Monday, March 4, 2019

Our dear friend Sue is gone; here's one way her memory will go on forever and ever

Being alive in a small town means you spend a substantial amount of time mourning those who suddenly or otherwise no longer are. You attend a lot of funerals. 

Each is compelling and sad in its own way so I’m often drawn to write about them.

This can be tricky. I don’t want to say anything rude or be less than honest memorializing, say, a beloved town drunk. 

And you don’t want to by omission snub someone by ignoring their passing, but I worry saluting so many would be unwise. The topic might become maudlin for Midwest readers who enjoy reading about things like the day the barnstorming troupe of gypsy strippers showed up at the Tin Lizzy (link below).

But the passing of Susan Sniezek, 69, is too momentous to ignore. I loved her very much. Everyone did. And we love Marty, her husband of 50 years, and their daughter, Jenn, and her wonderful family.

They’re just these incredibly warm and funny people, the kind when as soon as you walk away from seeing them you immediately begin looking forward to the next time you get to see them.

Now, none of us will ever see Sue again.

But, I swear, none of us will ever forget her. 

I could tell stories all day, but because of my stated fears of the blog becoming stale, I promise I’ll only mention her name once more and it won’t be until the very end. And instead of death, we’ll talk about life.

Because on the very day our friend died, a baby girl was born in the same hospital. Her parents named her Rachel. Here’s some rosy speculation of how Rachel’s life could go if she turns out blessed the way few are. 

Her parents will be wise and loving. She will be raised with a spirit of playful adventure. As a youth, she will travel to places like Norway where she will dance and sing so exuberantly on public transportation that even work-weary Norwegian commuters will be cheered by the youthful Yanks.

She will meet a young veteran who drives an ice cream truck and woos her with free treats. It will be the beginning of a more than 50-year romance so vivacious it will inspire countless young couples that a marriage like theirs is worthy of emulation.

There marriage will involve enduring joy that will brighten memories and unbidden heartbreak that will bestow soulful compassion for those who grieve.

She’ll be the kind of mother who lets expectant mothers see that raising a sweet, beautiful daughter — and every single daughter is somehow sweet and beautiful — is life’s greatest joy. 

Rachel will engage in an active and euphoric social life and when the bar door swings opens and people see her blond hair and smiling face walk in all will be more glad they decided to visit the club on that day.

Heck, all will be more glad to be alive. 

She’ll be the kind of parent who never misses her daughter’s activities and audibly cheers her on and only slightly less audibly cheers on all the other kids. 

From both teams.

Other people will throw fine seasonal parties. For Rachel and her dear husband, the parties will never end. They will turn their spacious basement into a lively saloon where all will be welcome.

Maybe they’ll call it, oh, the “Neon Moon.”

She’ll never outgrow her sweetly childish love for Christmas and will festoon her home with more than 600 Santa Claus holiday knick knacks. By doing so, she’ll let everyone know it’s okay to be a kid again at Christmas, and all year-round, really. 

And when news spreads around this small town that Rachel is sick, the whole town will say fervent prayers that God intervene because towns like this need our Rachels.

And, hallelujah, God will listen.

And one day many blessed years later some old men will be sitting on a park bench and maybe see Rachel pushing a stroller with her adored granddaughter.

“Well, here comes Rachel,” one might say to the other. “Isn’t she beautiful. Loved by men, admired by women, resented by none, hers is a light that illuminates the whole world, the kind that will never truly die.”

“Yep, she’s one of the kindest, most generous and sweetest people I’ve ever known. Truly, 1-in-a-million.”

“More like 1-in-100-million.”

“Reminds me of Sue Sniezek.”

Related … 

• At the risk of appearing self-serving, here’s Sue and her granddaughter Martina at the 1:50 mark in a promotional video. She was a big supporter of my writing and a true friend.

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