Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Susan Willed It

Why the call didn't come through, I don't know. At just before 9, yesterday morning, my phone signaled that there was a voice mail. I called in to find out who had left the message and froze when it was from Margaret, Susan's sister, asking me to call right away. In an instant, of course, I knew. Susan and I had spoken on the phone on Sunday, she wasn't well but we made plans to get together on Saturday. There would be no Saturday. Moments later I hung up knowing that my friend of 25 years had died that morning of cancer.

I looked up at the room. It was filling with mostly teens from the area schools, they were pumped from yesterdays bullying session and were excited to be at a session on 'power and control'. There were some adults there and they, too, caught the energy of the kids who were taking their seats. I had only moments to tell Joe that Susan had died. He asked me if I wanted to continue with the day. I answered quickly, 'Yes.' Susan took promises seriously, she raised the concept of duty to a passion, Susan would have willed it.

Partway through the session I had to stop and say to them, 'I can't do this next part, my friend died this morning and if we do this, I'll cry and I won't be able to finish.' There was a silence in the room. A young woman called out, 'It's OK' and then there was an echo of 'ok' 'ok' 'ok' around the room. The warmth and concern of the group embraced me and we finished. Several of the young teens came up to say thank you and say they were sorry I had lost a friend. A woman with Down Syndrome said, "You don't lose friends, ever, you will just have to wait a little longer to see her again." She smiled and put her hand on my shoulder reassuringly.

Then in the afternoon, doing a session on the same topic for staff and care providers, I was sailing fine. I had dedicated the talk in my mind to Susan and I just wanted to get to the end, get in the car and cry. I hadn't had time or space to cry. It was all going well until near the end I was about to tell the 'cake' story and I flashed on Susan telling me that this was her favourite story of mine. I froze at the memory. I could feel everyone looking at me. I told them the truth, that Susan had died and that this was her favourite story. And then, in front of them all, I sat and cried. Someone got me some tissues. With people waiting and willing me well, I pulled myself together and I finished the lecture.

Susan would have wanted me to continue. Susan respected those who honour committment. Over 25 years, I watched her grow. She challenged me. I challenged her. We agreed and disagreed, we fought and reconciled, we leaned on each other. Simply put, we were friends.

Susan Tough, farewell my lovely.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave - I'm full of admiration for your strength and courage in continuing. I'm sure Susan was proud! Loss of a close one is so difficult, and the young people you were working with yesterday obviously understood the reality.

Take care of yourself

Eileen

Anonymous said...

Dave,
I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

Anjie (mom to Adam)

Belinda said...

I too, am so deeply sorry. I'm glad you carried on as she would have wanted you to, but glad that you didn't deny the wave of grief that washed over you.

There is no group of people that could better extend caring to you with the utmost understanding and gentleness than the one you were with. I say that of both the people in the morning and the afternoon session. Maybe I should be politically correct and say that they were "just people," but no, they have the edge on "just people."

May God carry you through the next few days and beyond as you grieve your dear friend Susan.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, but also glad that you were with a supportive group of people when it happened.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry.

Mark Pathak said...

Having been to the funeral this morning of one of the members of a self advocacy group I’m involved with, its hard to know what to type other than take care of yourself Dave (and Joe).

Anonymous said...

Dave and Joe,

My friend's daughter died five years ago, completely unexpectedly,in her sleep. She was 17, and delightfully, beautifully spicy. When her Mom and I do workshops, we speak of her often, and always, we feel her with us. Sometimes we bring her picture,and talk about all that she taught us. She still makes us better. We cry all the time during these workshops, still, and I have discovered that these tears honour her in a way that feel sacred and right.
Grief is so horribly hard, and I am very sorry about your friend. I'm glad you were able to get through your presentations. I find there is no better, more compassionate audience, and no one better at offering true comfort than our friends with disabilities.

Deb

FridaWrites said...

It's difficult to continue doing work like speaking to people after such a terrible loss--I do understand the motivation to go on. I'm sorry you lost your dear friend.

Brenda said...

I'm so sorry, Dave. You showed tremendous strength and respect for her by going on, even though you really didn't want to be there at that moment. The fact that she engendered those feelings in you, gives me a tiny glimpse into the kind of person she was. It sounds like we've all lost someone very special. *HUGS* to you and Joe.

Cindy B. said...

I have tears in my eyes for the second time this morning. Have a look at today's story at heartwarmers.com - "The Right Thing to Do". It is about a group of people (in this case, teenage boys) who did "the right thing" after the death of the mother of one of the boys.

It is so hard to lose friends, even if it really does only mean you have to wait a bit longer to see them again.

My thoughts and prayers go out to you and Susan's family and friends.

Rosemary said...

I am so sorry for the loss of Susan, your dear friend.
Many hugs and prayers.

liz said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Shan said...

Oh I'm sorry your friend passed away.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss Dave and Joe.

Myrrien

lisa said...

I too am sorry for your loss.
Lisa

jueb said...

i'm sorry Dave and Joe that you have lost you dear friend but that lady was right you don't loose your friends you just have to wait abit longer to see them again, you are in my thoughts and prayers

rickismom said...

I think that we as peopkle have to learn that it is OK to cry.

Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...

Cry (if you want to)
(a song by Holly Cole)
Cry if you want to
I wont tell you not to
I won’t try to cheer you up
I'll just be here if you want me

It’s no use in keeping a stiff upper lip
You can weep you can sleep you can loosen your grip
You can frown you can drown and go down with the ship
You cry if you want to
Don’t ever apologize venting your pain
Its something to me you don’t need to explain
I don’t need to know why
I don’t think it’s insane
You can cry if you want to

The windows are closed
The neighbors aren’t home
If it’s better with me than to do it alone
I'll draw all the curtains and unplug the phone
You can cry if you want to

You can stare at the ceiling and tear at your hair
Swallow your feelings and stager and swear
You could show things and throw things and I wouldn’t care
You can cry if you want to

I won’t make fun of you
I won’t tell any one
I won’t analyze what you do or you should have done
I won’t advise you to go and have fun
You can cry if you want to

Well it’s empty and ugly and terribly sad
I can’t feel what you feel but I know it feels bad
I know that its real and it makes you so mad
You could cry

Cry if you want to I won’t tell you not to
I won’t try and cheer you up
Ill just be here if you want me; to be
Near you

It's ok to cry and I am glad people were supportive of you and your grief.
Thinking of you and Joe at this hard time.
Soli Deo Gloria
REformed Girl

Jenn McWhorter said...

This weekend I will be at the funeral of a much loved friend too.

May we both find peace and comfort in our memories and our continuing love for our friends.

wendy said...

I'm just so sorry, Dave.

Lene Andersen said...

So sorry for your loss. Susan sounds like an awesome woman.

adrienne lauby said...

This is disability advocacy. If public figures show their human emotions, -- if all of us do this -- we make room in the world for many who are called emotionally disabled.

Thank you Dave.

Adrienne

Janet Valcourt said...

Dave;
I just rediscovered your blog and read about Susan. I am so sorry, I didn't know. I did know how close you were and I grieve for your loss. She was a truly wonderful woman.
Please say hello to Joe for me and I pray you keep on trucking on.