Susan Hanish Anderson


Holy Spirit Elementary-May 1993

I wanted to express my deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to you and your family in the passing of Rachel. While she and I did not keep in touch after I transferred high schools or later into our adult years, I have some of the most vivid and fond memories of Rachel from my childhood.


I’ve also found inspiration, motivation and grace in quotes and I ran across this remark a few days ago: We don’t remember our lives. We only remember the memories we have chosen to define our lives.


So many memories come to mind:

  • Rachel was smart, I remember her doing well in elementary/Jr High School, competing in knowledge with the likes of Charlie and Tyler. She had no fear and it seemed to come naturally to her.
  • She always had the best hair; a French braid of some sort was common, and I wished I could braid my own her to look like hers.
  • Her sarcasm. I don’t know if she carried that through her adult years, but I remember she liked to tease, trick and be sarcastic. One time she and I think Jessica called me at home and got me to believe they were calling from an airplane (that would have been cool back then). They got quite the kick out of that little trick.
  • Halloween, one year she and I were both these Spanish Dancers, my mom almost killed me for spending $25 dollars on a Halloween costume!
  • I remember so many sleepovers as a kid with Rachel, Kristi and Ann. We must have drove you guys completely insane with all our laughter and late nights.
    • One sleepover I remember we sneakily watched Children Under the Stairs in her room, she was extra cool with a TV in room. I’m pretty sure I still have nightmares, Rachel was such a rebel.
    • Movies in your family room on the white leather furniture, for some reason that sticks out to me. Just visiting and hanging out.
    • A white cat, whose name totally escalates me, but I remember it had a bed of some sort near the kitchen/dining room table and Rachel would take care of it from time to time.
    • Piano, Rachel and I were some of the few people that could play in our grade. We’d play once and awhile when we’d have sleepovers.
    • Georgia, I remember play dates with her babysitter, grilled cheese sandwiches from the oven and maybe ice cream later!
    • Becca, she being my sisters Sarah’s age, always wanted to be included.
  • Minneapolis trip. Minneapolis Birthday Trip
    • I remember this so vividly. Why these things stick with you in life, I don’t know.
    • We drove your cream-colored Mazda 929, which was always clean and in beautiful condition to Minneapolis for a weekend sleepover for Rachel’s birthday.
    • I remember feeling so cool that Rachel picked me and Kristi of all her friends.
    • We got her a Walk-Man CD player for her birthday, one of the first to come out. It was so fun to give that to her!
    • We jumped around on furniture in the suite playing hot lava, that I swear had dark green carpet of some kind ……. we had a blast that weekend!
  • The Lake.
    • I remember going to the lake with Rachel. I believe the cabin was among a lot of trees (memory could be wrong) and maybe there was a mini island on the lake.
    • We took the jet ski around and had a blast enjoying the best parts of being at the lake.
    • Being more of the stereotype “athlete” I didn’t have my friends in the arts. And I have memories of Rachel in the ballet.
    • I remember you taking us to a performance of the Nutcracker. Never been to something like that before, and it was a great experience. You had bought her flowers if memory serves and we brought them to her after the performance.


As I reflected on Rachel’s passing, and as a mother myself to 3 kids with 1 more on the way, childhood memories really leave an impression on our lives. Her death has reminded me to spend time with my kids, build memories with them, let them have friends over to play. And while you don’t know where your lives will take you and people will grow apart, those memories of an influential childhood stay with you.


Each night, Travis (my husband) and I lay our kids down to bed and we see our evening prayers. Since Rachel’s passing, I wanted you to know we say a special prayer for all those we have died so young (Tyler Eicholz/Kelsey Merit from North, and Nick Tywinski/Rachel Ellingson from Shanley). My kids know her name, they race to see which one can say Rachel’s name first as we pray for her each night before bed.


I wish you peace in the days, years to come and thank you for the many irreplaceable memories I have with Rachel from my childhood.