Celebrating My Sister – One Year Later

I couldn’t let this week go by without acknowledging the fact that it’s now been a full year since my older sister, Jen, passed away. I expected to be a blubbering mess as the date approached but find that I’m doing okay. I dream about her most nights and think about her every day, but I’m moving forward – comforted by the belief that her spirit is off being busy somewhere.

She’s likely laughing with our grandparents, playing catch with our beloved family canines, and soaking in knowledge. I trust that Jen’s journey didn’t end with her death – it only curved. She’s alive in spirit – and she’s probably the reason I’ve found so many pennies in my path lately. She did love Lincoln!


I think about all the what-ifs (I know reason says I shouldn’t, but I do) and all the hopes I had for her. I can’t go back, but I can reflect and move forward. My sister was a fierce, independent soul – championing environmental causes and women’s rights. We would frequently have in-depth discussions (aka disagreements) in the oddest of locations but I knew she challenged me because she cared. I have many regrets of words I never said. Did she know I loved her even if I didn’t say so every time I saw her? Did I ever tell her I was proud of her or admired her?

And here come the tears…I can’t live my life for HER – only for me – but I will absorb the memories and carry her with me as I continue on my life’s journey. She is in my heart and my soul (and sometimes she’s annoyingly in my mind) now and always.

I wrote the following piece and shared it during and Open Mic session at the 2017 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference this past week. I share it with you in honor of my sister and how our differences bound us together.

I almost didn’t register this year. Not out of a lack of interest or displeasure with the conference. Last year was my third time attending and I relished every moment. I networked, made new friends, and received a plethora of information about my craft. I went home inspired and ready to move forward. Then, two days later I discovered my older sister in her apartment, gravely ill. She passed away three days after the 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and my world changed in ways I hadn’t expected or anticipated.

My sister was the eldest of four girls – all of whom differed in personality. We had our disagreements as siblings do but we were protective of one another. I remember Jen telling me during my last visit to her college apartment (seniors in high school and college respectively) that if I ever dated a man who hurt me, he’d have to answer to my sisters.

Jen loved us but wasn’t the lovey-dovey type, that was me. Jen made her opinion known, whether you asked for it or agreed with it. She was fiercely independent and determined to live on her terms. I shall never forget her final hours, seeing her struggling for breath and wailing for relief.

I looked up to my big sister. I watched Family Ties and Star Trek: The Next Generation because Jen did. My love for Les Mis started because Jen listened to it. Most of my feminist views formed as a result of our intense conversations. She was an important influence on me and that didn’t cease I death.

It took some time and counseling to see myself as separate from her – to understand that it wasn’t up to me to save her. She made her decisions, just as I make mine. I’ve chosen to celebrate my life and embrace all that defines me. I am the nurturer, the dreamer, the romantic, and the idealist. And I believe that Jen loved me as I am.


Published by Kelly Deeny

I am a writer, singer, jewelry designer, and theatre enthusiast. I use various forms of artistic expression for personal reflection, community discussion and creative inspiration. My premiere novel encapsulates all of the above. Follow along on my journey towards an artistic career!

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