Image Description: Renee and Suzanne have their heads together for a selfie, each holding a brown cup of coffee to their lips.
Two Tuesdays ago, my dear friend Suzanne died.
Suzanne had multiple myeloma for nine years, and throughout her diagnosis, if there was ever an example of someone who lived fully and abundantly, it was her. Even now, that is ever on display through the sheer number of people who have traveled to Michigan or made their presence known on social media to give testimony about her role in their lives.
Suzanne was also my primary partner in forming the vision for the Michigan Nones and Dones Community. She was present at that magical first meeting in January 2016 which launched the community into being. Always the extrovert, in the years to come, Suzanne was wonderful at welcoming new people and inviting others. It just came so naturally to her.
I will miss her deeply, and I will think of her so often.
Her illness progressed rapidly in her last six months of life. At the beginning of that time, she was in Chicago for a month, seeking to be in a medical trial. Her doctors could not get her platelets into the parameters for the study, and sadly, she had to return home. While she was there, however, so many people traveled to Chicago to care for her. And when she came home and had another stint in the University of Michigan Hospital, she was able to go home to her apartment because doctors trusted the large number of loving people in Suzanne’s life to be with her 24/7 around the clock. We did that collectively. We used a care app to coordinate it.
Suzanne cultivated this kind of love around her. She was not only an example of one who loves abundantly; she provided an abundant example of how to receive love and care. We are all deserving of this, and Suzanne was such a tremendous model of it.
Suzanne made the decision to receive hospice care on a Friday. I saw her the next day, and I’m so glad for it. I didn’t expect that she would die four days later. In that window of time — Friday through Tuesday — all of Suzanne’s people participated in something beautiful. On the care app, we all told Suzanne what we promise.
Suzanne’s large, abundant community told her how they would remember her. Memories, foods, inside jokes… They also filled in those words — I promise… — by sharing the ways they would put her legacy and impact into action for the rest of their lives.
And I thought, “Oh, what a gift…” How wonderful it is to have the occasion to speak such promises to a beloved person. Suzanne was so deserving of hearing those things.
I find myself reflecting on how often those words go unsaid. Perhaps I can make an additional promise to Suzanne by saying those kinds of words to others too.
And perhaps I can invite you to join me.