I would like to donate my voice today to Lisa’s best friend Sue Austin. Miss Sue who lived in New York while we were in Chicago and then hearing the news of Lisa’s cancer, offered to stay with us for a few weeks to help with the kids – being a computer programmer, had the luxury of working from anywhere. Lisa’s cancer was spreading fast and Sue stayed all the way until she passed. She stayed in the house a full year after to help me with the kids.
Lisa called Sue her “soul mate”, and not in a way that bothered me. I’m the first to admit I’m not able to spend hours on the phone like those two did. I could try, heck, I can talk about men with the best of them, but after about three minutes I’d try to change the topic to baseball. Sue and Lisa could talk about the insensitivity of men for hours. I was thrilled Lisa had someone in her life who she could satisfy that outlet. Sue made my marriage better without even meaning to.
When Lisa passed, at least I have a word that describes me with all of the crap and sadness that goes along with losing a spouse. Widower. Not a word I want or take joy in, but I own it and when people hear it, will cause a reaction – for better or worse.
Sue doesn’t have a word. She doesn’t get the satisfaction of the full reaction of talking to a stranger and if the topic comes up, pulling out the grief bomb, lighting it and let it explode.
“Here you go sir, and would you like to upgrade and buy something for your wife?”
“No, my wife has passed away.”
“Oh, I am so sorry, let me throw in a couple of sample products to take home.”
“Here you go young lady, it’s two for one today, like to buy something for a friend?”
“I actually just lost my best friend to caner.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, however, the extra coupon can also be used for a pet.”
Sue doesn’t know I’m writing this post. She doesn’t complain to me about losing Lisa, doesn’t bemoan how much it hurts, doesn’t ask for a piece of the attention-grief pie to be sent her way.
The day I realized Sue’s situation was when Lisa was in hospice. Lisa was in her room while a bunch of us family members and Sue were out in the gathering area – Rainbow Hospice is set up as a circle, where the rooms are all at the outer wall, with the middle of the circle filled with chairs, tables, and couches for loved ones to gather. Lisa’s sister and I were talking to the doctor, assessing Lisa’s situation. We were coming to terms with Lisa dying. Other family members were on the couches next to us, and we would share with them the news.
As the doctor spoke, I remember looking past her shoulder and seeing Sue five tables away all by herself working on her computer. There were family decisions to be made and she gave us the space to discuss. She too, was coming to terms with the death of Lisa, but was using computer programming to get through the day. Like in a comedy Western movie where the hero punches the villain – but is still standing - the hero then blows gently on the villain, causing him to fall over. If anyone walked over to Sue and blew on her, tears would pour down her face.
So Miss Sue Austin, today my post is for you. Even though you stayed in our house for a year, it was such a blur for both of us, I’m not even sure I thanked you for everything you’ve done. Did I even help talk things out with you while you were there? I know I would come home from work and you would retire to your bedroom for the night. We did have one TV show we watched, Arrested Development, that helped get through some of the tough days.
Having been in the position of people not knowing what to say to me, let me be on the opposing side and express what I’m not sure helps at all. Sue, I know you lost your best friend. I am so sorry for your loss.