Over the last half year, I have had plenty of time to reflect on the metaphors we use when people become seriously ill. We use words of violence and battles and courage – we say that someone met the challenge of cancer bravely or that they fought hard,  and when they become ill we speak of beating it, of not giving up, of winning, and if they live we call them survivors, or in their obituaries we say things about whether or not their fight was long.

A few months ago, just a very few weeks after my mother died, my Aunt Susan was diagnosed with a vicious cancer.  Susan was determined to do all that she could to stay with us, but like my mother and her husband Tupper before her, the disease wasn’t a force you could reckon with. It was unconcerned with her strength of character, her determination, or her will.  This past weekend, despite how much she wanted more, despite how long she cared to live, despite the fact that those who loved her desperately wanted to keep her, and despite that fact that losing so many people in a family in this amount of time is just plain awful, Susan died.

Susan and my mum cared for Tupper together when he was ill, and Susan was with us here when my mum was forced out the door, and I have spent the last few months driving back and forth to Ottawa, trying to repay the debt of care I owed her, and trying to be my mother, though I know I failed. My mum loved Susan desperately, they were the very best of friends,  and many times as I pulled into the hospital parking lot, I thought to myself that if there was any mercy in what was happening, it was that my mum didn’t have to do it.

I know this is the part where I am supposed to say that Susan fought bravely, or something else that is to tell you about her struggle, but I am not going to.

In skipping this tradition, I don’t want to imply that she wasn’t strong, or that she didn’t try or that there was (ever) a challenge that Susan wouldn’t take on. She was a strong person, and brave, and there for Tupp and Mum and it’s all of that  – that’s why I can’t say there was a fight. I just won’t. I’m sure it will be different for many of you, and you can use the language and words that resonate for yourselves, and your families, if it helps you to battle with cancer or illness, if that reassures you or gives you strength, have at it. Take all you need with my blessing and more – but please don’t say it to me, because today our family is on the other side.

If we say there was a fight, then we are saying Susan lost it, as did my Mum, and Tupp, and I cannot bear to have them thought of as losers who weren’t strong enough, people who didn’t persevere, or tragic figures who didn’t win a battle.  You didn’t know them, they weren’t like that. They didn’t want to go, and they would never have left us like this if they didn’t have to.

Susan didn’t lose a fight – the magic number of days she was somehow allotted had elapsed, and it wouldn’t have mattered if she had cowered in a corner and refused to go on, there was a sentence in the disease, and there was no battle for her to wage.

I am not a person who believes in heaven, or any afterlife at all.  I tried to be, after my Mum died. I tried to believe that she was going on somewhere, happy and whole – it is a wonderful idea that I wish I could get behind, and I so see the obvious comfort in it, but I lack whatever it is that lets you make the leap. I tried desperately to believe that I would someday see her again, but I can’t.  While I struggled, Susan did not. She believed that there was a time after this, a time or a place where people are reunited with the ones that they love, and although she was loathe to go, in her heart she felt that leaving this place could mean arriving somewhere else, and I was happy to support that belief. I hope she is right, or that maybe something different is true for everyone and maybe in believing, Susan made it true for herself.

Today it is my most fond wish that somewhere, right this minute, Susan, Tupp and Mum are on a beach, the Saturday crossword held down with a rock.  Mum is walking along the waves, Tupp is swimming in the sea, and Susan is sitting in the shade watching them both, so relieved and peaceful, and happy to have them back again.

I hope so, because I really miss them all.  Bon voyage Susan. We love you.Thanks for everything.

391 thoughts on “Susan

    • I am deeply sorry you have go through all this pain in such a short amount of time. You are an honest and elegant writer. I hope you find peace. You have gone through so much in such a short time. Know that you have touched so many and they in return want you to find comfort,peace and healing.

  1. There are no good words to express condolences. My thoughts are with you and your family as you make sense of the absence of those you love.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, and I hope the world gives you some joy soon to make up for all the sorrow you’ve been through in the last few months.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss Steph.
    I also don’t believe in any form of afterlife – we live on in the memories of those who love us. Sometimes when I look in a mirror, I see my late mother looking back and think ‘yes, she’s still a part of me.’
    It’s been a year with both tremendous losses for you, but also new life in your lovely grandson. And that’s just the way it is.

  4. not surprising that words matter when you talk about illness and death Steph. Words are just as much your craft as knitting is.

    I’m so sorry to read about Susan’s death. I love how you turned up for her. Your love, sense of family and rightness appears so deep rooted. The world is better for people like you, people like Susan.

  5. So very sorry to hear about your Aunt Susan. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers that you can find comfort. Remember, we are a mostly silent crowd, but we care and would do anything we could for you.

  6. Oh, petal, what s time you’ve had. As a member of team crossword/beach I wish I could donate half my conviction to you like a kidney, but we’re different blood types. So I can only be glad you’ve got Eliot to snorgle, seven proj CT’s to cast on, and that spring is coming. Not here. But coming.

  7. I believe too. It doesn’t replace the grief, but it is comforting. I believe all love comes from God, and I receive it with the purpose to pass it on. So with that in mind, I am sending gentle love, respect for your choices, and prayers for peace your way!

  8. Dear Stephanie, I hope so, too, for all our sakes. And…I am glad for you to have these wonderful photos, which are memories you can touch.

  9. I am so sorry for another loss for your family. That is a beautiful picture of your mum (beside Susan in the flowered dress) and a stunning composition of you and she and Erin and Susan as well.

  10. Stephanie, my profoundest condolences to you and your family. Your thoughts about cancer and loss are so similar to my own. The whole thing is awful; the mystical number of days we have and how it arrives before anyone is ready. You are part of a strong and caring family and I hope you can find support in each other as you grieve.

  11. I am so sorry your Aunt Susan died. You say you tried to be your Mum, but you were YOU, which is to say you were your own kind of wonderful, supportive, caring niece and person. Peace, love, light to you and yours.

  12. OH MY, SO So Sorry for you and your family. Hang in there and may you all find some peace and Joy, in this time of sorrow. love and hugs. Kristin

  13. I am very sorry for your loss.

    “Bon voyage” resonates with my preferred verb – a cancer journey. My mom has walked that journey and is thankfully in remission. My dad walked a different journey and died in 2016. I don’t think that you can say one is stronger or fought harder – only that they both walked in their unique ways on their unique paths.

    Strength and love to you and yours.

  14. I wish you comfort in the memories you have. I too went through a time of too many losses. Family Friends and loved ones of all sorts help out, time alone does too. Sometimes you just feel them standing next to you. Sometimes you hear their voice. Then again it’s the way another has the same laugh or nose or smile and your heart smiles or is shattered a bit less.
    Take your time. Do what feels right for you.

  15. Peace be with you, Steph, and with your family. This has been a hard, hard time for you. I am so sorry, and wish that I could make it better, but only time and memory can do that.

    I am pretty sure that the crossword is finished….

  16. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom 3 weeks ago after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer beginning of January. Your beautiful words express exactly my feelings. I do hope my mom is with my dad. Thank you again.

  17. Steph,
    You have all my love and condolences and sympathies, and whatever warm and able healing thoughts I have. I am so sorry that these losses have hit you so consistently over the last few months. Please know you are blessed with a large and loving family – by blood and by extension – and take comfort in them, as they need strength too.

  18. So many losses one after another.
    However your beliefs go, may you eventually find comfort in Elliot, your girls, and the ongoing life and family around you. I am so sad for another blow to you and yours, It is so hard. Sometimes I miss my own so much even after several years. There is not a day I don’t think of them all at some point. Today I am thinking of you and yours along with mine.
    Hugs and a blessing,

    • Stephanie,
      Cat has put into words exactly how I feel. Many blessings to both of you as we all remember our loved ones, wherever they may be.
      GwenDaleAnn Rose

  19. I am so sorry, Stephanie, about your dear aunt. I understand your feelings about heaven. I have a hard time with it too. My mom was a believer, as was my dear aunt who died a couple of years ago. I want to imagine that they are together somewhere, but I can’t, really. Instead, I have settled on believing that, if heaven does indeed exist, then it exists as a place within the hearts and minds of those people left behind who loved us best.

  20. Just wanted to say that i agree with you about the language we unconsciously use and i applaud your courage to try to change it and share that process along the way. Someone has to start – has to make a change. We do these things without noticing and the way we use language is hard to change.

    • I don’t know if this is the right place to step in with my comment, but thank you, Cynthia, for speaking up about the language.
      Someone who has lost the ability to walk,or speak, may struggle fiercely and positively regain these abilities.
      It is not the same for someone who has a fatal disease with no hope of recovery. Cancer can debilitate so rapidly there is no struggle to resist, to battle that can be won.
      It troubles me when I read that “he fought bravely” or “she struggled to overcome” against a disease that has taken away all hope before it is even discovered.

