read helped me to understand what I was going through and how to face it head on.
     The support of family, friends and pen-pals helped me garner the strength that I needed as I knew that I would never be alone in this uphill struggle.  They were like towers of strength with their visits, phone calls, emails and letters.  I have had some amazing moments as I would be feeling quite low in spirit and as I checked my emails there would be one or more from friends that had the most inspiring words.  Yes, words that make you feel that although you are down you can try to get up.
      I have also found strength from the many friends who tell me that they see me as a link to Janine.  Actually she had many pen-pals and several have asked me to write to them after her death.  One actually said "In a way it is as if Janine is still here."
       I face moments of sadness and it has demanded a great deal of inner strength. During such moments I say a word of prayer or I repeat over and over my favourite Psalm - Psalm 23.
      I have been a Freelance Writer for many years and what I faced was not just writers block, it was more like a major road block that stopped me from writing anything for months.  It wasn't easy getting motivated as the person whom I used to work with and collaborate on many articles was no longer here.
     One day while reading Dr. Raymond Brandt's book 'Twin Loss' I came across his advice to write essays and poems about one's departed twin.  It dawned on me that I could write essays on Janine and our twinship but writing poems, oh no, that is something that I was never able to do and worse yet not at a time like this.
     Some weeks passed and out of the blue I decided to give it a try although it would most likely be the most difficult writing task that I would ever undertake. Much to my amazement I was able to write several poems and was particularly pleased with one titled 'BEING TWINS.'  I decided to share it with many friends, relatives and acquaintances and they have all asked me if I am really sure that I had not been writing poems for many years.They complemented me on the wonderful tribute it was to my twin and how it accurately summed up the lives we lived over the years. Here I was struck down by adversity but a hidden talent had been unearthed in this my darkest moment. In addition writing about my twin has proven to be therapeutic and strengthening.
       Moments of sadness I can't escape but I try to counterbalance them by reminiscing on the many happy times that we shared.  We especially enjoyed our Christmas and Easter holidays and being at family gatherings.  Decorating our home during holidays was a favourite pastime and Janine was always the first one to start decorating our home.  Christmas 2008 I was not in the frame of mind to decorate our home.  As Easter 2009 approached I found myself being haunted with the feeling that I just could not decorate our home.  Suddenly I said to myself "Why not decorate the center table in our living-room with Janine's favourite Easter bunny, chicks,eggs, and yellow and lavender feathers?" I kept them up for several days and it gave me strength as I knew that she would have been pleased if she was able to see these decorations. Since then I have used her favourite decorations on special holidays.
      I find strength even in the beautiful chorus of birds that visit the gardens and trees on our farm as well as the sound of the woodpecker pecking away at a nearby coconut tree.  It brings back pleasant memories of the shared love for our feathered friends that Janine and I had.  Actually it was about 10 years ago that we started a collection of bird figurines.  What started with the cutest little yellow bird figurines from our mother has grown into a huge collection of figurines from around the world.  Today this stands as a memorial to a hobby that we enjoyed tremendously.
     Time is moving along quickly and as I continue to draw on all the inner strength that I can muster I will never forget these words that I got on a condolence card - 'Born in love, lived in love, died in love.'  They give me strength to continue to live the life that my twin lived and strive to lift my spirit and live for tomorrow.
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