Did you feel it? I'm sure you did. The world screeched to a stop yesterday at 4:35 P.M. Our dear Susan had to get off. In the morning the pulmonary specialist called the four family members (sister Mary, brother Harry, Mary's husband Bob, and me) to a meeting with Susan. He was very honest and gentle; he also was wise enough to know that no M.D. was going to dictate anything to Susan. She still had sepsis; the origin was unknown. Her already polio compromised lungs had suffered an acute injury. Her health status had declined each of the last three days. He made no recommendation; Susan decided to wait to talk with Dr. Chernofsky. You may remember her as Susan's "Warrior Princess" who saved Susan's life by excising the sarcoma from her abdomen. She (and her other colleagues) had done everything they could do to help Susan live. All the medicine possible, all the assistive technology available, and all the strength and hard work they could do were not enough. Susan was exhausted from fighting. It had become an almost impossible task to just breath.
After a brief conference with the Warrior Princess, Susan decided that enough was enough. She gave the order for the pressurized breathing machine mask to be removed. The marvelous group of RNs in the Sibley ICU helped us make her as comfortable as possible. The IV pumps were shut off; the monitor showing the various measurements was turned off. We were there -- sister, brothers and husband and close friends who could reach the hospital. Her labored breathing continued but became less and less difficult because the humane and sensitive health care professionals administered pain relief several times. After some time, which seemed like years but was only a few minutes, she stopped breathing. She was free. She was released. She felt no pain. She was no longer struggling.
Every day of her life, three days short of sixty-three years, was a fight. It was a fight for life. She was amazed that she had lived so long; most people would have given up decades ago. Not Susan. . . no way. . . no how! She lived a life filled with love received and given, a life having made a huge contribution to society. A very close friend and colleague said in remembering, "No one who knew her will ever forget her. She had more than a life well-lived. She set the highest bar for humanitarianism. She is my greatest hero. We were so lucky to be in her company of friends and to share the light that emanated from her."
This is a time for grieving. Each of us will do it in our own way. Some of us will never be done; I know I will never cease. A time is near for honoring and remembering her. Another friend said, (I couldn't say it better.) "Susan was a force. She impacted more lives than most anyone I've ever met. She had a phenomenal impact on every person she met. She was at her best when she was on stage, yet had the ability to glue people to her with her eye contact. She was FUN, Brilliant, Positive, Charming, and just an overall AWESOME PERSON!!! I know I am a better person for having known her. I believe all who knew her would concur."
She is now and will always be with me. I know she will be with many of you. No one can take her place. Nobody will ever be her equal. All of us can only try (must) to live our lives as she lived hers: giving love, dedicated service and never ending perseverance in striving for humanitarian goals. Join me in honoring her life and her self: a life truly well lived.
Love to all of you. John