  21. Thank you for your wise words — and I am so sorry for your pain and loss!

    I was diagnosed with cancer, I had surgery and radiation done to me — I did not fight or battle anything. I lay in a bed or on a table while others did their jobs. I bristle every time I hear those aggressive verbs — that was not my story, and I thank you again for rallying against those terms for your loved ones.

    So many times, your writing clarifies, and I am so appreciative of your abilities and your willingness to keep trying to find the right words . . . thank you!

  22. I’m so sorry. I hope the good memories help you and your family through these dark days. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone you love and as you would tell your loved one to be to themselves.

  23. So sorry to hear of your loss Stephanie. What a rough patch you and your family have had this past year or so. Sending love and wishing you some extra snuggle time with that cute baby to help heal your pain.

  24. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be without so many loved ones in such a short space of time. All my love to you.

  25. I am so sorry for your epic losses over the recent past. It is horrific. I also truly loved your post about your mother being gone for 6 months. My mom has been gone for 30 years and I still feel very close to her and think of her daily. Regarding the whole fight thing, agree as well. I had cancer, it sucked, it’s behind me and I’m moving on. It was a very inconvenient part of my life and I did what I needed to do. You push through, it’s life, and hopefully, get some more years to enjoy to the fullest.

  26. I hate having the term cancer survivor applied to me, because it implies I somehow “fought harder” than people who do not survive. My cancer was found early, and I did the things the doctor told me to decrease the odds of it recurring. Luck and science, not war.
    I am sorry for your losses, and the way they are piling up. Remember to look up.

  27. I am so sorry for your loss, so soon after your beloved mum. Your post really resonates with me, we use the language of battle when really it makes no difference to the outcome, and as you say, it can leave people feeling they ‘lost’ or ‘failed’. I don’t really believe in an after-life, but who knows – maybe there is a beach, and a crossword, and a warm sea. I hope so.

  28. I am touched by your post today. One of the responders, Marian, spoke of journey and that, too, touched me. My father suffered a massive heart attack and was dead before he hit the floor. Five years later my mother chose to discontinue treatment for her cancer because, I guess, she was done. When my time came, I chose every treatment they offered me. Would our outcomes have been different had we made different choices? No one will ever know. I know that my father came to mother in some form near her end because I was standing outside her door when it happened and I heard her talking to him. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know if it means anything. I do know they live on in my heart and mind 48 and 43 years later, respectively. They will be with me until the day I die.

  29. Oh, my heart aches for you. Your family is having an epic time. You’ve had arrivals and departures. There are no words that automatically bring comfort, but I hope you feel the love from all the friends you have made through this blog (even if you don’t know all of us) and know that we are with you on this journey.

  30. Stephanie, my heart breaks for you and your family, going through all this. The part of your loved ones that is in you goes on forever. It’s not enough, but it’s something.

  31. As soon as I saw the title, I knew. I am so sorry for your loss. And wishing you and your family well in your sorrow.

    That was a beautiful tribute to your aunt (and your mother and uncle). And lovely photos.

    And I understand what you are saying about the language typically used for end-of-life and mortal illnesses. When my allotted time is here, I will not be a loser, either, whether I die suddenly and peacefully in my sleep or after a long and terrible illness. It is time we acknowledge that we come into this world for a short time, and then we leave it. That’s just the way it is, and whatever we believe happens After, none of us are losers for not “winning” the fight against mortality. Thank you for that.

  32. My condolences to you and your family. How wonderful that you were there for Susan. I know you have welcomed many people into the world, and far, far fewer people are ushered out with the respect and grace they deserve.

  33. As someone living with cancer I view the war language with distaste. I am not fighting cancer because that would mean I’m fighting my own body. I am not brave, nor do I struggle. I make the choice every day to live, as best I can, while my body deals with unhealthy cells. I completely understand what you are saying and agree with every word. Sending light and love to you all.

  34. So beautiful and so very sad, as it always is. But you didn’t fail at being your mom. You just aren’t your mom, like your daughters are not you. You are everything that a lifetime of experiences with them all has made you. And that’s no failure, either.

  35. Sorrow and loss. Cancer and endings. These things strike me dumb, but as “Sarah” posted above, you are as great a word crafter as a yarn crafter; your connection and commitment to family are beautiful, and the world is fortunate to have people such as you in it.

  36. I’m sorry for your lost, and thank you deeply for expressing so eloquently what I hadn’t been able to put together about the phrasing of”they fought but lost.”

  37. It’s the language that resonates with me most and becomes especially relevant when family members are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, for which there is no treatment, nevermind a cure. Such patients do not fight, or battle, and may not even be perceived as strong, but they are graceful whilst they slowly slip away – they will always be our heroes.

  38. Stephanie – I’m so sorry for your loss. Love and best wishes to you and your family. Hold on to those memories and take time for yourself to rest and heal.

  39. you’re wrong about the afterlife. there is no heaven, but she lives on in your memories and all the people whose lives she touched. of course your life was so fortunate to have such a loved person in it.

  40. My deepest condolences for your loss. 
Να ζήσεις να τους θυμήσεις. It translates to, “May you live to remember them.” wishing you life and health to honour the memories of your loved ones.

  41. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your words are so very beautiful and life affirming, thank you for gifting them to us.

  42. I’m so sorry for your loss. I sensed that this sort of post was coming.

    I hear you with respect to “the fight.” My Dad died from Alzheimer’s and I still resent all the articles talking about the vitamins, the crosswords, the sudokus, the exercise that will help to stave off the disease. My Dad did all those things, and still could not keep the disease away. And there is no way he would have wanted to go in the way that he had, where he is remembered as the irritable grandfather who lost his mind.

    I’m glad Susan is at peace. All the best with your year of grieving. I know you will carry all your loved ones in your heart, even if your heart is heavier as a result.

  43. Oh, Stephanie, I hardly know what to say! I’ll just hark back to one of your essays about remembering loved ones through their photographs, and say that I’m glad you have such wonderful memories of Tupper, your mother, and Susan. As the Jewish saying goes, “May their memories be for a blessing.”

    I’m wishing you love and light and joy in the future, and peace on the other side of all of this grief. And whatever you need, the Blog is 100% behind you.

    And, Stephanie? I am just so, so sorry for all you’ve been through.

  44. Steph, I feel your pain. I could come up with a thousand quips intended to help, but none would help for very long. Hang in there. Take the time you need. The Blog understands. Then, when things have settled down a bit, play with your grandson. Go to the pet shelter and play with the puppies and/or kittens. Maybe some of their innocence will rub off on you. You need it.

  45. You, my darling Yarn Harlot, have had a really tough go of it. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it totally sucks. I have no pretty words for you, other than I am thinking of you and your family and that I am very sad you are going through this.

  46. Steph, I know we’ve never met in person, but we have many mutual friends, and I just want you to know, having lost many loved ones in the same manner, that you have so correctly captured my own sentiments, that I’m sitting here, at my desk with tears rolling down my face. For you, for me, for everyone. Sending a gentle hug your way, friend.

  47. Thank you because again you have tackled a very difficult subject in a very wise and heartfelt manner. Your post today touched me deeply.
    My condolences. Many hugs. Wishing you peace.

  48. There are simply no words to to help ease your pain. I do understand what you are going through as 2009/10 was the year of pain for my family as this is the year for yours. I’m not going to say that it gets better, because it simply doesn’t. I will say that at some point remembering the good, fun times outweighs the pain of remembering the sad times. It’s no comfort right now, I know.

    Right now, I’m sending you all the love I have in my heart to you and yours, and I hope that it is some comfort.

  49. I am with you 100%. Everything you say is true for me, too. And I know how hard it is to say, and for people to hear. Thank you!

  50. Thank you for sharing Susan with us. She sounds like an amazing human and my heart goes out to your family as her light fades from this earth. And thank you for all your words on cancer. No one could put it better than you. xoxo

  51. I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you come from a line of wonderful women, and I am sure that your loved ones would identify you as being among them.

    Your words resonate with me so much. I hate the language surrounding cancer, and medical conditions in general, as some kind of battle that pictures those in regained health as Victor’s, which suggests those who die to be failures. That’s not how it works.

    I wish I was someone who knew just the right thing to provide succour, but sadly, I am not. When I lost my dad to a tumour, so many people would say something about the afterlife, but all I could think of was that my father, as a scientist, didn’t believe in any kind of afterlife, so speaking of seeing him again seemed somehow disrespectful. I preferred to think of his life as energy, and remember that the law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form into another or transferred from one object to another. I think he’d be amused to think of himself transformed into worm food, or at least grass food!

  52. So much loss is awful. Keep that baby warm, hold your loved ones close in your heart. Someday the memories won’t hurt so much, as they bring joy that you have the memories of Susan and your mum and Tupper.
    I do believe and will pray that you find comfort despite this pain.

