Thursday, June 2, 2016

Seven Years Gone...

Margaret and Suzy B. 
Christmas Eve 2008

It was seven years ago today - in the very small hours of the morning - that the world lost one of its better angels - my mother-in-law.  A bit of context is in order here, which I provide at the risk of embarrassing my wife and of incurring her wrath by singling her out for praise on what was - to this point - the single worst day of her life.  

Suzy B. battled bravely against cancer for the final five years of her life. During that battle, good news would be received intermittently.  Sadly, however, each and every brief uptick seemed to be followed with ruthless precision by a downturn.  It was as if there was an invisible line on the road to recovery that the disease never, ever permitted her to cross.  On Sunday, May 24, 2009, she left her home on Howard Avenue for an ambulance ride to Somerset Medical Center, which had become her home away from home.  She never returned, alive, to Howard Avenue.  Although each day of what turned out to be the final hospital stay of her life contained a snippet or two of good news, at some point her doctors realized that the corner she needed to turn was one that she was not going to be able to reach.  

Margaret never left her mother's bedside at the hospital - not once.  At some point shortly after midnight on June 2, 2009, my cell phone rang.  It was Margaret calling from the hospital asking me to call her brother, Frank, to tell him to get over to Howard Avenue as fast as he could to pick up Joe and get over to the hospital.  Sue's kidneys had failed her.  Her battle, valiant as it was, had finally reached its final moments.  Suzanne was, then, living home with us.  I awakened her after I called Frank and Suz/I headed to the hospital in my car.  When we arrived, Margaret was - predictably - an emotional wreck.  Yet, in her moment of unspeakable grief and sorrow, she held it together so that she could comfort her father and so that she could comfort Suzanne.  Suzy B. died within minutes of all four of us having arrived at the hospital.  If I live to be one hundred, I shall forever hear the sound of my father-in-law's inconsolable wailing and the voices of his two adult children, Margaret and Frank, telling him that everything was going to be fine - knowing that he did not believe those words when they said them...and neither did they.  

On that terribly sad day, I returned from the hospital to our home in order to take a shower before I embarked on a day that would take me first to the office in Parsippany, then to Camden for a deposition that could not be adjourned on such short notice.  Rob was already working in Wyoming and that morning - as I drove to Camden - I called my son to break to him the news that his grandmother had died.  Through his tears and his sadness he made the arrangements he needed to make to get his emergency leave approved and to get booked onto a flight that afternoon out of Denver to Newark.  I often joke that I lead the league in airport pick-ups.  I have never made a sadder pick-up than I did that day. 

Anyway, that morning - after I made it to Parsippany but before I embarked on my trip to Camden, I wrote what appears here, again, this morning. 

For Suzy B., an extraordinary woman, and for the extraordinary woman she raised, who now tends to the flock in a manner that undoubtedly brings a smile to the face of an eternally-proud mother...

Next Stop - Pleasant Stream

At approximately 1:15 this morning, slightly more than eight months shy of her 50th wedding anniversary and ten months to the day since the death of her own mother, Suzanne Bozzomo - my Mom-in-law and one of this planet's truly beautiful souls, died. The little woman who stood bravely and defiantly in the face of always-advancing, never relenting cancer died in the presence of Suzanne (her oldest grandchild), Frank and Margaret (her two children), me (her son-in-law) and Joe, her husband and the great love of her life.

If all of us who walk this earth did half as much as Suzy B. did for those she loved - and asked for as little in return as she always did, then the planet would be a far better place. She lived her life by a simple creed - "Family first" - and not once, in the twenty years or so in which it had been my privilege and pleasure to know her, did she waver from it. She loved all of us, whether family by blood or by marriage, completely. She was an unabashedly enthusiastic supporter of her children and her grandchildren. Over the course of the past several years - even after she first was assailed by breast cancer (and perhaps even more so after that diagnosis was made in recognition of the fact that time was precious....and fleeting) - I cannot count the number of football games and/or wrestling matches I attended with her. And she was a frequent fan at basketball games involving one or more of her granddaughters, whether as a player or as a cheerleader.

Of all of the things Suzy B. was, perhaps her greatest attribute was that she was genuine. She did what she did, said what she said and felt what and how she felt regardless of whether it was the hip or cool thing to do. She worried not about being cutting edge - having learned long ago that after the edge is honed and the excess fluff is pared away the substantive part of the object, its meat as it were, remained. She was the meat, the substance in the lives of all she knew, all she loved and all who loved her.

And even in death, nothing changes. She will continue to be the substance in all of our lives - to be a presence for all of us to be guided by. Have a safe and peaceful journey Suzy B., you have most certainly earned it. We shall all miss you terribly and love you eternally.

Like buttons on a blouse indeed.


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