There have been so many beautiful remembrances of Susan written by people who knew her better than I did, like Maggie and Bon (and of course so many words over so much time by Susan's best friend Marty). I don't quite know what to say about such a remarkable woman--an astrophysicist, a breast cancer advocate, a friend. Susan was smart and funny and savvy and prescient. Her post about inflammatory breast cancer has been reposted thousands of times. Her post about the idiocy of Facebook breast cancer awareness memes and the need for action instead got her a BlogHer voices of the year honor. Susan was unlucky, in some respects, getting so much cancer so young. She blogged her life from the diagnosis on, and inspired and educated so many of us. Breast cancer doesn't need to start with a lump. Early detection isn't the panacea we might think. And we need more research into cancer. Until we know what causes cancer, we can't prevent it.
I learned a lot from Susan's fierce writing about cancer. But what I miss, most, are her posts about every day, her tweets about friends and NASA missions and science with her kids. I miss exchanging tweets about what we were doing with our kids--I know how much she loved getting outside with her boys, showing them science in action, showing them love. Last summer, when we were both reading posts by all the folks we knew who were at the BlogHer conference while we were not, we traded a series of tweets about what we were doing instead. Nothing particularly eloquent, but a delightfully ordinary connection with words.
Susan wondered, back in 2007, What am I leaving to be remembered by?. In that post, she mentions her ability to work with other people. She was a connector, someone who brought people together, and the many, many posts full of love for her are proof of that. Later in 2010, Susan thought ahead to questions her sons might someday have. Reading this post again last week took my breath away:
One day, when my children ask, “Why didn’t my mother fight the cancer harder?” I ask that you tell them, “She did, honey, she did,” and also, “Your mama also trusted in God. She prayed for healing, and for her aches and pains to have a purpose.”I don't know that any of us ever know the real purpose of our lives here--and I'm sure that each of us brings a different understanding of the role of God in those lives. Susan's approach to living encapsulates a sense of purpose better than anyone else I've ever met. As she put it in her mantra, "All that survives after our death are publications and people." She tended to her words and her people carefully, loving her family so very much, using her words to encourage women into the sciences, to capture the history of space exploration, to advocate for cancer patients and research, to advocate for a better world for today's children.
She reminded me to look up, and to look ahead. I can't see the stars and the moon without thinking of Susan. I miss her. And I will remember her.
Susan's family requests memorial donations to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Or, in her husband's inimitable words: "Or please choose to make a difference somewhere, anywhere, to anyone." Susan did make a difference, and she made anyone who knew her feel that we, too, could make a difference. Go and do likewise.