My younger sister, Diane Colby Zaun, passed in 1985 after a short battle with colon cancer. She was 26 years old. Each year, on her birthday I try to write about her. I don’t write so much to remember her – because I do that nearly every day of my life – but more to remind myself that life is sometimes cut short and to remember that is important. This opportunity each year to reflect on her life helps me in many ways.
This year I have been thinking a lot about who she was – what kind of person she was. I have relatively few specific memories of Diane when we were growing up (that is astounding to me. How can one live in the same household with another for 15 years and feel like they have only a few memories of those 15 years?)
She was pigeon toed and Mom used to put her shoes on the wrong feet because a doctor told her that would force the feet to turn outward. I don’t know if it worked. My recall is that Diane was ALWAYS pigeon toed, but maybe that memory is only based on the earliest years – the years when she was most pigeon toed.
I remember that she loved animals and when my parents bought cows and one of them had a calf, Diane exclaimed, as she saw the newborn still in its amniotic sac, “I didn’t know they came in baggies!” She was probably 10 or 11 at the time.
My step-dad called her “DumDum”, but I have no idea why.
I remember playing cards with her and Gramma Colby and Diane always held onto the corners of the card table with both hands, as if it would fly away if she didn’t hang on to it. And she never cared about winning or losing, she was just in it for the fun.
Diane liked to cook and was always making brownies and cookies. She made healthy versions of many of the treats – using carob instead of chocolate, and wheat flour before wheat flour was a thing and gluten was NOT a thing – they were always delicious.
She was a horse person. Crazy for horses, like so many girls are, but I was not. We had any differences and so were not great friends until we moved away from one another. I went away to college, and then she did, then I moved to Florida and when I came back she joined the Peace Corps. Life went in separate directions but eventually we came back together to become friends.
The memories I hold dearest are the emotional ones. I know that Diane was a sweet, innocent person. I know that she cared deeply for all of life and she cherished her relationships with many many people and animals. I know that she was a passionate believer in right and treated everyone equally and with care and concern.
I think about her often because we are still connected in many ways. When I see Hollyberry goods in the grocery store I am reminded of the many many horseback rides Diane took with Holly. And when I see Facebook posts from her very dear friend Kathy I think of the two of them as teenagers, always together and laughing. And every time I see my granddaughter, who is named after Diane, and is also a horse person, I see my sister. They have the same kind and decent nature, the same gentle smile and giving soul, and the same deep caring for all of life. When Colby Diane travels to Nicaragua to work with orphans I see Diane Colby traveling to the Dominican to improve the health of the people there.
The lessons I have learned from Diane and from her passing have been many over the years. I have come to know that we don’t stop learning from a person when they are physically gone. Every time I am reminded of my sister I know that is because I need to be reminded of one who knew how to be kinder, and gentler, and more soft spoken than I have ever been.
And I know, though it has been 31 years since she walked beside me on this earth, that she still walks beside me and she will continue live on in the hearts of many for a very long time.
Happy Birthday sister!