Lost & Found

Bella Herring, Writer

The air was crisp and the sky was grey. Perfect weather for a funeral. Rows of chairs were lined up to be filled by family members and friends who hadn’t spoken to Shannon in years. Before she got sick. Or at least when she was good at hiding it.

I remember getting in the car the night I found out. There was a rare silence that can only be found when something bad has happened. 

“Your Aunt Shannon passed away yesterday,” my mom said. 


Silence again.

“It’s up to your dad if he wants to tell you.”

No one had to say anything else. I knew what had happened, though I found out the details a day later.

At the funeral, we all stood around making small talk, the way you do when something terrible has happened. No one had a clue what to say, because only a few had spoken to Shannon in nearly a decade. When people die, their funerals are usually held within a few days, but it had been two weeks since my aunt killed herself, and everyone was eager to put it all behind them. When the service was about to begin, everyone took their seats.

I went to the funeral as a courtesy to my dad and so I could take care of my cousin Jack. His birth when I was seven years old is what kept me from completely forgetting about my Aunt Shannon. All my life, I have been told that there is no such thing as perfection, but it’s him. From a world of drug addiction and isolation came a beautiful bundle of joy with big brown eyes. Her eyes. But Jack also has Aspergers, which makes things difficult for him. He struggles to make friends and focus in school and has insecurities that follow him everywhere he goes, but despite all that, Jack is the kind of person that makes you believe the world isn’t that bad and that everything is going to be okay. All I want to do is protect him, but I know I can’t do that forever.

The impact of my aunt’s death did not hit me until the funeral, when I was forced to look at pictures and hear about the accomplishments of a woman I discovered I did not know that well. Everyone seemed to have memories of a different person from the dark-haired woman I engraved in my mind. 

I had known my aunt since I was a little girl wearing a princess dress everywhere I went, but my idea of “sick” meant that she was bed-ridden with a temperature. My adolescent mind couldn’t grasp the fact that my aunt was on drugs and destroying everything she had in her life. In the end, she was a complete stranger to me. I found out that she had a masters in political science from the University of Louisiana and worked in the House of Representatives. Now, her ashes were being spread at a cemetery in Camden, Arkansas.

My biggest fear is turning out like my aunt–doing everything I can to make a future for myself and throwing it all away because of an addiction. I often see myself standing in her shoes. I feel our similarities every time I look back at pictures of me twirling her old batons and every time my grandmother accidentally calls me Shannon instead of Isabella. Every time I do my makeup at her vanity that was handcrafted specifically for her. Every time I sleep in her old bed, or pick up her books, it feels like I am living through her. It terrifies me. She was an older sister to my dad like I am to my little brother, we share the same favorite book: “Girl Interrupted,” and although I know I am in control of my own life, I can’t help but fear that it will go in the same direction as hers.

Before my aunt’s death, I thought suicide was a selfish act. But it’s not. My aunt was not selfish. She was lost, and there was no bringing her back. The person her family and friends knew her to be was a young, beautiful, healthy woman. A ballet dancer. Smart and kind. But she allowed an addiction to take over her life and turn her into someone that was unrecognizable, even to herself. She became a statistic of suicide.

I hope my aunt knew how loved she was. I pray that I don’t get lost like she was for so many years. I pray that I can help the people I love before they find themselves in such a dark place that they feel like they have no way out.