It was eight years ago today I woke up, read the paper, drank coffee then went to check on mom. The night before she was not feeling well and had asked me to let her alone so she could sleep. I laid down next to her and told her a story she requested. It was the story of me. It was a funny story because I would embellish on how it was the best day on planet Earth the day that I, Leslie Ann Spears, was born. Her hands were so cold, I should have known. She in particular asked me to close the door as I walked out. She was staying with Ralph and me after yet another stay in the hospital. She had suffered congestive heart failure over and over. She was always the comeback kid. She was only 74. The next morning I knocked on the door, no answer. I opened the door. She lay there still. Her feet were on the floor but her body lay on the bed slumped over. Her blue lips confirmed my fear. I went ‘oh no, this is it, isn’t it? This is her time.’ We had been through so many scares of her passing but this was really it.
Okay – I’m not going to get into the details of what happened the rest of that day but I wanted to remember my mom be reposting this beautiful eulogy by a family friend. She is the same age as my older sister Kathy and has been a part of the family since the 1950s. This reminds me of what my mom was about and how can I carry on this virtue. Sadly, kind of, I was never more proud of my mom…at her funeral.
Eulogy for Suzanne Spears by Nancy Finley
I was a little first grader on my way to my first Blue Bird Group meeting after school. I was nervous because I had never done anything like that before. But I was well-prepared by my sweet mother. We’d all been told exactly where to stand right outside the school door, on the sidewalk where the leader would come pick us up. My mom said I would recognize the spot because there would be other girls there waiting too. But that afternoon it rained, it poured rain and no one was at the designated spot. I guess I was the only one who didn’t have the sense to get out of the rain. But I followed instructions and stood right there in the rain. I was getting soaking wet and I started to cry, when the station wagon pulled up and a woman got out looked me right in the eye. And even though I was soaking wet, she reached in her pocket and got out a Kleenex and wiped my tears. Then she opened the door to her station wagon, and it was like one of those magic doors in the movies that takes one to another world … it was light and full of kids laughing and playing. I got in that station wagon and rode it for years … all the way to adulthood.
I am just one of the many people whose youth was shaped by Suzie. There are so many — kids that she put on a horse for their first horseback riding adventure; teenagers that spent the night on her living room floor, ones that she took down the river in canoes, took camping in the bottom of the Grand Canyon and coached in softball. She affected so many.
Now the truth of the matter is that sometimes we had to push that station wagon, and some of us put the saddle on the horse backwards, and canoes usually tipped over with our camping gear, and I’m pretty sure that we never won a softball game. But that was never the point anyway. Suzie taught us something far more important than winning. She taught us how to be joyful even when the score is not in our favor. She taught us how to right our canoe after a spill and to keep on paddling. We learned how to help one another, to make music wherever we went, and how to notice the awesome richness of nature. With her contagious enthusiasm, each adventure made us more aware of the splendor of the spiritual journey we were all on together.
And she loved to talk about that spiritual journey, I mean LOVED to talk. And she listened intently — she didn’t always agree, but she listened as if what you said mattered. I saw her listen to some teenagers when no other adult was listening to them. I noticed her listening to my daughter when she was 3 as if she had brought a message directly from God. She believed that each person was an important piece of the cosmic puzzle.
I know there are now countless grown-up youth that are Camp Fire leaders, Girl and Boy Scout leaders, teachers, coaches, fathers, mothers, pediatricians, who in these roles take more than just a little bit of Suzie. She literally has a loving legacy that will live on for generations.
And thank you to Kathy, Stan, Janet and Leslie for making room for us in the station wagon. It was indeed a magical ride.
Thank you Nancy! We’re so grateful to have you in our lives!