Sometimes there are people in our lives, people not necessarily in our closest circles that we are just inexplicably drawn to. You know, the person you’re always happy to run into at the grocery store – the person that always leaves you smiling and feeling oddly hopeful.
My friend, Suzanne, was one of those people in my life. She died suddenly last week at the age of 77 from a massive stroke.
I had one of those chance encounters with her at a Bel Canto concert in Greensboro three nights before she died. Bel Canto is a marvelous professional chorus that has been performing in the Triad for over 30 years. Suzanne adored this group and served on their board of directors.
She gave me tickets to the holiday concert last year and was delighted when my wife and I attended. Last week, I bumped into her as a big crowd was filing into the church for the final performance of the year.
We hugged and chatted for a bit as we meandered in and she looked, as always, bright and beautiful. She had pretty white hair, cut stylishly short and she was always smartly dressed.
Somehow I ended up sitting directly in front of her for the concert. She introduced me to someone sitting beside her and then, as I returned to talking to the friend I was sitting with, I heard her say, “She’s the executive director of Triad Health Project and she’s just precious.”
Seriously? I’m fairly certain my own mother never referred to me as precious.
But that was Suzanne – she made you feel like you hung the moon every time she saw you.
I would often see her at work when she would drop off groceries for our client food pantry. She would always pick up food for Triad Health Project when she went to Costco and she would worry that she should have gotten more fruit cocktail and less tuna fish. She was so thoughtful about what was most needed for our clients.
That was Suzanne.
She served on the board of directors at a similar agency when she lived in Dallas and HIV/AIDS was an issue she was passionate about.
I seemed to run into her more and more in the past year and she was so excited to hear that I had gotten married. She was a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and was thrilled when same-sex marriage was legalized in North Carolina.
We also shared a great love of the Episcopal Church. She was a much beloved member of Holy Trinity, the largest Episcopal Church in Greensboro, and I belong to All Saints, one of the smallest parishes. I have been thinking a lot about many of my dear friends at HT and how deeply they must be grieving this loss.
After the robust applause had subsided at intermission at last week’s concert, I turned around to see Suzanne’s beaming face as she pronounced, “Aren’t they just wonderful!?”
Oh, how she loved her singers.
When the concert was over, we hugged again and wished each other Merry Christmas.
Then I came into work a few days later to hear from a colleague that she was gone. It’s so hard to imagine that much vivaciousness suddenly vanished.
That night I had a dream about Suzanne. She was terribly excited about packing for an upcoming trip to New Zealand. I told her that that was one of the places on my “bucket list” to see, too.
When I woke up the next morning, I told my wife about the dream and she said the loveliest thing that I just know Suzanne would have adored. She said sweetly, “New Zealand. Well, isn’t that a lovely metaphor for heaven.”
I don’t know if heaven is anything like New Zealand but I am certain that no one will have a better time there than Suzanne.
I just wish she had booked a much later flight.