Red Twin died 22 March 2018, and I gave a eulogy at her funeral 28 March 2018. I’ve copied it below with minor edits for the written form.
About Red Twin
When we were in primary school, Red Twin had on her sandwich every single day devon (which is like fritz), cheese and tomato sauce. Red Twin loved routine and predictability. She’s joked about that in recent years, and contrasted it with the life God called her to live in Central Asia, but during this period when Red Twin was having devon, cheese and tomato sauce on her sandwich every day at lunchtime, she had another daily obsession as well.
Somalia was recovering from a great famine and there were many refugees in Ethiopia at the time. Each day when our family prayed together and Red Twin was asked what she wanted to pray for, it was the Ethiopians. She applied herself with single-minded devotion to praying for those who were suffering though she had never met them. She was so consistent about it that it became something of a family joke – Red Twin and the Ethiopians. But she didn’t care. She was dedicated to praying for them.
At the end of grade 5, our teacher gave each child in the class an award, celebrating a particular aspect of their character. I got the Academy Award, for always being a bit over-dramatic I guess. Red Twin got the Hayley Lewis award, for always being first past the post. Red Twin had a competitive streak, and not being any good at sport, applied herself with extraordinary focus to her schoolwork. She was always the first to finish, often with every single maths sum perfect. Our Mum had a mantra “a job worth doing is worth doing well” and it was like Red Twin took this as a personal challenge, applying it to every arena of life. You only needed to be in an aerobics class with her, and see how low she got her jumping jacks to get a feel for how single-minded she could be. Whether it was aerobics or academics, Red Twin was an overachiever.
And the wonderful thing about Red Twin was how often she applied this same kind of focus in the service of others. In our family, whenever Mum asked for someone to help or do a job, Red Twin was always the first to jump up. It became a family joke how much I complained about drying dishes, a pet hate of mine still. Meanwhile, Red Twin became known for what our Mum dubbed “her helping heart.” Red Twin once confessed to me that perhaps she had few remarkable gifts, because she had no great skills other than to be a ‘good helper’. Of course, I immediately pointed out to her what an absolutely brilliant psychologist this made her, with her unique combination of heart and determination.
Something else that I admired about Red Twin was her relational courage. I know many of you think of Red Twin as a courageous person because of her life in Central Asia, but before that, Red Twin faced the considerable challenge of forging a life as a single woman as friend after friend of hers got married. She resisted bitterness, instead always taking the initiative to create fun and invite others into it. I know this sense of fun was appreciated in the wider team in Central Asia too, as well as her ability to love and care for those who thought very differently to her.
Red Twin was someone who could be teased or even insulted by someone, and still respond to them with a genuine smile. And when she failed to do so, she was always quick to look for her own fault. It used to vex me that even when she was not at fault at all, she would still take the initiative and approach the other person humbly to repair the relationship. That takes effort and courage and a massive dose of Jesus’ Spirit, but Red Twin was always willing. Many of us here could tell our own stories of being on the receiving end of Red Twin’s hospitality, graciousness and gentleness. These are things we will miss.
About being her twin
Several years ago now, Red Twin and I saw a documentary about some conjoined twins who were surgically separated. Though the surgery went well, 4 days after, one of them had a heart attack and died. The remaining twin, kept looking down at the side where her twin used to be, as if trying to work out what happened to her or where she was. I suspect many of us feel that way today, and will continue to feel that way for a long time to come. This vibrant and important person in our lives is not where we left her.
And being her twin brings other dimensions to that for me. With her gone, I feel that I no longer know myself either. Red Twin and I both felt a freedom when we moved overseas, me to Tanzania and her to Central Asia, because the comparisons that we had dealt with our entire lives stopped. No one knew I was a twin, so no one thought to tell me whether I was the skinnier one, or taller, louder, smarter, prettier, more dominant, more likeable, whatever. But in some ways I also felt unknowable to those people, because being a twin is such a big part of my identity.
