I remember gently waking my daughter, who was deep asleep, to let her know her little brother passed away. You know those rare moments in life that you remember with vivid detail? The smells, the color of light, the layout of a room, and exactly what you were doing at that very moment something big happened … those details of life that seem to crystallize in your mind. Forever. I remember, as a young boy, exactly where I was when I heard the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I don’t remember anything else that happened that year … not like I remember that moment. I just remember crying as a young boy because I knew people were hurting over such a loss. 

Well, this night was one of those moments I will never forget. “Ash” I said with a whisper. She arose instantly, as if her body and soul knew something terrible had happened, “I’m so sorry, but Mitch passed away.” No sooner had I uttered those words than her eyes gushed with tears as she fell back to her pillow and wept. 

Laura-Ashley faithfully loved and served her little brother and they had developed a deep bond between them. I marveled how she balanced softness with strength – a testament that we, being human, are quite capable of being both. On the one hand she would speak ever-so tenderly with Mitch and you could tell she listened with her heart as much as her ears. At the same time she would carry her not-so-little brother on her back with ease. She was strong, yet tender … a beautiful blend of attributes I long to possess.

I took this photo on the California coast while on our last summer adventure with Mitch. He loved the ocean and was fascinated by the power of waves. At this time in his life Mitch couldn't play in the ocean by himself because even the smallest wave would knock him helplessly over. Where smaller children could play in the splash and froth of the ocean’s edge, those same waters were more punishing for him. Even the smallest wave threatened to knock him over. Any prolonged exposure to even moderately deep water, causing him to adapt to the ebb and flow of the current, would tire his muscles quickly and he would most certainly drown if left to his own strength.

Laura-Ashley, this beautifully kind sister, sensing little Mitch wanted to experience the ocean again, heaped her brother on her back and began walking into the water. Mitch laughed and squealed as the waves rolled by and tickled his feet. It occurred to me at this moment, in ways it hadn't before, that there’s something very special about a sister. 

As I photographed them playing I remember being washed over by waves of love and gratitude for my daughter and my son. Of all the world’s greatest riches, none compared to the treasure of this moment with my children. They were a gift to each other, and their love was awesome to see. Love, after all, is the substance of life and the fabric of eternity. 

When I look at my own life experience, it seems to me that sisters and mothers seem to balance out fathers and brothers.

I don’t know what it is, exactly. I only know the world is richer because it is filled with loving sisters.