October 18, 1996.
That day, the universe gave me another little sister. A short time after I heard the news, cradled in the arms of my mother, loosely tucked in a wool, yellow blanket, eyes shut, sleeping, granting me the privilege of realizing her before she had the chance to realize me, Renee Oeisha Thompson was carried into a room I shared with my parents and eldest sister. That’s the complete picture.
Today marks that beautiful day, and my mind can’t seem to latch on to enough words as it works to make sense of my feelings; there isn’t anything I can write and say that’ll make this occasion easier to handle. Frankly, no one can tell me anything that’ll make this better. I choose not to be overwhelmed by blessings, wishes and hopes.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining about anything here, and I don’t sob at the pit of my own misfortune on a daily basis—but, when I do, I make sure that it’s private, just as Renee was private.
Part of what gets me through is the question of whether I’d truly accept—if I could—my sister facing my own death if I were to somehow trade places with her right before she was killed. What if it was me? What if it was my other sister, my mother or father. Today, she’d have to fight what would be the same emptiness I feel, the anger, the regrets related to what could have been said and done prior to ‘the trough’, the ‘climactic anticlimax’, even for the most trivial of conversations we had as siblings.
To us, the family, Renee’s 17th birthday may not be a “happy” day, but when I think about the pain my little sister would feel if she were alive to see the tragedy play out differently, I can’t help but at least count that this day is worry-free. I don’t have to worry about her, and she doesn’t have to worry about me and everyone else.
The record should ALWAYS show that I love Renee. I’d wish her a very happy 17th birthday, and I’m sure she’d skeptically say, “Yeah, thanks, Greg” - with a smile, of course.