Red Twin and I loved being together. We were highly functional on our own, as evidenced by our lives in separate countries. But we describe being together as going from life in 2-dimensional to life in 3-dimensional. Everything was more vibrant, more fun, more complete. We used ‘we’ language – ‘we think this’, ‘we hope that’, because we were so connected. We like the term ‘twindividual’, how it captures that we are neither individuals in the conventional sense, nor the same person, but something different entirely. Our sister Jess always insisted that what she called our ‘Mutual Admiration Society’ was playing out between two people what most people do in their own head: “Am I right? Oh yes, you’re definitely right. You’re so amazing, I completely agree with you.” Of course, this also made us one hell of a team when it came to playing games like Taboo or Pictionary, though our family and friends quickly wised up to this and insisted we play on different teams!
But now, the one who made me a ‘twindividual’ is gone. I face this loss alone, and I wonder how I will process it without talking to Red Twin. We used to say about anything that happened, “It’s not real until I’ve told you.” If one twin dies, and the other can’t talk to her about it, did it really even happen? If I were to process what it means to be a twinless twin, there’s only one person I want to do that with, and she is not here.
In the words of Beth from Little Women, she has gone ahead. I was first to be born, first to lose a tooth, first to get my period, first to get a boyfriend, first to graduate university, first to move out of home, but Red Twin is the first to see Jesus face-to-face. It’s the ultimate Hayley Lewis award. And as wonderful as that is, the joy and completeness she must feel, I wonder whether she only feels it in that 2-dimensional way still, because I am not there to know it with her. Is she waiting for me, storing up a thousand anecdotes to share when I arrive so it can be real?
About Red Twin and Central Asia
An anecdote Red Twin would have been sharing with all of you, were she still around, is the story of her friend Hope from Central Asia, and she asked me to share it today. In Red Twin’s last year in Central Asia, Hope confided to Red Twin that she was bleeding continuously. Red Twin referred her to a good local doctor, told her the story of the bleeding woman who touched Jesus, and prayed for her in the name of Jesus.
When she saw her a few months later, they were only able to speak briefly, but she again offered to pray for Hope, telling her how God sees even the sparrows that fall to the ground, and if he cares for the sparrows, he certainly sees and cares for her. Hope turned to the other ladies there and said, “Hear the beautiful things that this foreigner says to me about God. She is truly my heart-sister. And when she prays, God answers. I was bleeding, she prayed for me and my bleeding stopped. Now I am clean.”
Red Twin was taken a bit by surprise by this; it took her a moment to realise that she had been witness to a miracle. Many of us here prayed for a miracle for Red Twin as well. And yet, as Hope was healed by Jesus’ resurrection power in Red Twin, so we can be confident that Red Twin too is healed fully. She is with Him, and she will rise on the last day. And He has brought her home to be with Him, to the place Jesus has been preparing for her since He ascended.
So Red Twin is home. But we are not home yet. Each of us here has not yet done all the good works that God planned in advance for us to do. And the question still on Red Twin’s mind in her last months with us was, ‘what of her friend Hope and those like her?’
If you were around Red Twin for any length of time, you would inevitably be hit up by her invitation to come and join her in Central Asia. In fact, even in her final moments of consciousness in the hospital, marked by delirium, her thoughts were towards Central Asia, as she attempted to conduct a training session in the hospital room. We were all a bit shocked when she sat up and suddenly said, “You’re all Muslims for the purpose of this exercise. Now, I saw salam alayekoom and you say alayekoom salam!” and then lay back down. But it goes to show that even as she was preparing to leave this world, she was concerned that the people of Central Asia not be forgotten.
That urgency is only increased now, because with Red Twin gone, there is now one fewer witness to Jesus in Central Asia. And she was fond of pointing out all the different kinds of people needed – not just the traditional doctors, nurses and teachers, but engineers, IT professionals, OTs, managers, people with soft skills, etc. I won’t give you her whole pitch, but suffice to say, she did her work there faithfully, but God’s work continues, and so I take my cue from Red Twin, and feel compelled to ask: will you take over from her? Will you continue her work of binding up the broken-hearted?
One special young lady who is here today, along with her family who are very dear to Red Twin, wrote in a card to her, “I hope you have a happy time in Heaven. I’ll see you there.” What a beautiful hope. We all long for that reunion, but I know Red Twin’s great desire is that when we see one another again, there will be a stack of other people there – Central Asian people, worshiping the Father, Son and Spirit along with us. What a wonderful way that would be to honour her, and all she lived for.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.