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Arianne Brown: Reclaiming my place in the family years after my sister's suicide

Arianne Brown, second from left, sits with five of her nine siblings in this 1992 photo. Her younger brother Rand is sitting on their oldest sister Megan's lap
Arianne Brown, second from left, sits with five of her nine siblings in this 1992 photo. Her younger brother Rand is sitting on their oldest sister Megan's lap
Provided by Arianne Brown

As I ran past the LDS Church's Payson Utah Temple on an early Thursday morning, I was happy. The soft, yet vibrant glow of the temple lights that contrasted the night sky was stunning, and the epic blue moon that was descending after a spectacular showing the night before made for an unforgettable sunrise.

Yet, with all the beauty surrounding me that morning, nothing at that moment compared to who I got the chance to experience it with. Right next to me, running nearly stride for stride, was my younger brother, Rand.

Just shy of five years younger than me, Rand and I share the love of running. “Running Rand” is what kids in school would call him — not too dissimilar to “Ari-ran,” which is what I was often referred to. I remember as children, we would race each other in the backyard. He may not remember, but I sure do.

But as we ran past the temple that morning, I was reminded of something else we have in common: the loss of our older sister, Megan. More than that, I was reminded of what we both experienced in the weeks prior to her death. In separate occasions, we both ran toward the hills to find and try to help our sister who had gone there to contemplate life and if it was worth going on. It is in those same hills in Cedar City where a new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now stands.

What we both experienced with our older sister in those now sacred hills has brought us closer in many ways. However, losing her changed me in a way I didn’t expect. As the second daughter and third oldest child in a family of 10, I was now the oldest sister.

The second Megan left this earth, I was put in a position I was not comfortable being in. No longer did I have the older sister to call for questions, but I didn't have her to defer those questions to when I was asked them. All my life, I was comfortable being the one who didn’t have the answers.

When my Megan died, I felt I was denied my birthright of being a middle child, and suddenly I had to assume a role that didn't make sense to me.

In my struggle to take on the role of oldest sister, I feared that I would fail, so I often didn’t try. As a result, I missed out on many opportunities to get to know my younger siblings better because I was scared I wouldn’t measure up to the way Megan would have done it.

I know my thinking was flawed, but even so, I denied my younger siblings many things they were entitled to, including me as a present older sister.

However, as I ran next to my younger brother, sharing a moment I hope we both remember, I listened to him talk. He told me about the ups and downs of dating, about his dreams and aspirations of being a filmmaker, and the exciting new things he is learning at school. I offered no advice and enjoyed hearing him talk.

As we ran past the Payson Temple that morning, I felt I was given a second chance to make things right. I was given a chance not to be the oldest sister, but to be myself. I felt my birthright being awarded back to me and a heavy burden lifted.

The stunning sight of the temple with a moonlit backdrop reminded me that our sister, Megan was still very much a part of our family and that she had never stopped being the older sister whom we all very much look up to.

Arianne Brown is a mother of eight who loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. She can be contacted at Twitter: A_Mothers_Write.