Michele Yeo Venezia
Submitted by: Tiffany Roy
My Tribute: This is the story of my Michele. In life, there are two types of relationships. Some relationships are a result of an active choice, you seek that person out and choose to spend your time with them because you enjoy them. These are friendships. Then there are those relationships that life chooses for you. You were destined by forces unknown to live life together. This is family. Michele was my family. I remember Michele in my life as far back as my memories go. She was a combination of the oldest child in her family of 4 (the family of my father’s best friend) and the youngest child in mine (I had 2 younger sisters-we were born 82,83,84 and Michele came in January of 85). She was an outgoing brat. Always around, always picking a fight, refusing to be ignored. We once fought so much in the car on the Fourth of July on our way home from a fireworks display that we made her mother cry. Her mother CRIED we bickered so much. Like sisters. We grew up in middle class families. Our dad’s liked to fish, so we fished together. We all played softball. It was a wonderful childhood and I loved Michele long before I ever had a choice in the matter. She was family.
With age, Michele grew more and more beautiful. It was impossible not to be aware of her presence, her smile would light up any room. She had a loud, booming laugh. I think this will be the thing I remember most vividly about her, her laugh. With high school came boys and parties. She was just a fun person to be around, and as we aged, we stopped bickering and became more like real sisters. We stood shoulder to shoulder in fist fights, friends of hers became friends of mine. I went on to college and Michele and my two sisters stayed in high school. Life progressed and the party eventually stopped, but not for Michele. She was young and beautiful, and her party continued on until it was clear her party was a problem. And her problem continued on until it was clear she was no longer my Michele.
Sometimes I would see the side of her that most resembled my Michele. These glimpses of my old Michele became fewer and father between. The rest of the time she was someone unfamiliar, wasn’t funny, seemed aloof. It got so I spent most of our time trying to figure out if she was high or not, she didn’t seem interested in me, always distracted. It was these glimpses of my old Michele that kept me coming around, hoping things would get better, hoping I could reach her. She married a wonderful man who loved her, they had a daughter. I thought this would be the change she needed, surely the strength of a mother’s love would be stronger than this drug. But even that wasn’t enough. I watched her family struggle, I watched her husband and his family struggle and I struggled myself. I struggled not to enable her, I struggled to make her see. So many loved ones fought so hard for so long. We wanted to believe she could be trusted, she wanted to be better. My old Michele was slipping away, and I was desperate to have her back. This new Michele used my love for my old Michele against me. She would tell me she didn’t want to be like that anymore, and she would mean it. But she would always go back and I resigned myself to the fact that she was gone long before today. But this did not lessen the pain of her loss, and it did not stop the rush of memories of my old Michele and our happy times.
In contemplating other devastating losses I have encountered, I have come to put these losses in two categories. On one hand, I have experienced losses that I mourn mostly for myself. These might be grandparents or loved ones who have lived long and fruitful lives, living to a ripe old age. These people have celebrated many birthdays and weddings and milestones. I am sad as a result of my selfish need to have that person in my life because I’ll miss them, and my life will not be the same without them. In looking at long, full lives, it’s hard to feel sad. Then there are times when I mourn for the lost. These are young lives cut short, those with so much life to live and experience. Here I mourn what could have been, what should have been and the unfairness of that tragedy. Today I find myself in a new state of grief, in a class all her own. For her young, beautiful daughter who I pray will remember her mother, and so many loving family and friends for whom 29 years were simply not enough, I am sad because I’ll miss her and I am sad for all she’s missing, my Michele.