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Unfair Doesn’t Begin to Describe It

August 6th, 2009

Tonight my good friend and neighbor lost his wife. It was anything but sudden. She has been  battling cancer for multiple years.

Hyperbole seems inappropriate so I will state some simple truths. Susan Nelson was a mother, a wife, a neighbor and possibly the most resilient person I will ever know. 

I mean that in the tenderst way I can express my sheer admiration for a life well lived.

And one more thing. She had become one of my wife’s best friends.

Susan took everything that cancer can possibly throw at a person, and with quiet dignity and a strength that was otherworldly, she stared it down and seemed to say, “Is that all you got? ‘Cause I’m still moving forward here.”

She beat the expectations of multiple medical experts not by weeks or even months, but by years.

There is one image from tonight that I hope is not a violation to share. Susan was still hanging in there when I returned home from work.  I stopped by to show support. After a brief visit with Elden at her bedside, I stepped into their backyard where Susan’s seven year-old twins were.

They are my friends (never seem to notice or care that I am an old duffer) and immediately invited me to jump on the trampoline with them. As I was preparing to join them for a bounce, their aunt came out in tears and urgently called the girls in to say goodbye to their mom one last time. 

I walked across the street to my house, trying to imagine what any one of Susan’s four kids must be feeling when they are summoned like that. After five minutes or so, I peeked through my shutters at the house across the street.

On the front porch was twin number 1 being consoled by her aunt and grandma and my wife. Out of their view, hidden by several parked cars and visible only from my vantage point, was twin number 2. Crouched down on the ground and crying.

She had retreated to a private spot to deal with the sight of her mother taking her last breath.

I lost it.

In the time it took me to compose myself so I could run over to her, the family noticed her absence and immediately tracked her down and swarmed around for support in that moment.

The picture of a seven year-old girl, who minutes before had the care-free generosity to invite me to jump on the trampoline with her, now crouching alone in sadness and confusion will stay with me for a long time.

But so will another image. Every boy within six blocks came over to support Elden’s sons within an hour. Every neighbor expressed their sorrow and willingness to continue to help. And Elden’s cycling buddies (also some of my oldest and best friends) started arriving to show solidarity and offer whatever they could. 

As neighbors and friends, we will be here for Elden and his daughters and sons. My wife cared deeply for Susan and I learned a lot about genuine service and love in the way that she was there for Susan right to the end.

If you aren’t already familiar with Elden Nelson’s blog, I recommend you pay a visit to www.fatcyclist.com and learn more about Susan’s amazing influence and courage in her battle with cancer.

–gb

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  • caddis

    Lost it as I read this. God bless those little kids and their dad.

  • scott palmer

    Usually, I like to provide “levity” to a story, but the image of the 7 year old girl is just too much. As already mentioned, god bless those little kids and their father.

  • Rose

    Oh my. So tragically sad for all of you and especially the children. Thank you and your wife for being such a great friend and neighbor to the Nelsons.

  • Kathy Lindahn

    I never quite know what to say at times like this because it all gets mixed up and comes out wrong. So I send a big virtual hug to all especially Susan’s family. And let others say things that hopefully give some comfort and insight:

    Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet -

    If you would know the secret of death.
    how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
    The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
    cannot unveil the mystery of light.

    If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
    open your heart wide unto the body of life.
    For life and death are one,
    even as the river and the sea are one.

    And what is it to cease breathing,
    but to free the breath from its restless tides,
    that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

    And when you have reached the mountain top,
    then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
    then shall you truly dance.

  • http://suncrestdug.wordpress.com dug

    words fail me. i’m not good at this. you are.

  • sugarpotpie

    Thanks for sharing this, Kathy. And thanks for your courage in your own battles, now happily behind you. You are an example to me.

  • http://www.nystromdesign.com Kris

    This read stopped me cold. Big time prayers indeed to the father and kids. You and your Wife’s support to them may seem small to you now in the face of this hour of sadness but rest assured it was huge. I’d take you in my corner any time.

  • http://www.fatcyclist.com Elden

    Thanks, Gary. We’ve never had better neighbors.

  • Vince

    Thanks for shering that gary god bless the nelsons at this dark hour

  • El Zorro

    Great writing, Gary. My eyes are watering as I read this. (I just heard of Susan’s passing last night — unfortunately, after the funeral.) I can’t imagine the trial this has been, but seeing the whole Nelson family handle this with grace and dignity over the past several years is an inspiration and source of strength to me. My heart and prayers go out to the whole family — and especially Nigel and Bryce, who I had the pleasure of being around in Scouts.