Layers of Loss
I'd known Susie since junior high school, when we were library groupies together. We went our separate ways in high school and thereafter, be happily reunited when Joe and I joined our church. We were in the same Circle at church for many years until she and her husband retired to Maine.
Susie has not had an easy life. Forced as a teenager to give up a baby for adoption, she married, had two more sons, divorced and finally happily married the love of her life. But she cared for her father through a terrible terminal illness, and about fifteen years ago, one of her boys died from an accidental drug overdose.
At Thanksgiving time, Susie was in Phoenix, caring for a relative who was recovering from a serious motor vehicle accident. She felt what she believed to be a gallbladder attack and went to the hospital, which she was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer, with metastases to her bones.
Her plan was to return to Philadelphia to seek treatment at one of our renowned cancer treatment centers, and we waited for news of where she was staying, where she was receiving treatment. The telephone call from her husband to the church office was shocking. She has been in hospital for two or more weeks and will not recover.
We have a new pastor since Susie moved away. I offered to accompany him on his hospital call. It was a strange visit -- tragic and wonderful at the same time. It was so good to see Susie, to have her remember me and to pick up right where we had left off with teasing and silly stories. It was so hard to know that she will not get better, though she does not seem to realize that.
Of course this kind of a visit makes one conscious of one's own mortality and I have been thinking these kinds of thoughts since leaving the hospital.
This morning I received word that a seminary friend's teenage son, Stuart, had taken an intentional overdose of medicine yesterday. I had lost contact with the dad, my classmate, over the years, but the class network is good, and someone made certain that word reached me. Immediately I thought back to the week after our graduation, when our class reassembled to attend the funeral of Stuart's stillborn brother, Elijah. I remembered our liturgy professor's contacting me to ask if I would be able to make a tiny pall to cover the casket.
Stuart had not been an easy child, I'd heard, and as he grew older he began to struggle with depression. And lost that battle yesterday.
How sad, I think, how ironic, that Susie cannot stand the thought of not getting well and fights for every breath, every moment she can have. And Stuart could not bear to live.