A Sibling's Identity Journey That Shattered A Family

Telling the story resurfaced the pain yet gave me hope

Ash Jurberg
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readOct 19, 2023

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Sad female sitting on sofa reflecting on a fight
Adobe Image

I was shocked when my brother died. We were never close, but he was only eighteen, and, to me at least, it was unexpected. What made it harder to comprehend was my sister's role in his demise and how it forever changed our family's dynamics.

Last week, I had to tell my twin sixteen-year-old sons the truth about their aunty. A truth I often struggle with. I didn't know where to begin — which is an odd sensation for a writer and storyteller.

Boys, I need to tell you a story…

I always found it hard to spend time with M. Four years younger than me, yet a world away. M was annoying — as all younger siblings tend to be, but at an extreme level. My friends could tolerate their pesky younger siblings, but my patience always wore thin with M. He seemed to exist in a different world designed to test me.

One day, when I was twelve and M was eight, I was assigned babysitting duties, a punishment worse than doing homework. I was walking with M to the park when, out of nowhere, a large and angry German Shepherd charged towards us, its frantic owner vainly trying to rein it in.

Run, M, run!

I took off towards the park where I could climb up the slide and to relative safety. M stood still and looked at me. Then he looked at the dog. He chose to run towards the dog. Torn between saving myself and incurring the wrath of my parents or trying to rescue my annoying, pesky, do-everything-to-test-me brother, I ran towards him.

It was now me versus the German Shepherd in a race to M. The dog won, leaping onto M and chomping into his arm like it was his dinner. I tried to pull the dog off, but it was clamped tight. Finally, the apologetic owner arrived at the scene and extracted his dog — with parts of M's skin.

I looked at M and exasperated, I asked him why he didn't run toward me.

I didn't feel like it.

Even in the face of danger, M refused to listen to me.

The dog removed one layer of M that day, but we soon learned many more were beneath.

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