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By Melanie Kim '23

August 16, 2022

Dear Joel,

Do you remember that one time I got the Honda Accord wedged in the high school parking lot? Side mirrors just millimeters from scraping the neighboring car. You got out and directed me back and forth, back and forth. A little more left. No, no, right now. Melanie, you have to turn the wheel! We were late to school that day. Even though I always teased you incessantly about being late to school, we were really late that time because of me, even though I insisted (to this day!) that it was you. You could have run up the paved path to the school and let me figure it out – it was my mess. But you didn’t. You helped me park that car and then we both sprinted together, giant backpacks thud-thudding, listening to the school’s late bell ring out over the campus.

I heard a quote from someone a while ago. They said, “the two most important moments of your life are when you are born and when you realize why you are born.” What would it be like to hit that point when you really and truly knew exactly what you were meant to do on this earth? But at the same time, I was so tired of thinking about the future. I remember telling our mom over winter break that when I looked around, none of the adults I knew seemed very happy. What was I even working towards? Exhaustion?

I was a bit like a dirty sponge last semester, absorbing in the heavy and the ugly, squishing in and out of “okay-ness.” But even in all my emotional sogginess, you were there for me.

Every time I called you, I could hear the phone ring once, twice, and then your voice, “Hello? Hello?” You almost always repeated it twice. I loved that you picked up when I called at 2 PM or 5:30 PM or 1 AM (not the early mornings because you don’t do those too well). I loved that you were always free for a meal.

You let me spill out everything to you, all my pettiness and random outbursts of anger. You laughed but always grounded me a bit with a “Melanie!” I could show my very worst to you, and yet I knew that wouldn’t change how much you loved me, and I knew that I could trust you to redirect my thoughts to God again.

I called you the night that I heard that news and you met me out behind Keeney and just hugged me. You let me pour it all out on you even though it was so cold outside and I could feel you shivering through your Mount Hermon hoodie. We couldn’t stop crying for so long but then we were laughing at the fact that we were crying. And then there was that lady in the dark car asking us where we could find mumble mumble and we kept vaguely pointing leftward and asking what building was mumble mumble. It was only after a freshman stumbled out of Keeney looking for his dinner that we realized that she was trying to drop off a DoorDash delivery. We laughed some more at that, and then swollen-eyed and cold, we went down to the Ivy room to get dinner.

Talking with you, walking alongside you… I know that God put you in my life as my brother-brother, but also as my brother-in-Christ to help pull me out of the rifts and to help me get my clunky car-sized thoughts out of parking spots where they don’t fit.

At the Branch on Friday, you started talking about how God had convicted you to make Him the center of your life again. You talked with your hands, shoulders bouncing, eyebrows emphasizing your excitement. I saw your joy, all the beautiful kindness and Joel-iness that I knew so well. At gathering, and again on Sunday, I watched you talking with people. I saw the way you leaned in to listen, head turned slightly, smiling. The way your shoulders jiggled when you laughed and people laughed along with you. It made me think about what the Grace Harbor pastor said on Sunday when he quoted Charles Spurgeon: “But let us all do something for Christ. I will never believe there is a Christian in the world who cannot do something. There is not a spider hanging on the king's wall but hath its errand; there is not a nettle that groweth in the corner of the churchyard but hath its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze but accomplisheth some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find out your niche, and fill it.”

That same Sunday when we were walking out of brunch with the Grace Harbor walking group, I turned to you and said, “Wow, you little socialite. You’re on fire!”

“On fire for God!” you replied.

“I’m so tired… I had no social energy.”

“Me too… But it’s not coming from me - it’s God working through me.”

Yeah, you weren’t wrong… but thanks for sermonizing lol.

You were half-joking, half-serious, but I know in some ways you were also getting me to ask that question of myself: where was my energy coming from? What was I being guided by? Good questions, Joel, good questions. The honest answer: from me.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be stuck recently: “We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our everyday life with its trivial tasks. The thing that really testifies for God and for the people of God in the long run is steady perseverance, even when the work cannot be seen by others. And the only way to live an undefeated life is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to discourage you.”

I needed you to give me that little push and then God to guide the rest (JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL, though neither you nor I actually know how that song goes). I just needed some perspective to remember that life, the present and the future, is beautiful and undefeated because of God, and because every day is a chance to become more aware of His goodness and His love and His grace.

There are things that I’ve never told you, and things that I probably will never tell you. I think that’s what makes it a little special, that we know we love each other and we admire each other, and yet we don’t always have to say. Because sometimes just being next to you and talking with you, it feels like we know. The unspoken bond. Sibling telepathy.

There was that one time you got kicked in the face by that kid in taekwondo and I remember that I was so mad at him that I started crying, demanding that he apologize. When I’m with you, I understand what it means to truly want the best interest of another person. To be even willing to die for you if I had to. We can only reflect God’s kind of love dimly through the shadow of our understanding of love. But you’ve taught me more about what loving someone means.

Of course, we’ll always fight over the fact that you are perpetually late to everything and can never decide on almost anything: what food to eat, what movie to watch, whether you will wear sweatpants or not. And Micah and I certainly won’t let you live down that teasing about a special someone.

You’ll always sing, There was a short girl from a short family Melamush melamush.

And I’ll sing right back at you, Joelle Joelle Joelle Joelle born is the Joelle in Israel.

You always give me a hard time because I laugh when people do embarrassing things. Like fart. I shouldn’t, but I do, and you always end up trying to shush me or saying, “Melanie.”

“I feel like the older sibling sometimes,” you always say. Okay, Joel. I’ll give you that.

I’ll only be a little sappy because I know you’ll be making your cringey face, crunching up your forehead and your nose until there’s valleys and mountains running up and down your brow.

I’m really, really happy to be your sister. I don’t say it nearly enough, but I really am.

From your slightly (only very slightly) shorter sister, Melanie

Illustration by Timothy Whang '23


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