  53. I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. Wishing peace for you and your loved ones, no matter which side of the curtain they are standing.

  54. These are hard times. Praying for your comfort. If your memories are as good as your words, there will be moments of sunshine.

  55. I think all our talk of ‘battling’ and ‘struggling’ is because we are afraid to acknowledge loss – that losing our loved ones is gut wrenchingly awful – there is no real preparing for it, it is devastatingly hurtful, especially when the person could have had so many more years.

    Losing the people we love is devastatingly sad, and all we can do is weather the sadness until we find we can accept and adjust to it.

  56. I don’t believe in an afterlife either but I hope we’re both wrong. I hope that special ‘something’ that transforms us from ‘warm body’ to ‘person’ moves on into another existence somewhere. We all need that beach. Or a baby to kiss. Woolly hugs to you, Steph.

  57. I am holding you in my heart. You have truly had more than your share of pain over this past year. Your “turn” at this horrible loss thing must surely be over. Hugs to you all. ❤️

  58. Sending you hugs and love. This loss is complicated – bearing the weight of other losses. She and your mom sound like wonderful women taken too soon. I hope you get some comfort knitting on.

  59. Made me think of this:

    “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
    ― Anne Lamott

    Condolences and hugs.

  60. I am very sorry for your loss, the world is cruel to people, taking those they love. But luckily somewhere deep are the memories that will bubble up when needed.

  61. I’m so sorry for your loss. The lovely memories you have of your Aunt Susan & your Mom is such a precious gift for you to have & hold, always. Obviously these were beautiful, wonderful women. Their lives are reflected in you, dear lady.

  62. When my mother died, it was after years of dealing with COPD. I know that she left ready to go. Like you said, I never thought she “lost her fight”. It was just time to stop living in pain. I want to think she is with my father and brother. If there is nothing, at least there is no pain.

  63. I have been expecting and dreading this post, but as always your words are beautiful. My son had cancer and we came out of the hell of it alive. So many others with the same kind did not live. Pure luck, nothing else. I refuse to call it a battle…was a journey through hell. Thank you for trying to change the words used.
    I am so sorry for this additional loss. Take comfort in your thoughts of them on the beach. One never knows for sure.

  64. If believing that we will someday see our dead loved ones again means believing in Someone who is loving, wise, and all-powerful, and yet allows the world to be as it is, for now, and asks us to trust completely that all will be put right in time, it’s not an easy set of things to believe. To me, faith is like exercising, not like fitness; it’s a way of life, an action, not a state of being that I can will myself into. (Not that I am very fit, but I do try to exercise faith.) And even if we don’t believe in Someone, I believe that Someone still believes in us.

    • Sorry! The last part of your post resonated with me so much that I forgot the main thing I wanted to say, which is, Thank you so much for all the beauty and honesty and love and pain that you share with us so generously. You have made sure that your lost loved ones will be loved and remembered by so many of us, for years to come. Thinking of you and your family at this time.

    • I came back to reread this comment. This is the essence of faith: actively choosing to believe that I am loved beyond all knowing and therefore ultimately everything sad will come untrue. May you know that you are loved, and may it bring you some small measure of comfort.

  65. I wish you peace and comfort and springtime, you’re certainly overdue some. I don’t like ‘battles’ with illness either. It somehow implies that someone who ‘lost’ could or should have somehow done more. Which is patently untrue. I hope that there is more joy in the months to come than the ones past.

  66. I’m sorry to see you have to face another loss of someone dear to you. Wondering if you knew the sea is right there (framed) in the last photo of your post? Gave me a tiny smile!

  67. I’m so desperately sorry. I will hold you and yours in the light and wish there was a way to fix it for you all, even though I know there isn’t.

  68. Steph, I join all the others in expressing my sorrow for your loss. Go and hug your grandson and hold him tight – sending you my hugs and love.

  69. I am so, so sorry for your and your family’s loss and that their days were gone too soon. Love and peace to you all.

  70. I am so sorry. I wish the world could just stand still, on one perfectly beautiful day, when spring has finally come and everyone’s in love and the baby has just learned to walk and the new sweater not only fits, it looks good. The world is not like that, I know, but still, I can wish.

  71. Dearest Stephanie,
    Saying that I’m sorry can’t even begin to help overcome something like this. In 2000 I lost a nephew, brother and my father-in-law to cancer in a four month span. It’s a wicked pain to bear, sometimes it feels like it will break you. Love to you and your family, and here’s hoping that your Aunt Susan is correct, and that your loved ones are now together, happy and pain free.

  72. Beautifully written when you’re clearly grieving so much. Sending so much love over the oceans to you and hope that this little message will help in some tiny way.

  73. There just are no adequate words. Just know, that you have had the most awful year imaginable–terrible loss–and you are still on your feet moving forward. My hat is off to you dear Stephanie.

  74. jeezus, the hits just keep on coming for you, and your family! i’m so sorry. so very sorry. i hope you, and all that you love get a break, very very soon.

  75. I am so sorry for your loss. Your family has taken quite a wallop lately and I hope that there is a peaceful spell of time in your family’s near future. Take care of yourself and hold some babies. Fresh baby smell and cuddles do a world of good.

  76. I’m so sorry for this additional loss. Your family has really been whopped lately and it’s really hard when losses happen over and over again. You and your family are in my heart even though we don’t know each other and most likely never will. I know you will love and support each other, and emerge with loving and funny and happy memories as the pain recedes.

  77. Much, much love to you and your family. I’m so sorry for all your losses recently. Cancer just sucks so much and it’s so unfair. <3

  78. The love of my life died 7 years ago and I still can’t stand it when people say he lost his battle with cancer. He did not lose a battle, he died from a very serious illness.
    People never say that someone lost his or her battle with any other disease, only cancer, why?
    Hugs and kisses to you and your entire family. XOXOXOXO

  79. What a lovely tribute to not only Susan but Tupp and your Mum as well. Know that their strength, bravery and loyalty have been passed on and are being carried by you and yours. My sympathy.

  80. I am so sad for all of you, for the loss and for the awfulness of it all. My heart is with you.

    I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had last month to a vicious cancer, and I appreciate your words more than you’ll ever know. I am so bothered by the battlefield terminology regarding cancer – my friend fought hard, and bravely, and sometimes she was scared and felt so alone, and there wasn’t a damn thing she or anyone else could do or could have done to change it. It’s just awful and as much as I remind myself that there’s no such thing as fairness in the world, I really wish sometimes that there was, because it was really really unfair.

    We hold them in our hearts and keep saying their names, but it’s not enough, and it will get better, but it won’t ever be right. And they didn’t lose a battle – they were killed by a disease.

    Hugs to you and all of yours.

  81. Oh, Stephanie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you feel the love coming at you from all over, and you find comfort in wonderful memories.

    So much love to you and your family and friends —

  82. Stephanie
    Thank you for your gracious and vulnerable words about Susan. They are so filled with love and my heart breaks for you and yours as you grieve yet another death, yet another loss. I really appreciate your discussion on battle language and appreciate how you name your truth without stepping on those images for others (this is the grace part – in case you were wondering) I also appreciate your sharing your beliefs so openly and vulnerably. I am a clergy person, and I do not feel like you tramped all over my beliefs, but simply offered yours as another possibility (read more grace here!). I hope that in your writing about Susan, your Mom and Tupper, that you find some measure of comfort and peace, but I fear it may only be momentary and intermittent. I further hope that you feel the love that your blog people are sending your way and that we can carry you for a while as you so often carry us with you honesty, truth and vulnerability. You make me laugh out loud and tear up just as often. Your gift of you to us is so much. Thank you for your courage and may you be blessed by all that is good in our fractured world and find wholeness in it.

  83. My sister’s days ended last December. She, too, would rather be here. Thank you for this. It helped me with the pain that is still there. Sending love and condolences.

  84. Oh, Stephanie, I am so sorry! You’ve had so much loss in the past few years. I wish you and your family peace and comfort.

  85. Well written and I am so sorry for your loss. It was recently three years since the loss of my Dad to cancer – I was reminded of something I read stating that Grief is like a heavy load that we are not able to put down but over time it seems lighter and we are better able to carry it. So while I can’t give it away I feel I have slowly gotten better able to carry it. Hugs.

  86. I am so sad for you. I hold you and your family in my heart.
    Thank you for this post. It is beautifully said. Many of your posts resonate with me; this one, most especially.

    Snuggle the baby as much as possible.

  87. Just 2 things: 1. What a lovely photo of you with your sister, Mum, and Susan. 2. Your mother had gorgeous legs!

  88. I’m so sorry. I’m sure that doesn’t help, but I just wanted you to know someone cares. You have so many comments, I can’t imagine one more means anything, but, just in case, I wanted you to know I am sorry and thinking of you.

