My last semester at BYU, I did my student teaching. Through the luck of the draw I ended up in a class that was banished to south of Provo (if there's one thing Provo doesn't need at any given time, it's more student teachers). To my great and everlasting fortune, I was assigned along with three other students to a school in Goshen, UT.
None of us had ever heard of the small town. Jenn, Janna, Susan and I became carpool buddies though. We drove the 30 miles each way every day, leaving early and piling into Susan's black Nissan. Janna was from Penticton, B.C. She had a slight Canadian accent that we teased her about. Susan and Jenn were both from the Los Angeles area. Jenn was engaged and always sipped a Diet Coke. Susan was the one I think I felt closest to in the group.
Maybe we all felt closest to Susan. Some people are like that.
She always had peppy music playing in her warm car on those cold bleary mornings that we met to drive to Goshen. She would laugh and squeal in delight at every thing funny that was said and hit her hand on the steering wheel. I think she made us all feel fascinating and terribly witty.
Adam and I became engaged during that semester. Susan wanted to hear all about everything. My carpool were among the first who knew I was engaged. They were among the first who saw my ring.
Janna and I taught with middle school teachers, Jenn worked in a first grade and Susan worked in a fourth grade. We'd wearily gather each other up at the end of our teaching days and chat with each other's cooperating teachers.
Susan's cooperating teacher had one complaint about her. Susan, it seems, was too effusive in her praise of the students. I wondered then (and wonder more today still) if such a thing were possible.
Occasionally we didn't go to Goshen but would meet with the other student teachers for a day of seminars. These were mind numbing. We passed notes like middle schoolers. Susan, Janna, Jenn and me. We were friends.
They had us sit in alphabetical order at our graduation in the de Jong concert hall. Happily that put us four right by each other. Jenn (Bird) was seated directly in front of us. Susan (Cummings) got her diploma right ahead of me, then Janna (Cutler), then me, Thelma (Dahl). It made the long graduation with some 200-300 elementary education majors receiving accolades more bearable. We giggled and chattered quietly to each other, just like during those long seminars.
Susan and her parents sat by Adam and my parents and me at the graduation banquet after the ceremony. We promised each other we'd keep in touch.
And we did for awhile.
She came to visit me after I had Braeden. Since she was a good friend, I relented to showing her pictures from the hospital. Me holding Braeden and looking like I'd been through a very long war. I looked terrible. Because Susan was a very good friend, she exclaimed, "That looks NOTHING like you!"
I thanked her.
Time passed and we lost touch with each other. I got her wedding announcement. We exchanged Christmas cards and then moved too often and slipped away.
Then this morning, I learned that Susan recently lost her seven year battle with cancer. She left behind her husband and three young daughters.
My kids found me crying and wanted to know why. I pulled out my college scrapbook and showed them some of the silly mad libs we'd passed to each other during those painful seminars. I showed them pictures. I showed them my program from graduation. On the back it had Susan's slanting handwriting. She'd written her parents' address in California, wrote that she wanted me to come and visit. Then she wrote, "I love your guts."
Because Susan did not do things halfway.
It's not just because I loved Susan that I cried today though.
I cried for her husband and daughters who must go on without her daily happy presence in their lives.
I cried for Susan, who had to leave them.
She probably praised them too effusively all the time.