As I mentioned in a previous post, I lost my sister in December of this year. When news first broke that my sister died, several media outlets contacted me for information and I politely declined to comment. Reporters are relentless and I could never do their job. While I avoided all emails and phone calls, a message came through from on facebook from a reporter asking to do a story on my sisters legacy. It immediately caught my interest. I contacted the reporter because I wanted my sisters children to have a story to remember their mother. I wanted them to be able to google her name when they’re older and see stories other than the violent titles that newspapers use to capture readers.
I had a phone interview with a reporter just days after my sisters funeral, with my emotions still very fresh. Before we spoke on the phone, I specifically told her I was interested in speaking only about my sister. She started by asking me some lighthearted questions to get to know me. She asked who I am, where I went to college, where we grew up. I remember sipping my peppermint tea at my kitchen island and my hands were shaking. I’ve never been interviewed before and I didn’t know what to expect. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fully articulate what my sisters true legacy is. I went over my answers in my head over and over again because I wanted them to be perfect so whoever read about Christine Dzienisiewski knew what an incredible woman she was. But as soon as the reporter asked if she was my only sibling, I couldn’t hold in my emotions. There were a few questions that took me several minutes to answer because I couldn’t speak through my tears. She was calm and professional and let me cry.
She asked me our childhood, her career and her hobbies. After we were wrapping up the conversation, she briefly asked questions looking for more information to create a “jucier” story but I wouldn’t give it to her. After weeks of empty promises, the story was never published. I can only assume it’s because my answers didn’t give more information about her death. My story was simply about broken hearted little sister trying to remember her big sister. I suppose there’s nothing really newsworthy about that. I was so excited to see my story through someone elses words and was really disappointed that the story was never published.
I’ve never been one to keep a journal, other than this little blog. I often hesitate posting personal things because this blogged is linked to my business. I recently told a client these feelings and she said that if someone reads about me pouring my heart out and they don’t want to work with me, than it wasn’t a right fit to begin with. She’s right. If you don’t like my posts, or this is too personal than I don’t want to work with you either. ;) My business is my life: it’s hard to separate the two and I am very much an open book. My clients and I develop a close relationship throughout the design process so I am inviting you into my life.
Writing what I learned this year was really therapeutic so I thought it might be helpful for me to write about my sister and to create that legacy “article” I started months ago. But, how do I share a legacy of a woman who touched so many lives? Do I even know my own sister well enough to share her legacy? I am sure she didn’t even know herself well enough to know what her powerful legacy would be. And honestly… if you look at yourself, do you really know yourself well enough to know the impact you have on people? In my twenties, I was very insecure because I didn’t really feel like I knew who I truly was as a person. I was still figuring myself out, developing my career, and starting my life with Ryan. Within this past year, I feel like I have truly found myself and this experience has really shown me who I am as a person. I feel like tragedy shows a persons true colors and I am proud of myself, and really love who I am. Even though I lost my sister and I miss her terribly every single day, she has taught me an incredibly invaluable life lesson. Because of my sister, I am more emotionally aware and stronger than I ever was.
Christine Theresa Dzienisiewski was born May 19, 1977 and is my parents first born. Since I’m seven years younger, I obviously don’t have many stories about her younger childhood, but I can write about my first memories of her. My parents have a video of them telling her she was going to be a big sister. I remember her asking if they’d love me more than her (they, of course, said never), and then she said she wanted to name me big bird or something silly like that. I’m thankful that my parents didn’t take her name option too seriously. :)
When I think back to our childhood there are a few very clear memories that stick out to me. My first memory is of us in her bedroom playing a game we called “boat” when I was about five years old. Our silly game was nothing fancy. We would pretend that her bed was our ship, the blue wall-to-wall carpeting in her bedroom was the ocean, and my fisher price rotary dial phone was the only thing we had on board. She used my phone to “call” members of New Kids on the Block and then she would always pretend to go overboard. I would always cry and thought she literally was going to get eaten by sharks.
Another favorite memory I have of our childhood is of her dressing up like Madonna and putting on shows in my bedroom at night to help me go to sleep. She had the lace gloves to look like Madonna, and if you grew up in the 80’s/90’s, I’m sure you did, too. We had a big brown shopping bag of leftover fabric scraps from my grandmothers sewing projects and we’d use the material as dress up “clothes”. She’d drape them over herself very dramatically and say that she was late for the award show and leave my room in a huff. I can specifically remember falling asleep one night smiling because she spent the entire night with me. Her annoying little sister. These memories I have of her as a child are funny to me because it was exactly her personality as an adult: dramatic, goofy and creative.
There were also times when she tormented me, as any older sibling does. We had a vacation house in the Poconos, and she would always tell me that bears could climb the side of the houses. So my imagination tricked me into seeing a bear outside my second story bedroom in the middle of the night one night. So mean. She also used to tell me that if I gave my parents the middle finger that it meant I wanted to go to Disneyworld. So I remember giving my dad the finger in Bradlees and getting in so much trouble. Looking back, these stories make me smile because it was a normal sibling relationship. But back then I didn’t understand why she didn’t want to play with me.
