Earlier this week, Megyn shared the news that her older sister, Suzanne Crossley, died suddenly of a heart attack. She was 58. Describing her as a “firecracker,” Megyn honored the life and legacy of her “strong, funny, wise, and vulnerable” sibling with an emotional on-air tribute during which she reflected on the memories she will carry with her forever. Watch the eulogy above or read the full text of Megyn’s remarks below:
My sister, Suzanne Crossley, was a firecracker – strong, funny, wise, but still vulnerable. She was born on June 5, 1964 in Nyack, NY, just north of New York City. My mom grew up not far from there and my dad was from Brooklyn. They met and married young, while my mom was in nursing school. My sister was their first born. From the start, Suzanne was beautiful – big, blue eyes and perfect alabaster skin. She used to pride herself on having a great nose and perfect feet. And she was right.
My brother Pete came along 13 months later, and I followed five years after that. So there were about six and a half years between my sister and me. She often felt more like another mother-figure than a sister.
When I was little, she was an incredible caretaker to me. My mom was in school and working full-time, getting degrees in psychiatric nursing. My sister would later look at any school photo of me where my hair was combed nicely or I was in a cute outfit and say, “That’s thanks to me! I made sure you looked good!” Mom laughed and agreed. It was just one of the many ways in which Sue took care of me. She helped teach me how to tie my shoes, how to read, how to find and apply the right makeup when I was teenager. From letting me sleep on her floor when I had nightmares as a kid to introducing me to the wonders of Robby Benson, John Travolta, and Sean Cassidy, my sister often found ways to improve my life.
One time, when I was in second grade, I was looking forward to bringing home the class bear Clancy. Each kid got to take him home on successive Fridays and my turn had finally arrived – except I didn’t feel well that day and I told Miss Clancy (who had named the bear after her) that I felt nauseous and wanted to go to the nurse. She didn’t believe me. Sure enough, I soon threw up in front of everyone. I was embarrassed. Miss Clancy was angry. She sent me to the nurse’s office and I asked her if I could still take Clancy. ‘No,’ she said coldly. I was devastated.
When I got home and told my then-13-year-old sister what had happened, she was outraged. She went right down to the mall and bought me my own Clancy. It was an exact replica! I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely thrilled – my very own Clancy that I didn’t even have to share. Suzanne had erased the sting of my teacher’s cruelty.
One time, she was babysitting me and my friend at the friend’s house. The friend’s parents were out to dinner and Suzanne let us watch Saturday Night Fever, which was rated R, but we were dying to see it and it happened to be on TV that night. The parents unexpectedly came home while it was on, and my friend’s stepfather was visibly angry. He grabbed my friend by the arm and yelled ‘Get upstairs! This sleepover is done.’ I started upstairs to get my stuff. He threatened my friend saying, ‘You’re going to get it!’ I couldn’t believe his anger over a stupid movie a couple of nine-year-old girls sneaked on the TV. Suzanne went right over to him and said, ‘Don’t you touch my sister. Meg, let’s go.’ Off we went and, as I so often did, I felt relief that my sister was there.
Leaning on Each Other
It was Suzanne who was home with me and my mom the night our 45-year-old father died, December 15, 1985. It was near midnight when she shook me in my bed saying “Wake up. Daddy had a heart attack.’ What followed was the most painful night of our lives – I was 15, she was 22, and it was the beginning of a very hard year. Suzanne and I would find ways to make our mom laugh, to commiserate when we felt powerless to help her, to pick up the slack around the house when my mom was in too much pain to do it. Whenever I needed to feel better about things, I called Suzanne. She had this special power of knowing exactly what to say. She had institutional knowledge of me and used it in just the right ways – whether it was in grieving our dad or anything else – for all the days of my life so far.
She went back to college after my dad’s death and invited me to visit. She took me and my best friend out and let us sneak a drink and feel like grown-ups. She was so pretty – her feathered blonde hair and beautiful smile could catch the attention of anyone in any room, and her acerbic wit could level you with its clever edge. More than anything, she loved to make fun of herself and others – a skill she came by, honestly, thanks to our mother. As much as Suzanne loved her own feet, she hated mine. She used to say, ‘Your toes look like fingers!’ And my fingers were even worse! We used to sleep in the same bed when we slept at my Nana’s house. ‘Stay away from me with those spidery fingers,’ she used to say.
Those summers we’d spend at Nana’s house – Nan and Pop had a boatyard – were magical. Suzanne and I would play waitress with our grandparents’ spare order pads and make ice cream floats for our brother and his friends. She always included me in her fun plans. We would watch Elvis Presley movies together or eat TV dinners in front of The Brady Bunch. We watched The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie religiously. We went to the annual carnival together. We laughed and she taught me the ropes of life.
When I was in law school, my sister was a young teacher, newly married, and with no money. I had even less and was leaving her house one time with no gas and no spare change to get even a gallon. She reached into her purse and pulled out a twenty. It might as well have been a thousand dollars, I was so grateful. I knew she didn’t have it to spare, but it got me home, and kept my tank filled for days, and I never forgot it.
I moved to Chicago after becoming a lawyer and she and my mom came for what would be a visit we would never forget – not because anything extraordinary happened, but just because we had so much fun. I will always remember sitting in my car, the three of us, blasting Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” singing and laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. This would become one of my favorite memories in life. Suzanne was always quick to laugh.
Dealing with Life’s Challenges
Life was not easy for my sister. Her marriage ultimately fell apart under very trying circumstances. She raised her three kids by herself. She had given up teaching to be a homemaker and had next to no money. Life threw many challenges at her – she got swept up in the opioid crisis thanks to a doctor who told her a minor pain killer was not addictive. Later, she got clean and sober and rebuilt her life. I once asked her if I could talk about this publicly, and she said it was okay.
We actually had plans for her to come on and talk about it all right here one day. She told me shortly after I launched the show that she wanted to tell her story, that she thought it might help people. I always imagined us having that conversation and it being a triumphant moment for her – a time she could tell the world that – like so many – she had faced real struggle but had survived and even thrived.
We never got around to it.
The tabloids attacked her as I became a public figure. I got wind that one publication was preparing a hit piece on her from when she was still suffering with addiction. I called in every favor to stop it and thought I had. Later, I found out they ran it anyway. My sister never told me. She protected me even then.
Her children were her greatest source of happiness, bar none. Throughout her ups and downs, she loved them deeply. She would light up talking about her kids. She was so proud of each one of them: Emily, the spitfire whose moxie is matched by her deeply caring nature; Brian, the whip smart middle child – accomplished, reflective, soulful; and Chris, the eldest. Like his mom, funny, direct, no-nonsense and, now, a strong and loving parent himself.
In our adult years, as challenges kept coming her way and my career took off, we had a bit of a role reversal. I became more of the caretaker, which she did not love but seemed resigned to accept. It was an adjustment for both of us.
She never stopped with her kindnesses. She took in my vicious dog Bailey who bit all of us but who I didn’t have the heart to put down. She’d send my kids gifts she made – little dough ornaments for the Christmas tree or a family portrait she’d drawn. She would come to visit with games in tow. On one recent Thanksgiving, she had us play this game where we filled tissue boxes with ping pong balls, strapped them to our waists and then danced vigorously to music. The first one to get all the ping pong balls out of the tissue box won. Again, crying we laughed so hard, luckily someone got some of those laughs on tape.
A Life Cut Short
Shortly after that, my sister’s health took a turn. Liver enzymes didn’t look right, legs started swelling. She saw specialist after specialist. Was it cancer? A heart ailment? No, no, they told us. Test after test and no diagnosis. She was rail thin and eating was tough. Over the past year, she was in and out of the hospital as we tried to figure out what was going on. She was released after a short stay just last month. The main direction was for her to eat. We needed to get some nutrients in her.
And then came last Friday when my mom found her unresponsive. My poor mom, who lived with Suzanne. They became like Frick and Frack up there in Albany, watching reruns of Gunsmoke and arguing over the volume on the TV. We’d always imagined my sister taking care of our mom in mom’s later years. We joked that Sue would do it, and my brother and I would pay for it. We’d never foreseen that my 81-year-old mother would be the caretaker for Suzanne. But that’s how it goes, right? Moms never stop caretaking. When Suzanne started feeling ill, my mom swooped right in. I don’t know how many doctor’s visits my mom went to with my sister. And Lord help the doctor who took too long to tell my mother – upon meeting her – that she didn’t look 81.
We thought Suzanne was on the mend. She looked ill but had been released and was looking forward to the holidays. I hadn’t seen her in a few months. She had suggested a visit in August, but we were too busy and I told her I couldn’t do it. How I wish I could have that one back.
Suzanne collapsed on Friday, October 21. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital where she had a heart attack. I was with her at the end, holding her hand. She wouldn’t have liked my spidery fingers on her. I did it anyway. I told her it was okay for her to rest, to be with our dad and our nana who she loved so much.
Then, she was gone.She won’t be at Emily’s wedding. She won’t meet her future grandchildren. Her kids don’t know what they’ll do without her advice, and I feel the same. Who’s going to make fun of me now, in a loving, don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously kind of way? Who’s going to tell me to put on our favorite movie, Willy Wonka, when the rough patches come in my own life? We were supposed to take care of our mom together – to commiserate on life’s challenges, to watch our kids grow up and become parents themselves. She left too early.
Living Life in Suzanne’s Honor
The love of a sibling is more complicated than that of a parent. The relationship has different layers to it. How I wish I had nurtured our connection more recently. You get busy with your own stuff. You focus on your job, your kids, your marriage. Your siblings aren’t at the top of the list on a daily basis. That’s the natural life cycle. You’re not expecting it to suddenly end, not in your fifties.
I know my sister would have wanted me to have a happy life – to thrive, to laugh at myself. She would have wanted you to know about the time I tried to host Thanksgiving and didn’t take the turkey out of the freezer until 10am the day of. We had to have rotisserie chicken. She would have wanted you to laugh if I or anyone else trips in front of you. She might have pressed your bruise and said, ‘Does it hurt when I do this?’ She definitely would not have wanted me sitting around feeling sad.
I told my husband at her funeral as the sad music played, ‘I don’t want this at my funeral. I want Tone Loc or MC Hammer.’ ‘Seriously,’ he said. ‘Seriously, yes.’ When I remember my sister, I will play Billy Idol. I will play silly games. I will make doughy Christmas ornaments. I will love on – but also rip on – my mother and her purple hair. I will help my sister’s children, and I will adore my own. And I will keep reminding people – including myself – that life is too short. This whole thing is fleeting. Don’t wait until tomorrow to reach out to your loved ones. Make time for the visits – you never know if it could be the last.
Suzanne never got to take that victory lap with all of you. To tell you her story of great struggle and triumph of a life not adorned with material riches but filled with emotional treasure, of a sisterhood in which roles evolved over time but one in which one thing remained constant – love was always present.
She didn’t get to tell you any of that.
I hope you feel it anyway.