Visiting my aunt in Missouri stirs memories of the annual trips we took to this small town to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins when I was a child. Now we drive past my grandmother’s home and each time I take a long look at it since it has been sold numerous times since she died. Every time we pass the alley that runs behind my grandmother’s home on that block, I think of my dear cousin, Susie, who amazingly could walk barefoot down that alley to her home.
Susie passed away seven years ago on July 3, 2008. Today, September 26, she would have turned 56 years old. When she was given the diagnosis of terminal cancer, she fought it with a positive outlook. And with determination she reached her goal to watch her daughter graduate from high school in May 2008.
Susie was more than my cousin. She was also a good friend and sister to me. Growing up I would see her only one week out of the year during the family trips to visit my grandparents. I loved going to see my grandma, but what I really enjoyed was having the chance to reunite with Susie as she lived within walking distance from my grandma’s home.
Back then we didn’t have e-mails or Facebook, and we were charged for long distance calls so the only way we did keep in touch would be through mailing letters, however, we didn’t write to each other often. But every year that we reunited we picked up immediately from where we left off the previous year.
My grandmother passed away when we were 18 years old and after that we didn’t visit as often. In time we both were married and had children. The peculiar thing is that we didn’t stand up in each other’s wedding nor did we even attend. We only kept in touch with one another through our moms as they would make their long distance telephone calls on Saturday mornings when it was the cheapest time to call.
Time passed and she and her husband settled near Kansas City. We now had cell phones and were able to keep in touch with each other more often. When I heard that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy, I called her. When she heard I was getting divorced, she called me. When I heard her cancer had spread and was terminal, I traveled to visit her.
With our special visits for the next four years we grew closer to one another, and we wished we had been back in touch sooner. The last visit I had with her was Memorial Day 2008 about one month before she died. We had gone out to eat before I had to go to the airport to fly home. It was a drab, cloudy raining day and she didn’t eat much because she no longer had an appetite. We drove home from the restaurant and pulled onto her seven acre lot viewing rows and rows of corn.
As the rain hit heavily against the windshield, we sat inside her car warm and dry and finished talking about everything that we have ever discussed previously in our 48 years we had known each other. We discussed our dreams, mothers, grandmother, husbands, children, faith, and our love for one another. That afternoon Bart, her husband, and Susie drove me to the airport. It was extremely sad to give her a hug for the last time. She died six weeks later.
I have precious memories with Susie as she had the will and spirit to keep going. She has shown me the importance of strength and determination when confronted with obstacles. Who do you have in your life that has withstood obstacles and was an example to you? Pull out your laptop or grab a pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of this special person whose life should be honored by recording his or her life story.