An Anniversary Tree for Susie

Eleven years ago my morning was very normal. Before I left for work a letter from Susie that I had read to a friend fell off the bookcase where I had stashed it instead of putting it away. The letter began, “Dear Mom, Today’s lesson: if you don’t like where you are, pedal.” It must have imagesnowed because I didn’t drive to the library. All went as usual until the phone rang in the break room – it was Jack in tears telling me that a police chaplain had come to tell him that Susie was dead. I told him that I didn’t believe it and that I would check. I made an hysterical call to her answering machine in Winthrop. Then I called either the Methow Conservancy or the Bicycle Alliance and was told it was true. Susie had been run over and killed by a bus in St Louis.

The South Hill staff rallied around me while still keeping the library running. No one left me alone. Kristen took notes for me; Marshall got tickets for Jack to fly home. Jan called my friend Ruth to drive me home. The police chaplain came and offered consolation and help. I asked her to have a chaplain to go to Becky in Puyallup and tell her. Ruth came to take me home and I only have one memory from the rest of the day. I realized that I had not heard from Becky so I called and found that a chaplain had never contacted her. So I had to tell her that her sister was dead.

Now it’s time to leave those sorrowful memories and go to joy – planting imagea linden in Ruth Park. This tree planting is always a small private affair. This year Susie’s childhood friend, Amy Warren, came with her yearbooks and Susie’s signings. Despite the cold and the graupel it was a joyful tree planting. These trees are one way I keep you and your influences out in the world where you should be.

Oh, Susie, the dream of the phone ringing and hearing your “Hey Mom, it’s Susie” is fading after eleven years. On these anniversary days I think about what you might have accomplished during these years. Would you have a big, famous consulting firm? Would you be living in your hay bale house? Would you have found the right man? Would you have gotten into politics? Shortly after your death I accepted a posthumous award in your name and was asked if I wanted to speak. This chicken replied that I wouldn’t know until I was standing there. So I prepared. I started with an anonymous quote I found, “Life is not too short, it is too narrow”. Your life was TOO short but it was NOT narrow. I did speak and I listed all the things you’d done in your short life. Afterwards Becky told me all the things I forgot. These last eleven would have been filled with accomplishments and adventures.

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One Response to An Anniversary Tree for Susie

  1. Amy Warren says:

    Nancy, I can’t even begin to thank you for having me to help celebrate Susie’s life yesterday. Although it was cold outside, we were surrounded by the love & warmth of Susie’s memory. I enjoyed talking about Susie and the fun times that we had at your house growing up. This was my first, but not last, tree planting and I was very moved. Of course there is the sadness, but then sharing memories, hearing stories about what Susie did later after school, and knowing that Susie’s memory will always keep on living… well that made me smile. I know we noticed that when we first gathered by the tree the wind was blowing hard, it was chilly, and it was cloudy. When we were spreading the bark though, I noticed the winds had died down, it was still chilly, but the sun had come out. To me, it just meant that Susie was smiling down on us from Heaven. What you have done Nancy, in Susie’s memory, is simply amazing. These living gifts, living memorials, living legacies, will be there long after we are gone. What a beautiful gift you have given to Spokane, around the United States, and around our world..in Susie’s honor. I feel honored to have been included and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to come to more of these plantings. Thank you for those delicious Kibbles!! They were simply marvelous! God Bless you Nancy. Thank you for making such a difference. Susie must be so proud of you. Thank you again. Love, Amy (Benthin) Warren

    Remember what Susie wrote to me in one of my yearbooks: “The caged bird walks slowly in winter”

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