For Sue

I first met Sue when she walked into my classroom almost 15 years ago. I was 40 years old and it was my first teaching job. I’d been hired two weeks before school started and though I’d student-taught 5th grade, I was going to be teaching a multi-age 1st/2nd grade classroom. Sue introduced herself as the Literacy Specialist. Little did I know then that she’d become one of my very best friends.

I believe Sue’s first words to me were something along the lines of “Here’s my advice. Don’t pretend you already know everything.” Sue can definitely be blunt, and that comment might have been off-putting to some, but it was fine with me. I already knew I was in over my head, and here was someone who just opened the door to asking her all my questions. And she always had answers or would research until she found them.

When I think of Sue, one of the first things that comes to mind is her laugh. The. Best. Ever. Full and throaty and loud. I loved hearing it echo down the hallway at school. Something between a hoot and perhaps a cackle. But so vibrant and joyous. Unfettered. It was an open invitation to appreciate the moment along with her— the foibles of humanity, the quirks, the absurdities. Ever since Sue became ill, I’ve yearned to be able to bottle up the sound of her laughter.

Sue is, as all real learners are, deeply curious. Although she’s in her late 70s, she embraces technological advances and knows her way around a computer. She dives into each new endeavor with determination and enthusiasm. And maybe a spread sheet or two. She asks questions of everyone—sometimes without always thinking it through first. She’s endlessly fascinated by people and the world around her.

My favorite Sue story is when we were crossing the border into Canada. Our book club was going to Quebec City and this was Sue’s first trip out of the country. She was thrilled. In true Sue fashion, she’d researched the heck out of everything and had created detailed charts and timetables with everything we needed to enjoy our time in Quebec City. Unbeknownst to us, she also had a few questions for the guards at the border. Questions like: “Do you wear a bullet proof vest?” or “I’ve heard that even with a bullet proof vest on, it will hurt if you get shot. Is that true?” While she indulged her curiosity, and the guard kindly answered her, we struggled to urgently yet discretely signal to her to stop. We were sure we were all going to get pulled from the van and searched at any instant. Luckily, the guard received her questions in the inquisitive spirit with which they were offered, and the memory still makes us all laugh.

Sue is also the very best listener. I suppose that goes hand in hand with her learner stance and her boundless curiosity. She asks questions and then 100% focuses on your answers. She wants to gather up all the information and truly understand. Through the years we’ve talked about everything–books, teaching, family, friends, politics, nature, and on and on.

Sue loves completely, not blindly, but with acceptance. She understands we’re all flawed. She is so open and generous with her love and affection. I can hear her saying, when I confess something or share something new, “Oh, but I think that’s wonderful!” Such a Sue thing to say. But she also calls it as she sees it and her insight is often illuminating. I always knew that I could tell Sue absolutely anything. What a gift that has been.

Sue was diagnosed with cancer in April. Along the way, she’s shown her typical inquisitiveness. She was fascinated when she learned a way to breathe better to compensate for her partially deflated lung. She kept telling me that she was going to “go with the flow of it.” It wasn’t unusual for us to talk during this time and for her to begin a sentence, “You know what I love about all this…” and then share a recent anecdote from time with her daughter during yet another doctor visit or offer up some newly gained knowledge.

Simply put, Sue’s an inspiration. She’s taught every one around her so much. At each juncture of this journey, she’s gathered information, considered her options, and openly communicated with family and friends. Her worries have been mostly for her family, not herself. She’s shown such grace.

When I was visiting with Sue a month or so ago, she commented, “I won’t be here, but I’ll be everywhere.” I’m trying to take comfort in that. Mostly I’m focusing on my gratitude for having been blessed to know and have a deep friendship with this wonderful woman. She’s been such a tremendous mentor and support to me in countless ways.

In her latest text update, Sue’s daughter, Hannah, wrote to say that Sue is moving into a hospital bed in her living room. In true Sue fashion, she wants to be part of “the ins and outs of the day” and she has made Hannah promise to “keep telling her stories even if she cannot respond.” 

Throughout the years, Sue has read every blog post I have written and often e-mails me with her reactions. She knows how much I love her and how much I value our friendship, but this is one more chance to thank her for enriching my world and tell her once again how thankful I am for the time we’ve had. 

So, this one’s for you, Sue, my dearest friend. I love you!

7 thoughts on “For Sue

  1. Patty McLaughlin says:

    So well said, Molly. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a friend you have Sue! Such friends are indeed rare. You have a gem in Sue! Sue, we are all pulling for you in York County!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue says:

    Just today I also shared with Hannah about Sue on our Quebec trip and questioning the border patrol. Good memories.
    Your tribute is spot on. Thank you for such a thoughtful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. says:

    You are blessed to have a friend so dear as am I. Your thoughts and love are a reminder. Thank you 

    Sent from App for Gmail

    Liked by 1 person

  5. margaretsmn says:

    There are not many Sue’s in the world. Prayers for her peaceful transition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Linda Mitchell says:

    Everyone needs a Sue in their life…the world would be so much better if that could be. I’d love to meet Sue either in the here or in the everywhere. I’m sure we’d both enjoy the meeting. Love to you Molly, this is a bittersweet time. I’m glad you are getting time to be present in it for the both of you…and for Hannah.


  7. What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful friend. I’m so sorry that you’ve lost her.


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