Born a few minutes apart, they had a scant 30 weeks together before the death of their mother in war wrenched them away from each other. They were identical twins, sharing the mystery of human DNA, and they deserved to face the world together. It was not to be.
Five years later, however, in a remarkable movement of destiny, they looked upon each other once again, confused at seeing their image so clearly represented on another face. When informed they were twins, identical, they reached out, took the other’s hand, and wandered off to play soccer – hundreds of eyes on them lost in wonder.
Today, Abuk and Achan turn 18. Jane and I have watched them grow up every day, etching their height on the door jamb to amaze ourselves at their progress. Not alone in our guardianship, our community has watched over them as well, in everything from education, health, sports, music and dance, friendship, and above all, love and deep respect.
They have those wonderful moments we’ll never forget: how they finish each other’s sentences, practice their own unique form of language, laugh in ways that gather us into their joy, possess an unparalleled companionship and communicate without words. Their similarities are a delight.
But perhaps not as much as their differences. Abuk plays hockey; Achan’s a soccer girl. Achan works hard on her appearance every day; Abuk likes the athletic look. One’s into coffee while the other sticks to water. Abuk loves junk food; Achan not so much. They sometimes fight, though in silence and rarely in outright anger. Whenever we witness these distinctions, we imagine both sides of their African mother’s nature emerging and we rejoice in the sense that her spirit is still alive and flourishing long after her passing.
Each of us have time distinctions in our relationships from being born at different times. Not these two; with each other they are perfectly synced. Mere minutes might separate their birth, but they were both conceived in that same magical instant one fertilized egg split in two, gifting them both with identical DNA. When studies reveal that twins intuit and interact with one another while in their mother’s womb it makes perfect sense to us; we see it every day.
Like other twins, they get upset when others don’t see them as individuals and so they work hard to carve their own world out for themselves. Their rooms and clothes are totally different, as are their friends. They chose to go to two separate high schools and seek two different careers. They spend their days in separate lives.
But then they always, always, come back together. It’s like the womb all over again – prodding, exploring, growing, learning, understanding. Sometimes in those moments I weep, especially when considering what might have been if their African mother hadn’t possessed the courage to flee for safety with them or if their Canadian mom hadn’t possessed it in equal measure to struggle half a world away to bring them to safety. This was a tale of two mothers who never met one another but whose remarkable efforts first birthed the twins and then brought them together across oceans and continents. They would have been great friends, I believe.
It is a tale for the telling – a remarkable narrative that is as fine and moving as any you’ll encounter. But it’s not fiction; it is instead a marvellous ode to the human spirit and the belief that God still works wonders in this world. We are a home with three women and two men and we delight that we are more black than white. And we have harmony and respect for each other. It is human ignorance that separates the genders and races from one another in ways that are harmful. If race or gender are human inventions designed to assert control, for us they are a gift to help us appreciate our equality and distinctions.
Today is their 18thbirthday and I’m sitting here, awake for hours, waiting to hear them come down the stairs and complete our worlds. Abuk and Achan, at this moment I believe it’s impossible that my heart could contain any more love for you. Happy Birthday … and thank you. You’re 18 and your world awaits.