  89. Stephanie,
    I am so sorry about the passing of your Aunt Susan. I believe she is in a better place with her loved ones and I hope one day you can believe that too. Prayers to you and all your family

  90. Your family has been through so much, I’m so sorry. I don’t believe in an afterlife either, though at times I wish I did, it seems like it would be a comfort.

    I do think that you writing here is, in no small measure, providing comfort to others. Your writing is resonating, helping your readers and creating even more of a community. That’s not nothing. That’s your family members being taken on and carried with hundreds of us.

  91. What a beautiful tribute. And the beach…sigh…I can see them all, the breeze ruffling the crossword. What a treasure to hold onto.

    We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, nitrogen in our brains.
    93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames, we are all just stars that have people names.-Nikita Gill

    Shine bright Susan.

  92. Such beautiful words and very well said. I am so very sorry for your loss. Two close friends of mine have died in similar circumstances in the past few months – this is a much more comforting way of thinking about cancer. sending you love and light.

  93. My thoughts are with you and your family; may memories of Susan, your mother, and Tupper be a blessing. I, too, find it hard to relate to the antagonistic language about illness that comes naturally to many (and good for them–not criticizing it). I like your idea of an allotted number of days–when you’re through them, you’re through them, through no fault or shortcoming of your own.

  94. I despise that ‘battle’ rhetoric with my very soul, for the reasons you mentioned. I also loathe the attitude that my mother called ‘the tyranny of hope.’ ‘You have to keep fighting, don’t give up hope, keep a good attitude.’ No. Just no. I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this, my heart just aches for you all. Wishing you the gift of peace.

  95. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I lost my dad and my brother within a relatively short period and I know how deeply painful so much loss can be.

    If you have need of it, Grief Beyond Belief is a non-religious grief support group on Facebook. It is wonderful and private and it has helped me tremendously.

    Much love to you

  96. When my mother took her last breath I told her to have a wonderful journey, a bon voyage of sorts. I wish there was something I could do for you, but there isn’t. So I wish you healing from your pain, and hopes that someday you won’t ache quite so much.

  97. Stephanie My heart is with you in the passing of our dear Susan!
    I have fond memories of when your Mom & Susan came to BC and were sitting on my deck in Peachland enjoying the mountains & lake view and a glass of wine & many great laughs 🙂 i look forward to being at the beach with them all again one day 🙂
    with love & comfort your cuz Diane xoxo

  98. Oh, so many losses in such a short time. Your words are so true….the allotted days were reached, so much better than talking about losing a fight. They will live on in your heart and you will catch glimpses of them in your own daughters, in a phrase, a turn of hand, a kindness and then your loved ones will be resurrected over and over again.

  99. Oh Steph, I’m there with you. Your words were right and on target. I lost my niece this past weekend to same awful disease. It was her third go-round with it and it was more savage than ever this time. Other posters before have said wonderful words as well – so I’ll just add to please remember that you are loved by so many and we’ll support you as best as we can.

  100. Please accept my deepest sympathies. I lost my aunt and mom 30 days apart this past fall, its not fair and no family should have to suffer that much all at once. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  101. I am so very sorry for your loss. I, too, lost my dad, then my mom, and finally my sweet mother in law all within a year and a half. Grief was my constant companion for years. Finally one day I realized I had left it behind and there was more joy in my life again. It was my grandchild that brought the joy back into my life. There is such sweet joy and wonder in them that it helps us carry on…

  102. I truly loathe cancer. It’s a scourge.

    There just aren’t the words to make any of it better. Life to me seems like seasons. Seasons of weddings, births, rites of passage, funerals. We pass through them over and again, until we must take our own turn.

    As long as we can remember who has gone before us, like in your dream, then we can keep them.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  103. Steph I hardly know what to say. I’m sorry you’ve had so many losses in such a short time. I can only imagine how hard it must be.

    May their memories be for a blessing.

  104. The strength of your amazing tribe makes it more equipped than most to handle the storm of loss that has struck too many times recently. It certainly doesn’t make it easier by even one damn bit, but it does give assurance you’ll come out the other side. Much love to all of you.
    P. S. I got “click or touch the Woman.” Hail Susan.

  105. Love to you and your family. Very well written. I have been down that cancer road in my family – twice. I don’t like the words fight or battle either. Cancer patients don’t have energy to waste on fighting. Living and loving during each day is more important.

  106. Stephanie I am filled with admiration at the growth and strength of character you share with us. I imagine there’s plenty you don’t share but I hope it helps you to share what you do.
    Also I have picked up knitting again thanks to your blog. Whenever I sit counting stitches (by twos) to make sure my rows are still OK, I remember my mother (who died in 1998) doing exactly that, and probably her grandmother who I only met once but who taught her to knit.
    Also she taught me how to wind a ball from a purchased skein and I still do it the same way (by hand).
    Love is passed down and it makes the world go around. And it doesn’t really matter what any of us believes about what (if anything) comes next, since we won’t know until we get there (or don’t). But living this life the best way we can is what does matter, and you do that beautifully.
    Thank you.

  107. Deepest condolences, Stephanie, for this and all of your recent losses. Thank you for sharing your tribute with us and for using your words so beautifully.

  108. I am so sorry for your loss. You have been through so much, and I wish you and your family lots of support and love and happier times.

    Thank you also for refusing to cite Susan’s ‘battle.’ I have long been uncomfortable with the metaphors of illness — my father died of cancer, and it seemed nothing like the actual war he served in, nor did it seem like the same language should be used to describe it. It seemed disrespectful to both experiences. I’m glad to see that in at least part of this, I’m not the only one.

  109. I’m so sorry for your losses. I’m going out on a limb here because I don’t know you. I only know the public figure. But from what I’ve seen, I’m guessing you didn’t fail. I’m guessing you’re very much your mother.

  110. I’m so, so sorry for your loss, but full of admiration for your absolute grace and gift with words. I’m another who is deeply uncomfortable with the ‘battle’ language and the pressure it puts on people who already have more than enough to deal with.

  111. There’s no way around it, this is a terrible loss.Holding you in thoughts of love & light. May you & your family find peace.

  112. I wish I could give you a hug and make a cup of tea and say how sorry I am. When my mother passed away, my son told me that she was now in the sky with the other stars, looking out for us. He would wave her goodnight every evening . Be gentle with yourself, and love those close to you.

  113. I am sorry for your loss. Your family has been through so much in the past year and I hope things get better for you now.

  114. I am so very sorry for your loss. Nothing will take away that pain. At the same time, I hope you can feel the love and support from this amazing community you have fostered. For me, grief makes me feel so terribly alone, and I need to feel that awfulness before I can begin to move through it. Knowing I had people to hold me up while in the depths was the only comfort I could take. I am sure you have this support from your own circle, and you absolutely have it from “the blog”.

  115. I’m sorry hear you have lost your aunt. No doubt she was comforted by your presence during her difficult time. As always your words and reflections are lovely, poignant, and perfect. How lovely you were at Sunshine – or thereabouts – when she passed.

  116. I’m so sorry for all of your losses. I have found it unfortunately true that losing someone we love tends to bring back echos of all the loved ones we have lost, so that you have to grieve again on the way to healing again.

    And thank you so much for not using the metaphor of fighting/surviving to describe illness. I have also lost many family members to cancer, and find it difficult to get behind the idea that there is any personality trait that can help you “win that battle.” Just as I wouldn’t assume any valor or lack thereof in someone for getting a cold or needing antibiotics to kick a bad sinus infection. I’m glad that some people find comfort in it, but I appreciate very much your defense of an alternate narrative. Thank you.

  117. Oh, I am so with you on everything you have said. Thank goodness it has finally been said. Passing on from a sickness is not loosing a battle … It is not about how valiantly one fought…

    it just is .

    You have said it well. Thank you. Hugs.

  118. My heart hurts for you and your family. My family went through a similar string of losses a few years back and it takes a long time to wrap your mind around the changes in your family. <3

  119. Wow. There is so much there to go through, that you have gone through. Sorry in sympathy doesn’t even really feel like an attempt. I hope you will let yourself grieve and pass on through and take care of yourselves. Like others, I very much appreciate your articulation of dealing with cancer and other dread diseases of the modern age. I myself have been lucky thus far, but have thought recently about the language, realizing I don’t like the warlike or violent terminology and wouldn’t wish it applied to myself, should that ever be necessary. I just wasn’t sure that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
    Thank you for sharing. It was very moving and thought provoking. Peace to you and yours.

  120. I am so, so sorry, Stephanie. My love to you and your family and everyone else who loved Susan, and your mom, and Tupper.

  121. So sorry. Losing loved ones for any reason sucks.

    Take care of you and the ones around you, as best as you can for all of y’all. Good vibes for healing from Atlanta. Vicki

  122. Like you, I don’t like the “struggle” “battle” language. Like you, I have up close and personal experience of the shitfight that cancer is. Unlike you – and I’m so sorry for your losses – I’m one of the lucky ones. My thoughts are with you.

