Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mama Susan

*This is my 100th post! So exciting!*

Tomorrow my baby will be 5 months old! There will be the usual "monthly" post tomorrow so you can all keep up with how she's growing and changing. But tomorrow is also a really sad day for me. Tomorrow will mark one year since my beloved co-worker, mentor, and friend, Susan Kirkpatrick, lost her battle with cancer. I wanted to take a chance, mainly for my own good, to reflect on what she meant to me and how much I miss her.

Susan taught third grade with me since I first started at Macy. She was the resident math teacher, and when our schedules changed and we needed one more person to teach math, I got the pleasure (ha!) of taking over math for half of third grade. Susan was always willing to help me out and give me her copies (usually multiple times - I have a tendency to lose things!) and explain the best way to do things. But the coolest thing was, she learned from me, too. She had taught for WAY more years than I had (and trust me, we never let her forget that!) but she still valued my opinions and strategies. Sheri, Lisa, and I taught her a lot about technology. I can still hear her yelling for Sheri to come help her with her computer, or see the IMs she used to send me to come fix her DVD drive or her SMART board. We loved to tease her about it, but in reality it was amazing how hard she worked at getting "up-to-date" on things that most people her age would just ignore. That's what made her such a good teacher - she was always learning and never became complacent.

Susan was also a great friend. She was always willing to listen when something wasn't right, and she was always so excited for any of us when we had great news to share. I'll never forget the morning after Jonathan proposed to me. She was standing in a chair in the hallway (she couldn't even reach the cork strip in the hall - such a shortie!) hanging papers. I didn't say anything. I just walked up to her and put my hand up for her to see. She was screaming and almost fell off the chair. She was so excited for us and it was fun to share the joy of wedding planning with her. This was the same school year that she was diagnosed with breast cancer - and that summer she went out west with her husband to prove that she could do anything she set her mind to. Thus, she missed our wedding. But it was so fun to share pictures of the wedding with her afterward.

Speaking of pictures. Last summer Susan told me that her cancer had come back in her liver. The doctors told her that she had a maximum of 6 months to live. But she never told us that. She just kept fighting - even going in to her classroom to set it up less than a week before she died. The last time I saw Susan (besides the night before she died) I got to show her the pictures of Brenna (Baby Sprout at the time) and share our joy with her. She had been there through our miscarriage, and she was so excited that we were pregnant again with a healthy baby. Little did I know that she would never get to meet Brenna on this side of heaven. I've never been so thankful for ultrasound pictures in my life. While we were at the beach last summer, Susan got very sick very fast. I spoke to her on Thursday, July 30 after she had worked in her classroom. She told me she was really tired and having a bad day and that she would call me back the next day. She never had the chance. By the end of that weekend she was in the hospital. All my work friends and I had planned to go see her in the hospital on Tuesday, but Sheri's cousin Patti (who worked at the hospital) saw her and told Sheri we probably should come on Monday if we wanted to see her. So we all met there and had a great cry in the parking lot before putting on our strong faces and facing our "Mama Susan" for the last time. I am convinced she knew who we were and that we were there, but she couldn't carry on much of a conversation. The only thing that really evoked a comment was when April A. told her she was engaged. She got all excited, smiled, and said something about being happy. The only other thing I remember her saying is "this is terrible" referring to her pain and being in the hospital. I knew then that her fight was almost over. I told her I loved her before we left and I knew that would be the last time I'd see her.

She died early Tuesday morning, August 4. I couldn't sleep most of the night, but finally fell asleep about 5:00 AM. Gail called about 8 and I knew what she was going to say. I had to pass the news on to Sheri and Lisa and then I called Jonathan. Even then I missed her but knew that her pain and her fight was finally over. And that's still how I feel today. I miss her so much. I want to be able to see her hold Brenna, and to have her to help me teach math instead of her binders she organized and left for me, and to team up with me against Sheri in the fight to be self-contained (just kidding, Sheri - KINDA!). I miss how she called Norma "Normer" - and I think about her every time I hear a New York accent. I loved making fun of the local Giles County people with her - especially how they call the tanning bed the "tanner". I wish she could have celebrated Sheri and Lisa's engagements. I missed her at Sheri's wedding last weekend and we'll miss her this Saturday at Lisa's wedding. But I'm glad she isn't defined by her cancer anymore. I'm glad we can remember the good times. And I'm glad that I got to learn from such a great teacher. I know that as school starts again and I walk into HER classroom every morning (yep, it'll always be hers, I just live there now) it will be hard all over again. And it will get easier. That's hard sometimes - it doesn't seem like it should get easier without her. But that's how life is. So I'll tell stories and remember the good times and never let her memory die. She'll always be our "Mama Susan".
Halloween 2007
Halloween 2008
*Apparently we only took pictures together on Halloween. Maybe I have more at school and I know I have a few more that Jared took during school functions that are hanging up at school.*


  1. So sweet. Thanks for sharing about your Mama Susan. She sounds like a lovely person. :)

  2. I don't even know Mama Susan, and this brought tears so my eyes. The other moms and wise women in our lives are a blessing that's all too easy to take for granted, don't you think?


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