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Remembering my BFF: Lessons I Learned from Christine

Posted Sep 12 2011 8:59pm

My BFF, Christine Rivera Cesano. 12/25/72 to 9/1/2011. Rest in Peace.

Today I peeled myself out of bed with incredible difficulty. It felt like peeling well-stuck gum off the bottom of a shoe (I was the gum, the bed was the shoe). Between the death of my best friend, the most profound sadness I have ever felt, and a horrible case of jet lag, I have had no appetite for blogging. But after attending her viewing this past Friday and her funeral this past Saturday and listening to the speeches given by her family, I just would not feel right if I didn’t also share some of my favorite stories about Christine. After all, she encouraged me to start blogging and was such an avid supporter of my blog. She would have wanted me to press forward with it, even in the midst of grieving.

  • The 8 words Christine said to me most often: “Hi hunny, can I call you right back?” I had a talent for calling her right when she was in the middle of something. And she was a busy lady, no doubt about it. But the thing was, she really did always get back to me that same day! When I say that to people, I almost never mean it, and as a result, it usually takes me days to call them back. She taught me that it is important to respond to the people you love, and to not let them wait too long.
  • Always have a sense of humor. Christine was always ready to laugh. We used to have uproarious times, laughing so hard that my stomach would ache. The last such time was when I brought my mother-in-law and husband to dim sum to meet her mother and her brother. Christine liked to tease her mother for “taking things” from restaurants – napkins, things wrapped in paper, extra cups, silverware, etc. She was joking with her Mom again, holding up a food platter and saying, “Here Mom, will this plate fit in your purse? Or how about these salt and pepper shakers?” And during the course of our conversation, it came up that my husband was a survivor of the World Trade Center from 9/11. Her mother gasped and looked at my husband and said, “And you got out alive?!” Andy (Christine’s brother) and Christine did not miss a beat; in almost perfect unison and in the most serious, deadpan fashion, they said, “No, Mom…this is his ghost sitting here in front of you!” I laughed so hard, I think I peed my pants a little (that has happened a LOT since I gave birth). I’m STILL laughing at that memory, even as I type this.
  • Always give, especially when you want to receive. At her viewing, one of Christine’s best friends eulogized her by saying, “If Christine made $100, she gave away $120.” Yup, that lady knew Christine very well. That was who Christine was. Once, her spa was flooded by the tenant upstairs (a toilet gasket exploded and leaked out overnight, basically). She had to re-do all the carpets, wallpaper, walls, paint, etc., which would cost a lot of money and which may or may not be reimbursed by insurance. In the meantime, she had to close her spa and would lose several weeks of business. I went over to offer my shoulder for her to cry on…after a few sniffles, Christine suddenly brightened up and asked me, “Hey! Would you like a pair of pedicure sandals from Oka B? Here, take these!” I told her, “Wait! I should be giving you stuff. What are you doing handing me a gift at a time like this?” She answered by swatting me on the butt with the aforementioned sandals and said, “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I won’t feel better until you leave with something today for being such a good friend.” She taught me that it really does feel better to give than to receive. Perhaps this was why her own life was so abundant.
  • “Remember: no talking!” Whenever I went over to Destino for services, Christine always told me to shut up. She wanted me to relax and not talk to my therapists/service providers, which tends to be a bad habit of mine. So she taught me to value the times that I could take for myself, because they were certainly few and far between.
  • “We must all love each other.” Christine was never one of those tyrannical spa owners who shoved her ideas and edicts down her employees’ throats. She realized that the owner and her staff were interdependent, and that both benefited from a mutually caring relationship. As a result, Destino was like a family. Whenever I would go visit, I would see them in the back room chatting like birds, delving into each other’s dramas and supporting each other when possible. Sometimes, they got so close that Christine would joke that they were like a dys-functional family, but I think Paige, one of Christine’s long-time employees, said it best when she said that Destino “is a great place to be happy, but it’s the best place to be sad.” What she meant, I think, was that Christine found a way to lift up each of her staff, and to encourage them to lift each other up in turn. She certainly did that for me.

And finally, I just want to tell Christine a few parting words: I love you. I miss you. I thank you for the seven years of friendship, for your extraordinary generosity, and for all of the valuable lessons you have taught me. I know that I will join you one day in the Great Beyond, but in the meantime, I hope you won’t mind if I talk to you while I’m driving, in the shower, or while lying awake at 3am due to jet lag. I feel like I’ve lost my personal angel here on Earth, but I know that you are there in the heavenly firmament, watching over me from up high.

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