Keep Climbing, Diane

My sister Diane  died on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 after a 5-month  battle with cancer. I hope to show as much dignity, grace, and humour as she did if I were ever faced with a similar life-threatening illness. She epitomized what I try to achieve with this blog, showing that “with humour and hope is the only way to live.”

This is the tribute I wrote for her Celebration of Life on Saturday, October 11, 2014.  She gave me the strength to read it to a packed Coronation Hall in Omemee, the small town where she lived for almost 30 years. Family, friends, and work colleagues gathered to share stories, photos, laughter, tears, and some of her favourite music (two of the songs are mentioned here.)

Diane would sometimes say to me, “Oh, Christine, you and your stories” when I’d start going into too much detail, or go on too long, so I am going to try and do neither.

Our Dad once said that the only thing Diane and I had in common was the Dunlop family name.

With her thick strawberry-blonde hair, and my thin brown hair, we didn’t even look alike, but if you look closely, we have the same eyes.

We didn’t always get along, and yet sometimes we’d be the best of friends. It was especially fun going on drives with Dad in the old Volkswagen.

When we were alone we were either fighting, or she was trying to convince me to do something I didn’t want to do. She’d sometimes hit me hard enough to knock the wind out of me, but I was really breathless the day she insisted that we not only line up for a long time to get on The Flyer [the old roller coaster at the Ex] but that we wait until we could get into the front car so that we’d have the best view. My eyes were probably shut tight.

She badly scratched one of my Beatles records, and I broke one of her Iron Butterfly records—we had very different tastes in music—yet she introduced me to Ani DiFranco and The Tragically Hip, and we had great times going to those concerts.

As kids we had great times on holidays, although we hated having to share not only the same room but also the same bed—we had the luxury of having our own rooms at home. Before you knew it though, we’d be giggling, especially after Mom or Dad would check on us and we’d pretend to be asleep—thinking we’d fooled them. Then we’d go back to talking until we really did fall asleep.

We couldn’t stay in the kitchen at the same time and do the dishes when we were kids, but as adults we could cook a meal together—as long as I remembered that she was the Queen of Gravy and Sauce Making. I happily left that job to her, and no one did it better.

I was jealous of her athletic ability, but admired it at the same time. I just wasn’t as fearless, or as coordinated. You name it, she learned quickly, and she did it well. Not me. She tried to teach me how to ski, play better tennis, or to hit or throw a baseball further, but I could never match her.

Something she did teach me was how to be a great mom. Clayton, her youngest, is only 15 days older than our oldest, Eric, so Diane and I were pregnant and raising babies together.

Clayton is the youngest of three kids. So, she definitely had an advantage, and was so generous with her advice, and baby clothes! The main thing she taught me, by her actions, more than her words, was that having fun with your kids was really important. It was always nice to know that she was only a phone call away when I needed her help.

Phone calls weren’t as good as her letters though. She’d write about her adventures with her kids. I’d laugh until I cried—the tears were partly because we lived so far away and didn’t see each other that much.

We moved due to my husband’s job, and it was great when she was only a couple of hours’ drive away instead of half a day’s drive away, but it seemed there was never enough time, and we didn’t visit that often. Sometimes a long time would pass even between phone calls.

We always knew that we were there for each other, and although we’d sometimes get on each other’s nerves, I loved her ferociously and I am going to miss her terribly. She’s not going to be just a phone call away, but I know she will always be with me.

I can hear her say that my stories have gone on long enough, but I want to share one more:

Diane was a climber—first over fences, then into trees. She was only two or three when she climbed a huge tree in our Aunt Ellen’s backyard. When asked how she got up there, she said, “Easy. Just put your feet on the silver things.” She’d climbed on a telephone pole before moving over to the tree.

She was fearless, and strong, and loved to have her own view of the world. Keep climbing, Diane. Now you’re on that Stairway To Heaven and Knocking on Heaven’s Door.

DSC_0403-001Diane Marie (Dunlop) Palmer

October 21, 1955-October 1, 2014

 I thought about adding photos to this post, but in the end, decided on just adding hers.


18 thoughts on “Keep Climbing, Diane

  1. You did a fine job with this tribute, Christine. I didn’t really know Diane, but after the Celebration of Life, looking at the pictures and listening to stories from her family and friends, I feel I know her a little better. Sounds like she left lots of happy memories to cherish.

  2. What a lovely tribute to your sister, Christine. I’m sure she would be pleased on your account of the times you shared together, as you have written them with so much love. I wish I had a sister – especially one with such zest for life. Hugs to you, my friend.

  3. With tears in my eyes I read this while thinking of my own sisters. I understand that special bond that even if it seems like it is not going well it truly is. This is a bond that can never be broken. I wished I had known your sister she sounds like the kind of person that we can all learn a thing or two from.
    I do know she will always be with you and that is never going to end.
    This is a beautiful tribute and I am sure this is a story of yours she loved hearing. Thank you for sharing a part of Diane with all of us.I truly wish you had more time to make more stories together. I am sure that heavens door was swung open very quickly and welcoming her in.Take care HUGS B

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