A few years ago I got very interested in genealogy and ended up connecting with a distant Dzenawagis cousin I discovered through the powers of the internet. She shared a lot of interesting information with me, but what I loved the most was what she told me about the meaning of our shared surname:
Dzen is actually Dzien or Dz'en (it is a special symbol in Russian and a different symbol in Lithuania but same sound) - it means “Day” (pronounced Zhen)
-awagis sounds like -owagis, in -owagis the "o" sound is reduced to "a", it is from the verb -owac (ovatch) which means to “Seize”
So the meaning of the name is to “Seize the Day”
As someone with an adventurous spirit and a passion for travel, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out that my last name meant “Seize the Day”.
Around that same time, I reconnected with a not-so-distant Dzenawagis cousin too—my first-cousin David. David and I are only a few months apart in age and grew up in the same town, attending the same family gatherings, going to the same high school, etc. But aside from family, we didn’t necessarily have a whole lot in common back then, and once we both moved off Cape, we didn’t do a very good job of keeping in touch.
But then somehow we ending up finding each other on Instagram a few years ago and I almost couldn’t believe that the David Dzenawagis I was seeing was the same person I had known years before. David had his share of tough times growing up, but the life I was seeing on the screen was telling a much different story.
I saw someone who was loving life and living it on his terms. Someone who had finally found his path. Someone who emanated possibility and positivity. Someone who loved exploring the beautiful nature of Alaska, his new home, with his beloved dog Mickey. And, of course, snow. I think that anyone who knows David in any capacity knows that snowboarding was what he lived for. Even in summer he would post about how he couldn’t wait for winter so he could get back out on the mountain.
After we reconnected, I kept meaning to tell him what I had learned about our last name. With all his crazy adventures, I knew he’d love finding out that Dzenawagis was the Polish version of “Seize the Day”—a motto which he seemed to truly be living.
But than I got the news this week that David died tragically in an avalanche while doing what he loved most in life—snowboarding. Just shy of his 35th birthday, the news was devastating to our family and a reminder of how tragic and unfair life can be.
I will miss watching David’s life from afar, he was truly one of my favorite people to follow along with. Social media gives you a funny way of getting an inside glimpse into lives you may not normally be able to see. And his was one to see. He was doing it right. And it was inspirational to me—and I’m sure to everyone around him.
My heart goes out to everyone who is even more affected by the loss of David than I am. His mother Linda, his sister Amanda, his closest friends in Alaska, Massachusetts, and all over.
May we all take his zest for life with us and “Seize the Day”—or “Dzenawagis”—in his honor.
For anyone interested in attending, viewing hours will be Sunday, March 31st at John Lawrence Funeral Home from 2-5 pm and services the following day, Monday, April 1st, at Our Lady Of Victory Church at 10am. All are welcome.