Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Last weekend, Pat and I went to Oregon to attend a celebration of his mom's life and her funeral. I had only had the opportunity to spend time with Sue twice. So in many ways, I was still getting to know her at her celebration of life this weekend.
Many people spoke at the celebration. Coworkers painted a picture of who Sue was in her career-- a talented. driven, and giving engineer. Person after person stood and spoke of how Sue had mentored them, how she had brought them into the company, and of how much they had learned from her. They spoke of her dedication to the job and to the betterment of the company and, through her position teaching at Oregon State and her mentoring of so many, and her service in many professional organizations, the betterment of the profession. But they also said Sue was constantly talking about her children, how much she loved them, how proud she was of them. It was clear that family was her priority.
Neighbors and friends spoke of who Sue was in her personal life -- a dedicated mom, sister, wife and friend. After hearing of her dedication to engineering, it would have been easy to leave with only that picture of Sue, but several friends and neighbors stood to tell their picture of Sue -- a crafter, a creator of Christmas ornaments, a gardener, a volunteer for elementary math classes and a creator of school play backdrops. They said she made you feel valued and important; she inspired you to be a better mom, sister, friend.
Her brothers spoke of her childhood -- raised by hardworking parents, Sue grew up working in the family Dairy Queen. Her mother had been a strong female reporter when such a thing was rare. She never backed down from a challenge and excelled tremendously at all she tried.
Her children stood and spoke about what their mom had taught them -- to be open to the experiences and people of the world, to pursue all endeavors with their full hearts. To put all they have into every relationship. To value the time they have with their loved ones above all else -- to make it count.
And her husband spoke of her strength in the face of her cancer. He spoke to her dedication to her children, her family, and her job. He told the story of their meeting and their courtship and how he convinced her to date him and then to marry him and how lucky he was that he had.
So many people spoke so beautifully about Sue and the ways she'd influenced their lives, there is no way I can even begin to share it all with you. She truly touched so many people.
As I listened, I couldn't help but think about the career I want to make, the family I want to create, the mom and wife I want to be. Sue was an inspiring woman. Just hearing about her life, hearing how she inspired and affected so many others, was enough to make me want to be better. And if just hearing other people talk about her can inspire me -- man, how it must have been to know her, to talk with her, to learn from her.
Before and after the celebration and the funeral service, everyone, of course, wanted to talk to Pat. I stood by him most of the time, but sometimes I stood on the sidelines and kept an eye on him.
During this time, several people came up to me and asked, "Are you Abbey?" It became clear that Sue had spoken of me to many of her friends. One told me she'd been proud of me when I'd worked in advertising, another said she'd liked me very much.
I can't even say what this means to me. Sue was already treating me as part of the family, talking about me like she talked about Pat and Jamie.
As we drove home from the celebration of life, Pat asked me what I'd thought, and I told him I think I really missed out. Sue was an incredible, kind, inspiring woman. And I really would have liked to know her better.