Chelle Summer

What Remains

Michelle Rusk

As I write this, it’s the 26th anniversary of my sister Denise’s suicide. However, you won’t read this until tomorrow because I’m not posting it on social media until then. I have said in the past that I don’t want to acknowledge her death date anymore and I really don’t which is why I’m waiting another day.

But there’s also another reason– I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.

It’s been 26 years. It’s more than half my life ago since she died and I’ve had plenty of time to examine it, spin it around, turn it upside down, and realize that I can’t change her choice or what happened. What I can control is my life and right now I feel like life has bigger things for me, that I haven’t tapped my potential, and I want to get there. I don’t want to be lost in the aspects of my past that don’t keep me moving forward.

However, no matter how much time and processing go by, the reality is that this date is always marked in my head. St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Tournament are reminders of events leading up to her death. And now we have the anniversary of Mom’s death a week after Denise’s.

I wouldn’t say I’m sad today; too much time and processing has gone by for that. I can’t wonder about “what could have been,” because there’s been too much life since then. Mostly, I feel like when I went to Norway some years ago and saw a black and white photo on my friend’s wall of a teen in a football uniform. I hadn’t known she had a brother because he had been killed in Vietnam, before I was born.

I realized as I stood there looking at his photo that I, too, would be like her one day with a dated photo of my sister because so much life would have passed. I’m there now.

Denise is still part of my life, she is with me, just as my parents and the many others from my life who have died. But I still have much life to live and my focus is on that, not what could have been.