  123. I am so sorry that your Aunt Susan left this world. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and your family just for a few minutes but I can’t, I’m too far away. Therefore I deputize Elliot to do it for me.

    Whenever I read in an obituary about someone losing a battle with cancer or having waged a courageous fight I hope that the next obit says that the person went kicking and screaming because I suspect that the great majority of us just aren’t that stoic and noble. I intend to kick and scream and pinch and scratch, spew profanity and howl at the moon when it’s my turn to go.

    This has been a difficult year for you. Know that The Blog is out here in the shadows holding you up and keeping the faith. We love you, you know.

  124. Thank you for this. I’ve often felt similar discomfort about the ways we talk about (and around) debilitating or fatal illnesses, but i thought it was just me.

    My 83 year old Dad was just diagnosed with kidney cancer and I’m home for a time trying to help him navigate US healthcare. Thank you for everything you’ve written about this disease and how families face it.

  125. Over the past two years I have lost an adult daughter and two grandchildren. Just as we were able to get off the floor from one death, there would be another. Like you, my brain won’t accept the idea of any kind of afterlife but I support members of my family who believe our loved ones are together and, like you, I hope they’re right. I’m so sorry your family is going through such an onslaught of repeated sorrows ~ it’s like slogging through thigh high mud, seemingly forever. I have no magic words. I hold you in my thoughts.

  126. I lost a knitting friend to cancer in May of last year. I’m still mad about it and grieve for her each time I pick up my needles. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  127. Thoughts and prayers to you and yours. Susan and your mum sound as if they were very special women; it’s a shame that that is all the time there was. Take care.

  128. It doesn’t seem fair (not that life can be called fair) when there is one loss stacked on top of another. My condolences to you and your family on the loss of your aunt.

  129. There are no words for the losses your family has been hit with in the last couple of years – except maybe Elliot. Hug him. You are in my thoughts. Love to all of you.

  130. Steph, I am so, so sorry.
    And to the universe that has taken them? I say ENOUGH, give this family a rest. There is a saying from a religion not my own that I love, “May their memory be a blessing.” And I know that it is.
    May the strength and love of them and from them to you all help a bit in the days ahead.

  131. Thank you for addressing the terrible battlefield metaphors surrounding illness. I suffer from a chronic illness and your words meant a lot to me. I’m so sorry that you have suffered another loss in your family.

  132. I am so sorry that you and yours are struggling with another loss in your family. I wish the pain of it could be otherwise.

    I have long disliked the fight/battle metaphors that we use for serious illness, especially cancer. I guess I’ve just never understood what the enemy is when that violence is directed at our own bodies. I can understand you not wanting to use similar language.

    I am glad to hear that Susan’s time here was filled with so much love and connection. May you feel loved deeply as well, especially at times of difficulty.

  133. I’m so sorry for you loss – all of them.

    My family went through a similar period about ten years ago, and it was awful – my true sympathy and love to you and all your family.

  134. Wishing you all comfort and peace in this time. Your family knows well how to live fiercely and care for each other. It sounds like Susan rode the wave of her cancer with grace.

  135. Dear Stephanie, I am so sad to hear this, and send you much love, along with wishes that you will be able to ride this terrible wave safely, along with all the other recent ones that have been so devastating. There is a lot of accumulated wisdom and radiant love in the comments above — I hope they will comfort you. As for the afterlife, who knows? (and I say this as a religious person), but it’s not a crime to dream of a best-case scenario – dream on, and know that I and many others will be dreaming with you.
    May the memory of all your dear ones be a blessing.

  136. Oh Steph, I am so sorry for you and your family. To say this is a difficult time for you all is beyond understatement. There will be happy times again, there is joy waiting on the other side of all this grief but you have to trudge on to get there.

  137. I’m so sorry for your losses. I know about the aching holes they leave behind, and I know that words of sympathy can’t fill them, but I wanted to add my voice and let you know that you are heard and loved. I wish I could do more.

  138. Dear Stephanie,
    My deepest condolences to you and your family for yet another heavy loss. Embracing you with love from far away in this time of grieving.
    Many good wishes,

  139. If we have an afterlife, I believe that it is in the memories of those we leave behind. Your beautiful memories will keep them alive in the hearts and minds of your family and the genration to come.

  140. Thank you so much for saying this. I too am deeply uncomfortable with the war like metaphor in illness. I dislike it not only because of the implication of failure when you don’t beat the disease, but also because of the aggression it carries with it. To my mind there is nothing graceful or loving about war. In my experience those who live with disease often do so with grace, courage and love. That they may ultimately die is simply the outcome of the disease. Our grief and loss is not tainted by failure, it is often in honor of the whole and wonderful person they were. I know I don’t know you in any real way, but today and for the upcoming weeks I send my love and thoughts to you and your family. I hope you can be tender with each other in these bruising times.

  141. Stephanie, it has clearly been a rough year. And there is so little anyone can say to really help anyone weather this kind of time, but for what it is worth, you are in my thoughts and you are held in the light.

  142. Sending heartfelt condolences for your family’s loss of Susan. Continue to take care of each other, as you have been doing with such love.

  143. When my mother died, and I was alone with her, I whispered “Did you cross the finish line? Are you through with the life race? You won, Mommy, you won.”

  144. I think I get what you mean. I had the well meaning. “Well he isn’t suffering anymore” when my father died. Well that might be true, but it sucked anyway.

    My girls are young (5&7). And I’ve never explained the concept of heaven, so my Chilean mother in law decided to (I was out of the country). When I came back, the 5 year old told me that granpa was “in the air.” I said well yes, he is around us, like the force (yes a Star Wars reference). Then after watching Coco and bawling our eyes out at the end, I told them, that as long as we have grandad in our hearts and remember the good times we had with him, we will always remember him. They asked for a photo to put up near their beds. Then she said, do you miss your daddy? I said yes sometimes and she says, well mama, if you miss him, tell me and I will give you a hug from him. (making me cry even more – kids say the darnest things). Take your time to grieve and celebrate all she was…

  145. Those are very beautiful pictures, especially the family portrait.

    I’m so very sorry for everything you and your family have gone through. It’s the price of being human, and having a body that gives us so many wonderful things. My personal beliefs line up with your Aunt Susan’s, and I hope indeed they are on a beach all together.

  146. Believing in life after death requires the knowledge that there is One whose love transcends the physical laws of creation allowing that One to bring us into eternal relationship where there is no pain, suffering or death. Knowing that One cannot be proven scientifically because the One is greater than science. A love that great is there for everyone regardless of what we know, don’t know, are unsure of, or just dont’ want to know. There is comfort in the fact that there is One who is great than me and what I know. That Comfort grows the more I surrender to the One who offers it.

  147. I am sorry for your loss and sorry you and your family have gone through this so many times so recently. It was a gift for her to have you with her. Thank you for paying it forward. And thank you for acknowledging those who do not believe fighting is what illness should always be connected with and for those who do not believe in the afterlife.
    Death sucks. Necessary and brutal, all the same.
    Much love and hugs to you and your amazing family.

  148. I too have said good bye to my mom, and both my sisters. I have similar feelings about people who ask for prayer, and those who thank God when someone survives an illness…the idea that God helped one person but not another goes against my faith (and I am a believer). I think that sometimes a person’s time is up; no fault or lack in them or us, just done. I am very sorry for your loss, and for your family. I don’t have any wise words, everyone travels this road in their own way, except to say that I hope the love of your present family and friends will help you through.

  149. Hugs, prayers and love to you and your family. You have had to deal with such great losses over the past year. At times nothing in life seems fair. May the closeness of your family bring you great strength at this time.

  150. So much loss! I’m so sorry!
    I firmly believe death is not the end, but simply a change. They are out there still, on the beach, swimming and doing crosswords, whatever.
    Much love.

  151. So sorry to hear of your loss. While I am a believer, I don’t think of what comes after as an actual corporeal existence on another plane, but more the spirit and memories we leave behind. Your memories of them make your lost ones continue to be a part of your life. It’s just not the same, though, and that’s hard. Be kind to yourself.

  152. Sending loving energy to you and your family. When you lost your mom, it flashed me back to Sep ’08 when I lost mine. I was so hoping that you wouldn’t have more losses, as we did.

    It helped me – sometimes – knowing that death ends a life, but not a relationship. With decades of memories to draw on, these loved ones are still a part of my life and bring me joy more often then tears.

    I don’t know if I can explain this well enough for it to help in any way, but I hope so. Grief is a measure of our love. If I had to choose between no grief and not having her (or him) in my life, I’m taking the grief. I wrap my memories of her around me like a beautiful knit shawl while I wait for my heart to heal. Often, it isn’t enough, but then I find another bead (like the memory Diane mentioned) that makes me smile or even chuckle. I hold onto that in my heart and am willing to go through this for the privilege of having loved her.

    We, the Blog, so wish we could ease your burden. Remember that beyond your personal circle of friends and family, there are hundreds of us encircling you with love and nurturing energy.

    • Dear Verogall, thank you for so perfectly
      putting words to a feeling I know well: death ends a life, but not a relationship. I am you in the Light, right beside Steph and her family. <3

  153. I am so sorry for your loss. Sometimes, it just keeps coming. I hope you move through these painful times with all the love and support of your wonderful family.

  154. I am so tired of our loved ones passing from some sort of cancer!!! I pray that they find a cure.

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I know you don’t accept it, but I WILL pray for you and your family. You have suffered enough! But cancer is just such a nasty disease.

  155. I am so sorry. That is so much loss in such a short period of time, unfair isn’t even a beginning to try and adequately describe it.

    I loved this post. I lost my mom a year and a half ago to cancer as well and we hated all of the battle language for all the same reasons. We chose the word “thrive.” Because she thrived in every area of her life including within her last three years, thriving with a cancer diagnosis along for the ride. She was disappointed but not angry, and she found it unfair of course and wished it was different but she wasn’t interested in putting her energy into a “battle” or a “fight” against a palliative disease. Instead she thrived. She pursued all the treatment options available to her, but focused her energy on continuing to make beautiful memories with those she loved, and beautiful knit sweaters for all of her future grandchildren that she would not get the chance to meet in this world.

    My heart goes out to you and your family. I wish you the comfort of your happy memories when you were all able to thrive together. 🙂

  156. Cancer sucks. Losing those we love sucks. There are no words that can make it better or easier to bear. It just sucks. I am so very sorry that you have to travel this road. I hope that it helps to know that you are thought of with caring and support.

  157. Sorry for yet another big loss for your family.
    I think your words here will comfort many who have also lost loved ones. I know that they did me.

  158. My heart is breaking for you and your family yet again. Too much loss for you all. I wish I could take some of the pain away, but I will just offer my love and condolences and hugs from afar. Thinking of you all.

  159. I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for being there for her and for them as they took that journey forward into the unknown. She was blessed to have you.

    And I have to say, thank you for walking away from the fighting words, the battle metaphors, that to me always sound so out of tune. It’s not a war–it’s life, cushioned if we are lucky by the love that makes the hardest parts bearable.

    As I sit here remembering the young doctor at the hospital, not one of my regulars, whom I randomly ran into a year and a half later. The look on his face as he realized who I was: that I was out and about, happy, healthy, thrilled to see him–and alive! That he had played his part in keeping me here so that that moment could happen, all my moments since then and to come. He walked out of there just floating on air. This was what his life’s work was all about, and he seldom got to see the outcome. The hours, the stress, the stupid paperwork stuff–it was all worth it.

    And sometimes it goes that way. In the end, for each of us, if we go knowing we loved and were loved, that is all we can hope for. And it is enough.

    She was very lucky to have you seeing her through.

  160. The words are hard to find when consoling someone for too many deaths in too short a time. Even having experienced the same recently, I am still at a loss for words that might comfort you except to say that your words here have comforted me. Thank you.

  161. I am so sorry that you and your extended family have suffered another loss. As previously stated, cancer sucks.

    Now, go hug Elliott. Babies are the best salve for grief.

  162. Oh, Stephanie. I am so very sorry. I am so sorry for your loss. That is awful.

    I agree with you on the language we use to discuss “fighting” a disease. It is so unfair. If it brings comfort to people, then that is fine, I don’t want to criticize anyone, but it hurts me when people say my husband “lost his battle with cancer.” He spent his last years with dignity and grace and trying his best to make it less painful for the people that loved him. He tried to make sure me and my son were taken care of financially after he passed away. He did his best to not be grumpy or mean, even when he was in a colossal amount of pain.

    He did his best, and he died of cancer. We don’t chastise people for losing the battle with nearsightedness, when they have to wear glasses, or need heart medication. (I guess there’s still some acceptance to be worked on for medication for mental health, though).

    I know people don’t mean any harm when they talk about cancer that way. And I get that people don’t always have the right words. It’s really hard. It’s such a hard thing you’re going through, Steph, all your family is going through, and your mom and your aunt’s friends, too. I just wish there were better metaphors/words.

    I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife, either. I was raised too, but I struggle with it sometimes. My husband died on Pi Day, and Stephen Hawking died on Pi Day this year. It’s also Einstein’s birthday. I like to think they both went to Einstein’s birthday party in heaven or wherever they are, and that my husband’s dad was there, and our orange cat, and his beagle from his childhood. I hope they all wore pointy party hats and sang Happy Birthday to Albert and that Panzer (our orange kitty) ripped his hat off immediately (because he hated hats).

    I don’t know what I’m trying to say, other than I love you, and I’m so sorry, and I know it hurts so much, and I’m so sorry. I wish there were something I could do. Holding you in light, sweetheart.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. And also, thank you for the delightful image of a cosmic birthday party, it made me smile.

  163. Stephanie, I am so very sorry to hear of Susan’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this most difficult time!

  164. I understand, and think very similar about what is next. I don’t know and wonder … but am in no hurry. Much yet to do here, right now with people I love as do you.

    The magic moments are ours forever, keep them close and bring them to mind often. Hugs ….

  165. What a lovely tribute. I’m so sorry that you and your family have lost another loved one. Someone above mentioned that death is the end of a life, but not the end of a relationship, and I think that is true. I hope that as your grief wanes just a little that the happy memories you have of these remarkable people in your life will comfort you.

    I won’t reproduce it all here, but the poem Dirge without Music resonates with me at times like this:

    “Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”

    (And thank you so much for articulating the battle metaphors around disease and dying. I know it helps some, but, like you and many others here, it doesn’t feel right to me.)

    Wishing you peace and healing.

  166. The thoughts you expressed were so eloquent. You have done them, and yourself proud. They are alive in your heart and memories. I hope you have a measure of peace

  167. You have so eloquently written what I have often thought. As an ICU nurse, I see people die all the time, and it just feels wrong to say that they “lost” to a disease, as if they just didn’t fight hard enough. The truth is, people who want to live more than anything, people who are heartbroken to leave the people they love behind, people who are strong, and good and wonderful, die everyday. Thank you for sharing this and so many things with us.

  168. Oh gosh honey, I’m so sorry. What a pretty picture of all of your together, Susan looks like a lovely lady.

    My mum died on the 7th and one of the hospice nurses said she was in the tunnel. It’s a journey and she was going from one place to another. So I like to think of it like that, not a winning/losing thing either.

    Much love to you.

  169. I’m so sorry for all your lost ones. You and your family will be in my thoughts. (I’m almost crying because you reminded me of my mom who died from cancer, but it’s okay.)

  170. I’m so sorry for your loss — losses, really. My mom died from pancreatic cancer earlier this year, and I am also one of those people who has the hardest time believing that something else exists, something after this. I hope that for my mom it did, and I hope for my own selfish sake that I’ll be able to see her again. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  171. Thank you for this very timely consideration. In the space of the last two years I have lost my mother, my oldest brother, my dearest aunt, and right now my mother-in-law has gone as far as she can with medicine available in her challenge with cancer. What you have written here is something I have been trying to nail down in my process with my dear mother-in-law. I thank you for your generosity and I want you to know that your words have given me pause, and have helped me to think in a different way about what Cancer does to loving people everywhere.

  172. I am so sorry for your all your losses. I absolutely agree with you about the mismatch between battle imagery and this vile disease. I am called a breast cancer “survivor,” but I think of myself simply an “endurer” who was lucky enough to get an easily treated type of BC. I did not “fight” any better than my friend who has triple negative BC or my friend who has metastatic BC. Again, I’m so sorry for your pain. Thank you for writing about it.

  173. I’m so very sorry for all of your losses & that they have been one sorrowful thing after another, so soon. Sending you and all your family love and keeping you in my prayers.


  174. What a year this has been for you and your family. If o could wrap you up I a warm, wooly hug, I would. My thoughts, prayers, and love are with you.

  175. One of the most memorable condolence cards I got last year after a family death was “Where there are many tears, there was great love.”

    Holding you and yours in light and love.

  176. Grief, too, is a journey. We learned this when our son died suddenly in an accident. It is a long journey for sure, so let others help you along the way. And when you help others, it is like a balm on an unhealed wound. Take your time on this particular and painful journey. Don’t let anyone deter you by wondering why you aren’t “over it” yet. I feel as if you are a dear friend of mine, Steph, and clearly I am not alone in this. We love you and care about you too.

  177. Thank you so much for addressing the pressure to fight following a cancer diagnosis! Two years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and facing chemo and radiation, I felt the same way you do. There is no other diagnosis that results in this expectation to go to battle. I found that focusing on loving my body and my life made more sense to me. I send you and your family love as you grieve.

  178. My deepest condolences to you and your family at this most recent loss. Thank you for sharing your open heart and speaking so eloquently of your love.

  179. The only words I can think of are “I’m so sorry”. Over the last year I have lost a number of people whom I love and it has been very tough. Peace and love……

  180. I am so sorry for your losses. Such difficult times.

    Have you ever read “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis? The record of his grieving process helped me feel less alone during mine. Maybe you will find comfort in it too.

    “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis is another gem. He skillfully and clearly relays why Christians believe what they believe about God and the afterlife.

    Many good wishes sent your way. Thank you for brightening our lives with yours.

  181. How loving and thoughtful you are to have attended and cared for Susan! Only a few kind and exceptional people would willingly walk through that door again so soon. It’s so rewarding to have known you through hour blog.p

  182. Much love, sympathy and hope for healing for you and all your family. What a rough year you’ve had. I appreciate greatly your words on cancer, and the terms we use to discuss it. I have seen friends with cancer overcome by it, and others survive it, and I cannot as yet see much rhyme or reason as to why one and not the other. None of them are losers in any way – what a helpful reminder. Thank you. I hope you are surrounded by inexhaustible amounts of love and care. And I’m sure that although you couldn’t be your mum, being you was a great gift to Susan anyway. Much love to you!

  183. Thank you so much for writing this! I too have always had trouble with the battle metaphors when it comes to illness/disease! But I thought it was just me! Glad to know I’m not alone!

  184. Thank you for your honesty, and for sharing your painful journey with all of us. There aren’t words. Sending wishes for comfort your way. So much loss in such a brief time is almost unbearably difficult. And for Susan, I do hope the beach, and the sea, and the crossword with her loved ones are her new reality.

  185. I have come back to read this entry twice. It is just so touching and meaningful. I also am at the point where the generation above mine is starting to slip away. Of course, when we were younger we thought they would always be there, above us in line. Sort of taking them for granted the way youth does. But you have done your loved ones proud with your words and actions.

  186. Here we go again. There are no words, just feelings of loss, loneliness and a huge hole in our lives.
    I am so sorry. I hope she did not suffer.
    Death and coping with it, is a mark of our humanity. Like you, I do not believe there is “more”. So our goals should be to make our time here an occasion, something special, even if not for as large an audience as you inspire, Stephanie.
    I wish you a peaceful heart.
    — ——
    This month marks 6 years since I lost my husband to ALS. I miss him, not quite as desperately, but the hole in my life… His death was followed with 4 other family members over the next two years.
    My mum turned 93 on Feb. 12th (and my first grandchild 3 on the same date). That week she was diagnosed with dementia. Confirming my thoughts, I had realized she was not all there since my father died 4 years ago. Our parents are supposed to go first but oh how we grieve.
    Then we set our eyes on the new horizon…

  187. Sometimes there is so much happening in our lives, so many significant losses that it makes me wonder, as a person, why we don’t just run away screaming. Thank you Stephanie for putting into words the way I am feeling. I also struggle with the thought of an afterlife and as a result am unable to express my feelings to my family without an uproar. Thank you.

    I am so very sorry for the losses that your family is enduring. I wish that I had words to help, to comfort and to ease your pain. If tears would help you have them for sure.

  188. I’m so sorry for your loss, Stephanie. I also want to thank you for writing so beautifully of birth, death and the life in between. Your posts on these subjects are always so thoughtful and full of grace.

  189. The beach is a heavenly place… I got to know a little bit about them by reading your stories. They loved and they were loved.

    I am terribly saddened by your loss.

    Hugs Stephanie.

  190. Dear Stephanie,
    I have just forwarded this post to my sister who lost her beloved husband not so long ago. You have put so beautifully into words your feelings and philosophy about losing someone to cancer or other dire illness.
    I have reread this several times.
    I am so sorry for your loss and grateful that you have shared your feelings with us as you have done so many times in joyful and sad occasions.
    Please accept my condolences.

  191. I am so sorry for your loss. If it helps, rather than an afterlife, I think of post-death as an afterimage: the imprint of our souls/spirits/essence/personality/life are left on the minds and hearts that we leave behind, like sun shadows when you close your eyes. That’s how we “live on”, through the memories we leave and influences we’ve had on other people. And in writing these tributes to the ones you love, you’re spreading their influences to so many more people who know a little something about your loved ones now, and I think it makes their afterimage that much brighter.

  192. Susan was right, Steph. My own mom had a near-death experience toward the end of her 16-year illness. While out of her body, she went to a sidewalk cafe and found her mother and sister waiting for her, drinking pink wine and having a lovely time. When she came back to us (for one more year of illness) she told me about it. After she finally died, it’s where she went, too. I know it to be true.

    Great souls are too powerful to just vanish.

  193. Since I can’t ease your sorrow, because it comes hand in hand with the lifetime bonds of love that you have had . . .
    Since I won’t try to hold your hand, because it would interfere with your knitting . . .
    I will sit here with you from 4,000 km away and bear witness to the beauty of love and wisdom that you have received from those who have gone before you, that you pass through those who come after you, and that you choose to share with us.
    May joyful memories help soften your sorrow.

  194. I’m so sorry you’re going through yet another loss. I completely agree about the strength euphemisms. When my mother died from breast cancer, I hated the thought of her “loosing” a fight, with the implication that if she had been more, fill-in-the-blank, that she would have survived. It made it almost seem like it was her fault that she died. Those thoughts don’t help deal with the loss or help create memories that are so important and comforting.

  195. I also do not believe in the traditional idea of an afterlife. I wish I could, but I really don’t. But I do believe that the energy that is us must go somewhere after the body dies. All that love can’t just vanish. The idea of the person living on in your memories is nice too, but I really think that that energy, that soul, if you will, that loved you, goes back to the love that is the universe. And it comes back to visit you every once in a while, maybe in a dream, or as a butterfly lighting on your shoulder, or as a particularly beautiful sunset that makes you stop and pay attention so that you can hear the universe remind you that it loves you and that you are love. It doesn’t make missing them any easier though.

  196. So sorry. So wanting to enfold you in a hug and a bit of knitting or warm socks, or whatever…My DH had the same tenacity as your mom and Aunt Susan and Tupp…and yes, there is courage and determination and knowing one is surrounded in love — for the spirit is stronger than the physical body. Like Susan, I believe my DH is in a place where I’ll join him some day. I saw his face as he died, and I am sure of it.

    But this is about you and how I hope now as you are held once more in the basket of love and memories of those who have died, and that basket carried in the arms of those whom you love and who love you in this life, that you will find comfort, and peace and freedom to remember with tears of both grief and joy. Much love.

  197. Shit. I’m sorry this happened. I’m sorry it ever happens. I’m sorry it happened to my dad, to my brother, and will someday happen to other people I care about.

    “Susan didn’t lose a fight – the magic number of days she was somehow allotted had elapsed.”

    Yes. The “fight” metaphor to me would mean that we all die “losers,” which makes sense only if we are arrogant enough to think that there is a way in which we could be immortal if only we could find it.

    BTW, you didn’t fail to be your mom. You succeeded brilliantly in being you, though. (And even then, you’re 50% her right, so that’s pretty good.)

  198. Sending love. You used all the right words. you usually do, it’s one of the reasons we’re all here following your life. Thank you so much for sharing the hard times as well as the wonderful. We need more of that in this world – to connect with one another and feel each other’s joys and pains.

  199. I am so sorry for all of your loss. I feel your love for these very special people we have not had the pleasure of knowing personally. They were richer for having you as part of their family. All the love and hugs to you and your family.


  200. Love and warm thoughts from here to you and your loved ones. You all have had a pretty rough go of it. So strange how death is such a big part of life. And at times almost easy to accept. Then other times we cannot wrap our heads around the notion and we want to run for whatever safe haven we can find from its harsh reality. May all the love between and good times shared by your loved ones bring you peace in their absence.

  201. Stephanie – hugs to you and all of your family. Your post was beautiful and loving – thank you for the strength to write it. You are all in my thoughts.

  202. My sincerest sympathies to your family. The pain we feel with such loss is very real indeed. When my beloved brother died suddenly a few years ago, there were many times when I could barely breathe through the grief. But I remember holding my 9 month old grandson and whispering to him, “You’re going to save my life.”. And I believe that his sweetness and beauty and joy did just that. Hold tight to each other.

  203. So very sorry to you and your family. You’ve shared a beautiful tribute. Thank you for allowing us to share in this grief with you, I hope that sharing has brought you peace and I know that, based on the comments, that it has resonated to many. Hugs to you all.

  204. No one can tell you what you should feel or believe about life beyond what we know on earth. My feelings have changed over the years and may sound very weird to you and to others. I share them only because it may give someone permission to consider this when their earthly and perhaps formal religious teachings tell them otherwise.

