Formerly conjoined twins at a special reunion in London at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)
Professor Joe Goldblatt
Siblings provide us with a complex opportunity for bonding that is rich in possibility and often rare in practice. Perhaps that is why I was so interested in the reunion of six sets of formerly conjoined twins who were successfully physically separated by the world class talent at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. The hospital refers to its hallowed halls with the simple but exclamatory acronymn of GOSH. That acronmym is exactly the feeling I experienced when I saw twelve children and their parents happily reuniting with their doctors, nurses, and one another this past week.
I have a biological sister and many soul brothers and sisters. However, it is my biological sister who has stood by me through thick and thin the longest. As young children, our father created a magic act for us and my job was to make my six year old sister appear and disappear in a wooden box. She did this over and over again without complaint until one day I purposely kept her in the box too long whilst I performed additional magic tricks to constant applause. When I finally made her reappear I was greeted with a frown and tears and my young assistant permanently disappeared from the act.
However, she never left me, her big brother. As a younger sister it is perhaps challenging to have an older brother who is an extrovert. Fortunately, each of us had our own interests in childhood and pursued our own paths in terms of careers. My sister has lived in the same medium sized town in the USA for nearly 40 years. She held the same teaching position for over three decades. On the other hand, her big brother has moved five times to major US cities once, held multiple different posts at four different universities and fifteen years ago moved to Scotland. Each time I moved and she stayed put she raised her eyebrows but never raised her voice. This is what is called unconditional love.
I suppose we both learned the depths of loving others from our parents. One American Thanksgiving my sister and her family drove from her state to mine in the USA to celebrate together with our now elderly parents. When her family departed I escorted them to the car and as I kissed her goodbye, suddenly and uncontrollably we began to weep. It was at that moment we realised the preciousness of the final days we would have with our parents and that in not too many years it would be only each other that we would have to rely upon. Since that fateful moment as we held each other close we have been thicker than thieves. Even today, we still weep when we separate from one another following a visit. It must be a faulty family gene!
When one of the Great Omond Street twins spoke about her sister and said “We fight a lot and we love each other a lot!” I thought of my own relationship with my sister. We are completely different in so many ways, however, our bond is permanent perhaps due to our shared past and our similar values. We may disagree politically and ideologically, however, when it comes to cherishing our families there is no disagreement, only love.
That is what I witnessed this week at Great Ormond Street. Although the world is once again at sixes and sevens due to wars in both Ukraine and the Middle East, the tenderness I witnessed at one of the world’s most famous children’s hospitals warmed the cockles of my heart. Great Ormond Street is the hospital that JM Barrie, the author of the classic children’s tale Peter Pan directed all future royalties from his book. After seeing the boundless love from the miracles that have occurred there, I am not surprised that Barrie chose this haven for sick children to receive his financial treasure.
In Peter Pan , at the end of the story, as Peter flies back to his home in Neverland, his honourary sister Wendy tells her mother “The last thing he said to me was just always be waiting for me and then some night you will hear me crowing.”
Perhaps that is the unique role of twins and other siblings, we wait patiently for one another and when we hear one another crowing, we are as we always have been and always will be, simply there for one another.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. His views are his own. For more information about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot