This past week, my words have failed me.
Last Monday, the world lost one of the good ones. One of the very best ones. We lost Susan. I read this post, gasped, and burst into tears. I wept for her husband, for her parents, her relatives, and her friends, but mostly, I wept for her boys. I know all too well what it's like to grow up without your mother, though not for as long as they will - they are 5 and 7, and I was 15.
Monday night, the moon was brighter than I've ever seen it. It was almost as bright as Susan's smile, and I felt her presence in it. She was watching us. I'm sure of it.
On Wednesday I attended her funeral. The ritual of the Mass and the presence of the DC Moms were a comfort. Then Marty, Susan's best friend since childhood and a gifted musician, sang His Eye is On the Sparrow. She sang her heart out, you could hear her love for Susan in every single note, and we wept. I don't think anyone didn't, at least not anyone I could see. I don't know how Marty did it, I don't think I could have made it eight bars in without losing my composure. It was a gift and an honor to be there, to listen - thank you, Marty, for allowing us to share in that.
All week I've tried to write this post, and twenty times I've started and stopped. None of it is worthy.
Susan was warm, smart (a freaking astrophysicist, I'm so not kidding), generous, kind, feisty, vibrant. She had that rare ability to make anyone feel like they were her best friend the instant they met her. She had an intense gaze that never wavered when she looked at you - she was never looking beyond you, waiting for someone more interesting to show up. You were more interesting than anything or anybody else. For me this was always such a gift, because I'm awkward at the best of times, uncomfortable in my own skin, convinced I'll say and do the wrong thing, and usually doing exactly that. But Susan never seemed to notice, though I'm sure she did. I've never seen anyone else who lived so in the moment as Susan.
The last time I saw her was at Jodi's house for HomeHer. She swept into the house in a red ball gown, as bright as the smile she always had plastered on her face. A little while later we talked, after she had changed out of the dress.
"So, I have the Bloggess' red dress up there. I want everyone to wear it and get their picture taken so I can put them together in a collage. You know, if they want to. No one has to. Are you interested? Would you do it?"
So many things instantly went through my head. No way. There's no way that dress that just fit Susan will fit me. I'm not exactly built for that, too short and too fat. And then get my picture taken? Uh huh. It just isn't going to work - I'll look like the dork I am. People will laugh at me*. But... then.... what the hell is wrong with me? She has cancer, and she wore that dress. She wants a picture of her friends in the dress. She doesn't care about their body proportions. Maybe if somebody else does it first...
Susan didn't say anything else, just waited, almost as if she could read my mind, and just let it play out. Other people were sitting down around us, starting to talk to both of us.
"Yes. I'll do it," I heard myself say.
Susan beamed - there's just no other word to describe the expression on her face. "You will? That's WONDERFUL!"
And I did. I couldn't walk in it because it was more than a foot too long and I thought I was going to trip and go ass over teakettle down the stairs. When I got my picture taken, my hands are clenched because I had no idea what to do with them (see also, awkward). I'm top row, second from left:
Photo borrowed from Lolli - thank you!
It was magical, but the best part was watching Susan's smile each time one of us descended in the dress. And that's the thing I'm going to remember, and miss, the most.
Please consider making a donation to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation in Susan's name. And if you have any stories about Susan, no matter how trivial you think they are, please send them over to my friend Stephanie/Minkymoo, who is collecting them to make a book for her boys. Please don't underestimate how important this is -- for those of us who have lost our parents young, stories are all we have to learn about them as adults. It's something I don't have of my mother, and I've often toyed with the idea of getting out there and researching that, and it's one of the reasons I started to blog in the first place. This will be an amazing gift to her boys and none of it will be trivial to them.
Not that any member of the DC Moms would do that. They wouldn't. They are an extraordinary group of women and I've never felt "less than" in their presence. That was just my own insecurities talking -- they tend to be a noisy bunch, unfortunately.