My friend Susan Cummings Grover, age 38, died of breast cancer last Saturday Nov 1, 2008, after 7 years of battle. She leaves behind her husband, Doug, and 3 young daughters age 9, 7, and 3.
Seven years ago, I got a phone call from my friend Susan. We had been trying to coordinate babysitting and date nights, and she told me she couldn't do it then or in the near future, hinting that all was not right. It sounded like some sort of flu, and I offered any help I could to her, taking her children, bringing her a meal, which she refused. She finally broke and told me just how sick she really was, that I couldn't bring in food or take her kids because chemo depressed her immune system, and asking me to keep it quiet as long as I could. She assured me that through fasting and prayer and blessings she knew it wasn't her time, and that she would be around years yet to "afflict" me with her friendship.
Susan lost her mother in a car crash 8 years ago not long before she was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after, my own mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Susan was the first person I called. If anyone could understand losing a mother too early and that cancer SUCKS, it was her. She didn't tell me I had to enjoy all the time I had left with my mother, that at least she wasn't diagnosed at as young an age as Susan, she just cried with me and kept saying, "Oh, Emma, this sucks!" She listened, she understood, she sincerely grieved with me.
Perky didn't begin to describe her, and optimistic underestimates her. Yet never fake, never false, always sincere with a quirky sense of humor that left us wondering how she could pull it off. She was passionate and driven, and modeled perfection as closely as anyone I have ever met. We shared so many of the same ideas on raising children, marriage and family life, the role of women, finances, politics, religion, yet she bettered me in all of them without ever making me resent her for it. In fact, it made me marvel and inspired me to be more like her. She was so unique, I fear I will never find another friend like her, and regret that I can not count her as a closer friend, that I let that chance slip away, because I know she would have welcomed me as openly as she welcomed everyone with her gracious talent for friendship. Even before she got cancer she was an amazing and inspiring person. Even after she got cancer she was always optimistic and sincere.
Over the years, I have pushed Susan away, not because I thought she would die, but because as her fight started going downhill I was afraid to talk to her about my own mother's losing battle. My mom had pulled away from her cancer support groups because she couldn't handle everyone dying, and I thought Susan would feel the same way getting bad reports from me. My mom always asked about Susan when we talked, and Susan always asked about my mom. I also didn't want to "bother" Susan, because through her amazing gift of friendship you either thought she was your best friend or you wanted her to be. I figured she had myriad people better than me to occupy her precious little time, and I didn't want to steal any time from her family. I didn't want to burden her with me, and in the end I realize that says a lot more about me and my feelings on friendship than her. There was never anyone more genuine, more upbeat, more empathetic, and more supportive than Susan. I realized too late how much I valued her friendship and her unique perspective on everything. How many times did I think, "I need to call Susan for advice," and then not call her? She had a way of giving advice that made you want to do it, that made you believe you could do it, yet never made you feel guilty you hadn't been doing it that way all along!
On one of the occasions I did ask her advice, because I asked as often as I hesitated, regarding marriage and how she and Doug had such an amazing relationship, she replied, "I don't know. He's kinda perfect." It was the only bad advice she ever gave me, because both Doug and I were already married! Her insight, wisdom, and commitment border on supernatural. It seems unfair that someone so gifted at helping other people had to be taken so young, taken away from us who could learn so much from her. Yet that enduring perfection must be the very reason she was called away so early, that she didn't need more time on this earth to accomplish her eternal goals.
Good-bye, Susan. I mourn what we have all lost by losing you, yet even in death you continue to motivate and inspire to me to become better, to not regret the opportunities lost with you, but to seek out every chance to befriend and support those around me. If I cannot find another friend such as you, I will try to emulate you and become that sort of friend to others, no matter how impossible. Because you helped me see what I could accomplish, and how the effort is more important than the result; your valiant battle with cancer proved that to me.