I know that at times like these, when a loved one of ours passes on and we are all in pain and filled with many emotions, we often question the bigger picture and struggle to make sense of why things sometimes happen the way they do.
I often wish that each of us had a magic paintbrush to create a masterpiece that would protect those we love from sadness, illness or pain, and though my words may not help answer any of these questions or ease any pain or sadness, perhaps they will bring a little comfort as we pass through this together.
I lost another close friend to cancer when we were in our early 20s and I was blessed to have been there with her near the end. Anna and her sister, Sara, had shared many insightful conversations and Sara had even asked Anna, “How will we communicate once you are gone?” “Butterflies”, Anna said. Before Anna passed she looked up and asked us “Who are all these people?” It gave me comfort to know she had a group of people greeting her to take her to her next place.
A few months after Anna passed, I read cards for Sara, and as I put my hand on the card telling her to let go of her pain, a butterfly landed on the card. We sat in silence, until laughter filled the air. Since then, each time I think of Anna, within minutes a butterfly appears to me in some form, and several times, butterflies have even landed on my notepad or computer while rewriting these words.
I am blessed to have been able to visit Suzy, Jo, Jerry, Ron, Ruth, Shira and Eden last week in their home. To squeeze Suzy’s hand, to play with her girls, to talk to her Mom, Dad, husband and Mother-in-law all who have been there supporting Suzy every day through everything.
They are among the strongest most amazing people I have ever known.
On Wednesday night, Ron and I sat with Suzy until 3 am, channeling all of your thoughts, prayers, stories and photos into the room, and I knew she was listening. Why? Because she started talking to me while she slept, and has not stopped.
Thursday morning, for the first time in weeks, Suzy opened her eyes, smiled, whispered to us, cracked a few jokes, and Ron and her family received the beautiful gift of having Suzy awake, alert, and connecting with them the entire day. She held hands with them all, whispered “You are beautiful” to her daughters, and sat alert and smiling as all of your posts, stories, and photos from Facebook and emails were shared with her.
So all of you who wanted to be there with her, please know that you were, and she was touched by it all.
As Suzy spent time with her family, I was blessed to spend time with her daughters. As I opened the box of Suncatchers for Shira and Eden and I to paint, three butterflies fell out onto the table. I had already been feeling Anna at the house, but somehow this made me smile. As I walked outside towards Suzy’s room a butterfly flew past me, and as I began to share this story with Shari, a friend of Suzy’s who I am now proud to call a friend of mine, one of the butterflies we had made earlier literally leapt off its hook from the window and fell between Shari, Suzy and I. Anna and her friends had come to usher Suzy to her next place.
I went to LA to be with Suzy and her family, but I also went for all of you who call Suzy a friend, all of you who have been touched by her in some way. All of you who feel sad that you have not seen her in years. All of you who saw her recently but do not feel that you had the right words to share. And I went for Suzy, who had been talking to me in my dreams for weeks.
I think that each of us will be able to identify a way that Suzy will come to us- it may be through music, photos, stories, numbers, prayers, private jokes, meditations, watching Sesame Street, or in our dreams, but I have no doubt that she will appear to everyone open enough to ask her to show herself to them- anyone asking for her to let them know that she is ok, those wanting to know if she has found peace from the pain, or those just missing her and wanting to feel her around them.
We all want to know that though our songbird is in another place, we still have access to her, and though we miss her, we can call on her. And I am here to tell you that you can. How do I know? Because she is telling me to tell you.
I have these experiences with loved ones who have passed often now, but I rarely share them, and was hesitant to do so now, but Suzy keeps nudging me to come out of the closet so to speak :), so for her, I am proud to be the messenger.
She wants me to tell you that time and space don’t matter, that any connection you shared is still as strong as it was when it was created. She wants you to know that she is still nearby and will come to you when you call, you just have to be open and develop the tools to be able to hear her in different ways.
Suzy is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. She always reaches out to everyone to make them feel part of the group, her smile lights up a room, her laughter is infectious. She has a unique perspective and way to keep you in line without you even knowing it. Her connection to family, friends, community and service are unparalleled. Suzy is a force of nature, a voice to be reckoned with, a teacher, a friend, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a camp counselor, a muppet, a shoulder to cry on, and a confidant to everyone she meets.
I am not able to write of Suzy in the past tense as she is still with me and I know will continue to be.
It is incredible to me how Suzy brought out the best in everyone she met, and that she was able to help us all reveal our gifts as she shared hers with us.
It has been amazing seeing everyone reach out, tell stories, share special memories, post photos to commemorate her life, and reconnect with each other. The words, photos and stories you share will become a tribute to Suzy that Ron can share with Shira and Eden so they can fill in more colors, hues, and textures as they continue to create their own artful masterpieces of the Suzy they know, and the Suzy they have yet to discover through you.
For all those asking what you can do; for all those whose milestones were made more special by Suzy being there with you, for all those who have shared sacred times with Suzy, it is now up to us to make sure that she is still at each milestone with Ron, Shira, Eden, Ruth, Jerry, Jo and the rest of the Zeffren and Rauch families, through the stories, photos and memories we continue to share.
I am not sure why G-d always seems to take the most special among us so early, perhaps they are needed more elsewhere, or perhaps they knew that they were here for a short time to be an angel on earth and help the rest of us get our crap together. :)
The fact is that we do have a magic paintbrush, and while it may not always protect us from illness, sadness or pain, it allows us to paint on the same canvas together as we work through our grief, share happy moments, and provides us a way to continue to include those who have passed in all of our stories.
I love you all, and I have to smile today, as on this beautiful day, as always, Suzy is bringing us all together to celebrate love, family and friendship, and to think about what really matters in life as she has always done and will continue to do.