Her name was Susan. She was my friend. She won NaNoWriMo.
My friend Susan died last week. She was very brave and fought against cancer for as long as she could. I decided to write out what I would like to say at her Celebration of Life Event today. I am going to share that here, for those who could not attend to read about my friendship with Susan, and her husband, Andrew. She was 47 years old. Here is what I had written to say, from several little pieces of notepaper, scribbled at 3 am one morning earlier in the week.
I remember feeling sad when Susan told me that she had cancer. We weren’t the closest of friends at that time, but that changed. I had met Susan’s husband before I met her. I joined a gaming group as I was new to Fredericton, and needed to meet people and make friends.
Susan and I met later on, and we had a lot of things in common, including creativity and cats. Oh, how Susan loved all of the kitties! She would save as many as she could, and picked the ones that nobody else would choose. She had a cat with one eye, and a cat that has medical issues that require frequent vet trips. That didn’t matter because Susan loved her cats, and they loved her right back.
I attended a dance lesson in their backyard, once. It was a gathering of friends, and we all participated in learning a medieval dance. It was fun, although I would not be able to do it again without lessons. I returned the favour by bringing Susan to a Zumba class with me. It was after she had been diagnosed, and she did what she could. There were chairs for her to rest in when she was tired. I remember that she had fun, and wanted to go again. That didn’t happen, but it was nice to share the love of dancing with Susan.
You might be wondering why I chose to wear this brightly coloured poncho today. ( I was wearing the same one that is in my profile pic here.) When I started to knit it, I was lost, and rather confused. Knowing that Susan was an avid knitter, I approached her for help with it. She took the time to go over the pattern, and we decided that I needed a chart. She helped me to make the chart, and because she helped me, I have a completed poncho that she helped me to knit. Simple, yet effective. The perfect solution for me and that is why I am wearing it today.
She liked to knit socks for people. I remember being out to buy sock yarn with her, and she was asking if the colours went together well or not. She confided that other people didn’t always like the colour choices she made for knitting socks. She wasn’t so fussy when it was for her own socks, they were just socks. She had been getting feedback on other socks that she had knit for people that the yarn didn’t always match well, so she wanted to check on the colours before buying yarn if she was making socks for gifts.
When she found out I wanted to work on knitting, she lent me her Stitch and Bitch knitting book. I think I kept it a little too long. When she asked for it back, I actually went out and bought my own copy. I never told her that.
I have attempted to join in on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) events. For those that do not know what it is, it is a worldwide movement for authors to write a whole book in November, and it is an annual event. I tried a few times, but have decided that it is not the format for me, and I am now a Nano Cheerleader. Susan loved to host the events for Nano, and was very proud to show me her Nacho Hat platter that was used for the Nano events. She was a great leader in the Nano world, and people looked forward to her launch and closing parties. Unlike myself, she was a Nano winner. She recently gave me a book she wrote, called “Freaks in Fredericton.” I plan to read it when I feel ready, and I guess I will have to wait to discuss it with her in another place and time.
(I added a bit here about FredNoWriMo, the local branch, and that the theme is Superhero this year.)
When Susan was needing to be more cheerful, she would often turn to Youtube. Sometimes we would sit and watch cat videos. Other times it would be music. She introduced me to the guy that takes tweets from Twitter and turns them into songs. Her favourite was the one with the ukulele and he is singing, “Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows.” That is the whole song.
She also introduced me to Post Modern Jukebox. They take current songs and cover them in different styles from different eras.
(This was the end of page one, and the start of page two. I had a harder time with page two.)
One thing I learned from both Susan and Andrew, her husband, was that it was OK to talk to them about things that were happening in my life. I didn’t want to bother them with my issues, they seemed to be insignificant when they were dealing with her diagnosis. We came to an understanding that it was OK to talk about things and that we would all be real when we were visiting. In a way, it might have helped them to have something less impactful to talk about, and as friends that talked about problems together, I think it helped them, just as much as it helped me to have a place that was safe to talk about anything. It made me realize that because they realized that what mattered to me was important, that made me, their friend, important. What a beautiful gift of friendship to share.
She often expressed a hate for cancer. I agree with her on that. One day, when she was having a particularly difficult time finding the right words to express her thought, she accurately said that she hated her brain. I knew exactly what she meant, but I still don’t know how to correctly respond to that comment.
I wanted to be a good friend to Susan, even if I knew that it would tear me up inside after she was gone. The last thing I said to her was, “See you later.” I hate goodbyes.I hope to be a better friend because of my friendship with you.
It surprised me when people told me after that I did very well, and that I should be a public speaker, not a writer. In the last few months, I have also been told I should be a comedian. I try to be funny, but it doesn’t always work. I blank out after speaking in public, so I don’t always know if it went well or not unless I ask someone after I am done. I did read in Church when I was old enough, and they taught me the few basic skills I used today. Pacing yourself, pausing to look at the people, and just making sure that you speak clearly into the microphone. I did need a minute near the end, but I expected that. I managed to do my best, and that is all I wanted to do.
It was not easy to do that today, even if it seemed like it may have been before page two. I had to just focus on the task of reading what I had written. Knowing another friend had given it a read before today helped, she said it was perfect. What do you say when there are no words to express how you feel? You think about the good times and write from the heart. Sometimes there are no words. I was blessed to have known her and to be able to tell her family just how important she was to me, as my friend.