I was always jealous of my friends relationships with their siblings growing up because they were closer in age, and seemed to have more in common. Because my sister and I were 7 years apart, there was always such a huge gap in our lives. I know she was always proud of me, was always very protective of me, but I always wished we were closer. It wasn’t until I was 15 that our relationship really deepened. By this point she had already taught me how to shave my legs, that if you’re wearing open toed shoes you should always have a pedicure, and even gave me “the talk” because our parents were always too awkward to talk about sex. She bought me my first thong because she said that you should never have panty lines. And we both hate the word “panty”. Just a strange pet peeve for both of us. :) I was so excited to have that true sister relationship and we started spending a lot of time together by this point. She took me to get my belly button pierced when I was 16 (whoops!) and she pretended she was my aunt. My mom was so angry with us when she eventually found out, but my sister just laughed it off. She was the wild child, and I was always the quiet, innocent one. That year she also taught me how to snowboard, something I will eventually teach my nephew and niece since it was something she loved it so much. She loved an adrenaline rush: she loved snowboarding, four wheelers, tattoos, loved roller coasters, always talked about going sky diving, and loved to travel.
One of my favorite memories of my sister was the day Kaytlynn was born. Christopher had just walked into the room wearing his “bodyguard for my new sister” tee shirt my sister made him. He climbed up on the bed next to her while she was holding Kaytlynn and Christine looked so content. Christopher kissed little Kaytlynn’s head and was smitten right away. You could tell that Christine felt her family was finally complete. I remember her posting on facebook that night that saying “my heart feels so full <3″. Christine wanted a family for literally as long as I can remember. She started subscribing to Martha Stewart Wedding magazine when she was 17 years old and kept every issue until she eventually moved out of my parents house. She was a romantic at heart and just wanted to love and be loved.
I’ve always found it interesting how people are remembered once they die. When I look at my sisters facebook page, especially once she first died, it was heartwarming to see what people said. They remember her passion for photography, her photos of sunrises and sunsets, how she was the life of the party, and of course what an amazing mother she was. But, it’s funny to me that no one mentioned her crazy, twisted, sarcastic sense of humor. She was loud and loved to make everyone laugh, no matter where you were. She was known to say that she’s the kind of person “to have fun at a funeral”, so I mentioned this in my toast at her repast. She was so embarrassing to go to funerals with because she’d be so silly just to make someone smile. But that’s also what I love most about her. She was loud and had jokes that made you laugh until your belly hurt even if it was completely inappropriate.
I see so much of my sister in each of the kids. Christopher can be loud and silly, but is also gentle and cuddly. Kaytlynn is insanely maternal, even at such young age, but she is feisty and stubborn like my sister. She loves when I open the sunroof in the car and we listen to the music so loud that you can barely hear us singing. I get teary eyed and smile every time we do this because this is something my sister used to do with me when she first got her license. When I’m with them, I feel like I’m with my sister and it feels amazing. I know they are literally a piece of her and I will cherish that forever.
I started writing this post months ago and each time I sign online to finish it, I get writers block and random memories come into my head. I think of my sister every day. Honestly, I am probably reminded by her at least every hour. Silly things remind me of her like passing a Wawa, because she lover their Cappuccino or as she called it, “Crackaccino”. Anytime I see a beautiful sunset, I think of her because she often posted pictures on facebook. Her favorite sunsets were the bright pink ones right before or after a storm. I think of her any time I take a picture because photography was a huge passion of hers. It seems that any song reminds me of her these days, especially anything from Kings of Leon, No Doubt or Adele because she loved them. “Take Me to Church” so specifically reminds me of her, especially that first verse and because it was really popular shortly after she died. Anytime I see a Twilight marathon come on TV, I think of her odd fascination with the series. She was obsessed with Robert Pattinson and I never understood why and teased her about it. Any time I have a glass of wine, or see wine I think of her. If she was having a really bad day, she would have a “Christine sized” glass of wine… and that glass was basically filled to the rim. Anytime I see a bunny I think of her because she absolutely loved bunnies and had one as a pet in her early 20’s. Every day I am reminded by little things how much I miss my sister and how quirky she was.
When we were going through her personal items to clear out the house, I came across a card I gave to her in 2004. At the time I gave it to her I was 20 and she was 27. It says…” Whoever said ‘A sister is more than a friend’ was right… Sure, friends are fun to run around with…. you get to try out new things, different styles, other ways of thought. But even best friends don’t really know each other the way sisters do. With you, it’s no use pretending to be happier than I am or nonchalant when something really big happens. You know where I come from, what all my hidden feelings are, and why. You know the real me, through and through, and though that means we know how to push each others buttons better than anybody, it also means we both know we have a place to go where we will always be accepted and understood. I can’t imagine a life without that feeling of being truly known and having a place I truly belong… I’m so glad we have each other.” I wish I could say I wrote that, but it was a beautiful card from hallmark. I wrote on the bottom in my curly, girly writing “I couldn’t have said it better myself, I love you.” I was touched that she kept it for all these years, and it broke my heart that I don’t have her anymore.
I’ll never feel like this post is complete because I can’t describe my sister in just a few paragraphs. My sister was a beautiful woman and she is so complex to describe who she was as a person. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to share with the kids who she was and just how deeply she loved them.