Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh! Susanna!

Funny how I’m plagiarizing a song about traveling and returning to loved ones on the eve of traveling and returning to my loved ones.

Unfortunately, this entry has nothing to do with homecomings. Well, maybe in a stretch it does. But not my return to the States which, by the way, will be in 5 days. This is a tribute to my friend and former colleague, Suzanne T.

I am sad to report that the world has lost a shining light: the indomitable spirit of Suzanne has been forever extinguished. Her incomparable laugh, her guileless smile, her sincerity… all gone, vanquished in her struggle against the health problems that ultimately proved too much for even one as strong-willed and optimistic as she.

Unbeknownst to me when I left Dallas, Suzanne had been in a medically induced coma to help battle the heart disease that was killing her. She woke up to find herself permanently wired to an external heart boosting device called an LVAD – left ventricle assist device. Her heart was too weak to sustain her life on its own so she became the Bionic Woman. She would spend the rest of her days wired to that machine.

That didn’t stop her from living. Using that portable device to maximum advantage, she spent at least 4 hours a day at the office, tended to her young children, took care of her home and maintained her relationships. She shopped and she went out to eat. Inasmuch as the limitations of the LVAD allowed, this woman lived and enjoyed her life. Upon finding out that I lived overseas she finagled my email address from someone and reached out to me. That is just the type of woman she… was.

Man! It is hard to write about her in the past tense!

She is the one that initiated the long distance dimension of our friendship, but I partook of it with delight. She was not ashamed of sharing the details of her physical woes and medical trials. After one particularly long email in which she shared with me the specifics of her struggles, with special attention given to the fortitude and dedication of the medical staff that treated her, we enjoyed a good joke about her being so Sci-Fi. From then on till the last, our running gag was how she loved me from the bottom of her sci-fi heart and how I could see to the bottom of her LVAD heart.

There was no tiptoeing or pussyfooting around Suzanne. She had accepted her condition and we talked about it openly. That was another quality that made her so great.

After moving into my new digs last September and losing internet connection for 4 months, she and I drifted apart. At least, so I thought at the time. Using the internet café computer, I had sent her several emails that went without reply. My time on the rented computer being both short and precious, I chose to spend the time I had communicating with those who responded to me and those I could actively chat with. After those few unanswered mails to her, I did not write her again.

Do I feel like a heel now!

I learned that she suffered a debilitating stroke last November, reducing her to permanent wheelchair status. Whether she could still access email or even make use of a computer from that time on is not known to me. Maybe, if I could access her Facebook page…

That is all conjecture now.

Most would say this woman suffered terribly, all while holding on to hope, till the end of the end. To me she was the epitome of grace under fire, courage in the face of the unknown and indomitable in spite of her failing body. I aver that Suzanne did not suffer. She was afflicted, and severely so but with her outlook, her disposition, her positive attitude and courage, I like to think that suffering had no room within her.

Strange to say but I do not grieve her loss. I know she is in a better place, resting peacefully and laughing her musical laugh. If I listen closely, I can hear those peals reverberating in the heavens. My heart has all the pictures it took of her over the years and memories of her only need to be called up and savored. And I still love her, to the bottom of her LVAD heart. Except her heart does not need an LVAD anymore.            

I sure could use one of her hugs right now.

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