They were violently wrenched apart at only four months of age. Too young to understand what happened, they likely were terrified by the sound of gunshots and their mother covered in blood. One was immediately ushered away while the other lay in a tangle of bodies, nestling in the arms of her dead mother.
For years they both lived separate lives, aware that the other had once existed, but believing that death had taken the other. They were informed they had once had an identical twin but that life and war had conspired to separate them forever. The one lived and thrived in Canada, aware of her loneliness but surrounded by everything wonderful. The other fought for life in Darfur, also aware of loneliness but with nothing present that could ease the feeling of alienation and fear.
On a single day in 2005 they bumped into one another beside an airplane on a dirt airstrip in South Sudan. They looked at each other, fascinated by the resemblance, but too young to understand what was happening. To the amazement of all, they later grasped hands and walked away from the crowd, holding on to a soccer ball. Time stood still. The earth stopped rotating. Destiny was in the making.
It was later that day that the identical twins learned that other had, in fact, survived but half a world apart. While they kicked the soccer ball in the dirt, forces at play on two continents had already begun to reunite them in Canada. This was Abuk and Achan, our twin girls, and an ever-present reminder that not only do miracles yet occur, but they mature over the years to the amazement of those willing to see. Today, they become teenagers. At thirteen years of age they have defied the odds and brought honour to their two mothers – one dead, the other preciously alive. To this day, they look individually in the mirror and see the other. They look at each other and see themselves.
For those around them there has been the discovery that there are two things for which we are never fully prepared – twins. They stand as one of the unique unfoldings of creation and humanity. They remind all of us that every once in a while two people come into life together, sharing possibilities as they once shared a womb. And they are an eternal reminder that they share an African mother that lost her life in her pursuit of their freedom and in that reality they will ever be bound to a remarkable woman leaving them with an inspiring legacy.
But there is more. They share another mother, a Canadian woman, who also risked her life for their freedom. Only this Mom they get to keep – and what a keeper she is. In so many ways she is younger in spirit than they are, more capable of spontaneous joy than anyone else in our family. And as they mature they will ever be captured by the memory and knowledge that this mother lives every waking moment treating the rest of humanity like she treats these precious girls.
I ask you, what were the odds that they would be together for their teenage birthdays? The war, the famine, death of their mother, in remotest Africa, disease, lack of water, noticed by only a few people in their village willing to care for them – such things conspire to wipe out lives and possibilities.
But not for these two. They live and are as different as identical twins usually are. Yet they are the living embodiment of Louisa May Alcott’s observation – “We’re twins, and so we love each other more than other people.”
This is a day of possibilities, of reminders that should we but enter into the pains of humanity we might yet rescue people from their circumstances and unleash their marvelous humanity in our generation – and theirs.
There is a custom in South Sudan that tells of how a mother who has died but whose twins remain separated hovers over the earth in her efforts to reunite them. If unsuccessful she takes them to heaven to be with her. If successful, and they come together on earth, she is free. The village sacrificed a bull in honour of the twins and as they looked on with Jane they could hardly have understood what this meant to the Sudanese. One mother from Canada had one last slave to free – a weary Sudanese mother of twins attempting to bring them together. In that one act they were united before the entire village and their African mother could cease from her labours. Go, then, Sudanese Mom, and rest. They live. They thrive. They love. And they will ever be reminded that you sacrificed your all so that they might have a shot at living. If you could only see them now. It was a sacrifice worth making in every sense of the word. We thank God for every thought of you – a towering woman. Just think, your twin girls are thirteen today. Who knew?