Susan had every gift but length of years. Some of us can search a lifetime looking for our passion. Susan found her’s with Eric on their farm in Washington. To see their farm is to understand what became her essence. A home of southern hospitality, good food and wine and company. Five acres of fields, cross fencing, blackberry bushes, her beloved Pyrenees dogs, the kitties, and the llama, sheep and goats. Susan called them her posse and I can’t do justice to the contentment they gave her. And maybe because of that peace and knowing what it brought to her life, it will allow us the strength to get past these days.
Susan became one with graph paper; she thought like a flow chart. Always drawing out how best to use their land and where she wanted all those fences to go. I’m sure Eric sometimes only saw dollar signs and wondered how to pay for it all. She developed this affinity for anything John Deere. Eric took a digital last summer of Susan driving a neighbor’s big JD tractor. Mowing those fields down she was sitting in the cab with this wonderful, sweaty grin with BB King probably on the built-in stereo. You see this picture and can’t help but laugh and shake your head. She had a side to her that’s politely described as earthy and rural– right down to assisting with the demise of the ostrich she and Eric inherited when they bought the Graham house. She was so proud of herself while the rest of us were completely grossed out. Last week I saw unpleasant packages in their freezer which tells me that poor ostrich is still around in one fashion or another. I was always a little suspicious when Susan would ask “can I make you a burger”?
To know the other part of Susan is to see how much she loved her family. Her wonderful parents Jim and Sandra; brothers Jay and John and their families; her grandparents; Eric’s parents and his brother Bruce and his wife. Throw in nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles it makes for a big group that has circled their wagons these last months. They’ve been asked to endure so much and have shown what grace and dignity under fire means. Susan always talked about her family - it made you feel a part of something special.
Susan is my best friend and I have to admit sometime partner in crime. Her feistiness can be something to reckon with. We could get into trouble sitting ringside at a dog show. We met thru our mutual love of Great Pyrenees dogs – or animated snowdrifts as they are sometimes called. Years ago , maybe 96, Eric created a website for Beau. I stumbled onto it searching for information and curiosity led me to email. Susan responded and nothing in my life really has been the same since. That one email began a lifetime friendship. A friendship not necessarily defined by length of years, but by all the components of what makes a friendship. What began as common interests became a shared history. We are the sisters neither of us have.
When Susan was first diagnosed I went online and searched for as much information as I could find about this disease. I wanted to educate myself about what she was facing. She came to terms with how her life was changing. But, what you have to understand is that she did it with grit and integrity and humor. One of the characteristics of Great Pyrenees is stoicism. Susan had this in spades when she needed it – maybe that’s what drew her to her dogs. I never once heard her complain about why this had happened. Rather, she focused on getting answers and concentrating on what she could do and not what she couldn’t. She made you deal with it similarly. We talked just about everyday thru the years and 1 of the hardest things for me has been not hearing her checking in say “hey”. Being in Graham last week gave me the chance to spend time with her parents and thru them I see where Susan’s courage came from. Jim and Sandra, I know your pain is unreachable, but your generosity in helping the rest of us I have to thank you for. I hope somewhere in the middle of all this we have helped you.
Eric. Tho I said it before I want to do it again. You rocked Susan’s world. She saw you in that math class at Auburn and that was that. I don’t think you had any chance of escape. Each of you brought a balance to your marriage and found your way. I know Susan is the love of your life – and for her to have held your love she lived a complete life; she loves you so. I know your loss, too, is unreachable. I read awhile ago that grief is a process that cannot be denied or rushed. In the beginning tears will cleanse you and that you cannot cry too much or too hard or too long. After a time you will cry less often and with less searing pain. You have a good family and friends who will nurture and help you find a way to learn to live with this loss…and not lose yourself somehow. You will heal in your own way, Eric, and in your own time. I wish I could help you more because saying these words just doesn’t seem enough somehow. You are my friend, too.
For myself, I don’t feel I’ve lost my best friend because I keep finding her soul in so many parts of my life. Susan, everywhere I turn you are forever kicking my butt, always watching over, making me laugh and making me think – and your spirit was there when I had to put my Pyrenees, Thunder, to sleep. I love you, Toots. Thank you for making my life a better place. You have my attention. Have a safe journey and come back some time. We’ll have a glass of wine, maybe a few oysters if I can get them down, and you can tell me you’re ok – I just need to know you’re ok.
Last update: 10/01/2001