    I won’t go into the long background of how I came to this but I believe our souls have been here before in other bodies at other times and will return again. Ever meet someone and instantly be attracted to them in a way that surprised you? I’m not talking physically, but someone that you felt a real connection with long before the time it takes to normally develop a close friendship and trust.

    Various psychics (no, I don’t go often but have seen and been read by 4 different individuals over almost 40 years) have told me that my husband and one son have been together before which is why our relationships are so easy. We’ve worked out the hard stuff in previous times. It doesn’t mean that we were always family, or that my husband was always the husband and father, me the wife and mother, etc. After initial skepticism, this rang true for me. I don’t expect everyone to accept this but I’m not pushing anyone, this is simply my story. My husband was skeptical longer than I was but began to agree that it was at least possible if not likely.

    My sweetheart was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2016 and died in April of 2017. Just as you described, he didn’t lose which implies lack of effort or skill. He had everything to live for, for a good many more years. Long before he was diagnosed and we thought we had many years of good health ahead, back when mortal partings were something you talk about with a light heart, we told each other that we would find each other again. I truly believe that. I don’t know if it will be in a heaven-like state (which is what?) or if our souls will be recycled and 50 years from now maybe I will be the one to deliver a cheesy pickup line that leads to a relationship. Until then, I have one-way conversations from my heart, mostly silently in thoughts but I do say goodnight and “I love you” aloud at bedtime.

    If I’m wrong about this, I won’t know until after I’m gone from earth and if there is nothing for my soul to know or feel, it won’t matter. For now, it gives me comfort. My parents, in-laws, a child at birth and the man who was everything to me are not here with me physically but I am not alone. There is a theme to the animated Disney movie “Coco” that says that as long as someone is alive to tell your story, you are never truly gone.

    My hope for you is that you find comfort and peace in whatever form is easiest for you.

  205. Faxing you tea and when you need it, if you need it, a gentle hand on your shoulder to help bolster you.

    Thank you so much for writing this. You speak my own truth.

  206. Condolences to you and your family.
    Thank you for the words and for sharing the photos.
    As usual you will help others with your posts!
    Glad the blog can be a big collective listening ear.

  207. Steph, words are inadequate to express my sorrow for you. Many losses in a short time, so hard on the soul. May you find peace, joy and fulfillment in shared moments with those you love.

  208. As a nurse, I’m so with you on not using fighting words when people face death. It’s a journey we will all face, and as with births, they all have similarities, but each person does have their own death. I’m sorry for your loss. Susan, like your mom, sounds like a wonderful person. {{Hugs}}

  209. Agreement isn’t really the point here. But as it happens, I completely agree. I have lost a couple of people recently and don’t think they lost any fight. I don’t think they will arrive anywhere else, but maybe they will, and that would be lovely. I wish I could believe that, and I can’t. But I am glad they are no longer suffering and in that I have confidence. Wishing you well in your grieving.

  210. Dear Stephanie, you have written in this and other posts about how you tried so hard to be your mother, and failed. Of course you failed, you aren’t her. She wouldn’t want you to be her, she raised you to be you–and did a darned good job of it. Instead of feeling like you failed at being your mother, please just celebrate the fact that your mother helped you become Stephanie, a woman who values family, community, continuity, and wool, and gives much of herself in the service of all of these. And I am so sorry for your loss.

  211. I grieve with you over your losses. May the love of family and friends enfold you during this difficult time. May you be comforted by the memories of those who have passed on and buoyed by the compassion of those still with you. Love and hugs to you and yours.

  212. Such kind and gentle words everyone offers, and I have those feelings too. But as an oncology nurse, I can’t help but think less benevolent words too. Cancer is a cruel disease – it can pop up in healthy people and knock them to the ground, it can simmer insidiously for years, it can linger painfully while demanding difficult decisions the whole way, or clear the table of choices and hope with one devastating swipe. So my words today are fuck you, cancer… you’re a ruthless, vicious brute and I hate your heartbreaking ways.

  213. It seems that losses do tend to come close – especially when we reach that point in a family that a generation is ready to let go. And as you say, we somehow find the resilience to “do Wednesday anyway” as we move into becoming the oldest generation.
    While our beliefs about what occurs after that last breath are as personal and varied as humans can be, what stays with us is the effect of the live that was lived, the memories that were shared, and the reminders of who we became because that person was a part of our experience and how we changed and grew because of that.
    Whether it’s a battle or a sail on smooth waters, what matters most is what we carry forward with us while our journey is still happening. Sending you many blessings and sweet memories, and joy in those around you. With much love.

  214. I am so sorry for your loss. My beloved aunt died this past fall and I am still upset about it. My condolences to your whole family.

  215. My sincere condolences to you and your family. You all have experienced a tsunami of loss. I applaud your resilience and your ability to trudge on.

  216. I wholeheartedly agree with your wording (as per usual). The “lost their fight to cancer” drives me a little nuts.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. It’s clear Susan was well loved.

    I absolutely believe in the afterlife. Where we can swim in the ocean and lay on the beach and never need sunscreen…..but I’ll probably still wear a big floppy hat. 🙂

    I am glad you were able to figure out Monster Pants was the prescription you needed! 🙂

  217. Stephanie, I am so sorry, I know this is hard. Like you, I had trouble believing in an afterlife. But now, scientists seem to think that there are multiple universes, so I have to think hmmm…why not one with that beach and your loved ones?

  218. As a reader and a human, I am so sorry for your loss. As an oncologist, I applaud your transparency about the pitfalls of wording about ‘battles’ and ‘fighting’ when it comes to cancer and illness. I avoid such wording as I don’t think anyone should feel they are ‘giving up,’ ‘losing a battle,’ or ‘succumbing’ just because they’ve reached the limitations of modern medicine.

  219. I am so very sorry for all the loss you’ve experienced. I’ve never met you, but have read most everything you’ve written, because you are a good writer who understands the knitter. But truly my tears roll because I do believe there is an amazing afterlife, not because I believe in the idea of an afterlife, but because I believe, trust, and rely on the creator and sustainer of this life, and He has a name, Jesus. Elly’s post above recommended the writings of CS Lewis, and I agree, they would bring you comfort. But if you’ve ever wondered why some Christians can so disregard the politically correct way to view this world, let me suggest to you that is because we KNOW the some One greater, and the truth of His Word completely resonates within us. I pray that you will find His peace.
    PS. I will understand if you find it necessary to delete this, but it is written to you out of love.

  220. I know from first-hand experience that words of comfort seldom work except for the people saying them. The hurt lasts forever, though it does sometimes seem easier to handle. Here’s what helps me and I hope it works for you. Get yourself some clay and pound the heck out of it. Weep, sob, sniffle, and swear while you take your pain out of that clay. Then take a nap. When you wake up, you might feel at least a little better, not without still being angry and hurt by the loss, but it does provide some relief.

  221. Dear Stephanie,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and feelings, and words. It’s been a while since I answered to one of your posts. Your blog is a special place for me, where I read beautiful words by someone who feels like a soul kin.

    Last year a man I deeply admire and love have had to fight the most terrifying bouts of an horrifying cancer. Finding words and way to convey my feelings was hard. I also found some respite in creating something, and I think you may appreciate the result, as well as others reading along here.
    (And for the record, this time, he really did manage to F… cancer. Not prettily, with a body severely damaged, but with his clever mind and kind heart mostly whole.)

    Writing this comment is laborious. I hope I don’t butcher English or put my foot in my mouth. I am trying to say that I am here, with you, and for you. Walking on my beach too.

  222. That was beautifully written and I do understand what you mean by the fight. I am sorry for your loss and my heart aches that you believe you failed. I don’t know you or your mom, other than what you’ve shared, but I can’t imagine that she would feel nothing but a heart-full of pride in that you gave of your time and compassion to someone in need. And that you did it in the spirit of your mama and what she would have done, shows what a caring human she raised. I’m sure Susan appreciated having you. Sending you hugs, you sweet lady.

  223. Thank you. I hate the battle metaphors and all they imply. Cancer (and AIDS, etc.) is a horror and people who die from it haven’t lost.

    Much love to you,


  224. our words are so moving. I do not even fully understand how i landed on this “site”, but i am glad that i did. I also feel the sting of the words that are commonly used to express death.

    You were such a loving daughter and niece who shouldered the monumental task of helping someone who is dying! My own daughter is a nurse practitioner who nurses mostly older folks being assailed by this horrible disease. I know she suffers through so much in the help she gives. Blessings to you! I

  225. Particularly rough for you. I’m Team Going On Ahead, so while it’s rough for everyone, it hardest for you. Hope you’re in for a joyful surprise — meanwhile hugs. You’ve had a rough stretch, and you’ve done well

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