A Sibling’s Perspective On Visiting Home for Christmas

I think I can speak for all of us when I say the last year has been riddled with difficult decisions and the experience of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. There have been very few (if any) easy solutions in this season of life. It’s overwhelming to say the least. There are so many layers to the ways this pandemic has affected each of us.

For me, when the shelter in place was ordered in my state back in March of this year, it marked an unexpected and abrupt ending to my last year of ministry school. It was a frustrating and disappointing loss. My family had planned a trip to California for my graduation complete with a caregiver for my sister Carly so we could all enjoy ourselves through the festivities. (Carly is 22 years old and has Angelman Syndrome.) I certainly missed the opportunity to celebrate such a monumental moment alongside my family whom I hadn’t seen since Christmas 2019.

Of course at that point in time, none of us knew the extent to which this pandemic would encroach on our plans, and our lives.

I knew when I moved across the country from my family that there would be times we would have to go long periods of time without seeing one another. But I never imagined having such a barrier between my family and me. I never imagined a world where I would have to protect my sister by staying away from her.

Erin (left) and Carly (right) enjoying the snuggle-hug we all love.

For most of the fall it looked like I wouldn’t be coming home for the holidays this year. Trying to navigate travel and figuring out how to adequately quarantine and protect my family while limiting my time away from my commitments back in California was a feat.

I never imagined a world where I would have to protect my sister by staying away from her.

For better or worse, the lockdowns in my state actually allowed me the flexibility to come home for the holidays. However, in order to limit travel, coming home for Thanksgiving meant staying through the New Year—a break I would have been used to in my college years, but a long time to be away from your own home when you’re 25 years old.

Bittersweet. It’s all bittersweet. Opportunities borne out of frustrating circumstances.

One of the gifts of being away for long periods of time is that I come back seeing things from a different perspective. I’ve been able to encourage my parents and Carly’s caregiver by sharing progress I see that they don’t always fully recognize when they are with her every day. It’s also hard to see, up close, the ways this pandemic has challenged them all. Carly is extremely adventurous and social. It is heartbreaking to see her working so hard to cope with the changes and navigate what is going on. I have been encouraged to see her doing so well despite how immensely difficult this season must be for her.

One of the gifts of being away for long periods of time is that I come back seeing things from a different perspective.

Carly’s favorite times seem to be when everyone is together. I know that my presence brings a certain amount of peace to Carly. But I also know the confusion and grief she will feel when I again leave for another unknown period of time.

Through it all, I am feeling so thankful to get to be with my family this Holiday season, knowing it could easily have gone differently.

As a sister, it’s wonderful to know that bringing myself back into Carly’s world can bring some normalcy and joy to this chaotic season of her life.

And I know that some Carly snuggles will do me worlds of good too.


Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights she experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. Erin serves with Walk Right In Ministries speaking on special sibling issues and assisting with social media. She has also served frequently in her community and home church as a worship leader. Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville and currently lives in California where she completed three years of study at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Her latest CD Come Alive (released 2018) and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services.

Find out more at www.erinjamieson.com.