This week, the world — the Universe — said goodbye to a very special person. Susan Niebur (@whymommy) was a very bright light in the world. One who wore many hats. She wore the hats of wife, mother, sister, daughter, best friend, aunt, NASA scientist, blogger, inflammatory breast cancer butt-kicker and many others.
She also wore the hat of “friend” to so many in the blogosphere, whether they had met Susan or not. I did have the honor and privilege of meeting Susan last summer at Type A Conference where she won the Bloganthropy award. Becky and I had a long conversation with her about a lot of things. The topic turned towards her health somehow and I remember her saying “when I die” and thinking, “not when, but if.”
But Susan knew. She knew that her time was very limited. She talked about being concerned for her children and how they would handle her death. She mentioned things specifically and a few of Band Back Together’s resources were actually made for her specifically, because she needed to know how to handle some things.
I remember giving her a very gentle hug and telling her I would continue to pray for her and her family.
When her husband posted the words we had all known were coming, but didn’t want to hear, I wept. I cried like I would if I heard that one of my dear (in real life) friends had died.
“But she’s just your friend online.”
That’s the thing I want to say. There’s hardly a line between my online friends and my real-life friends (apart from my 3 very best friends in the world) anymore. The line is blurry and almost non-existent. I’ve met so many wonderful people online, a lot of them I would likely never have befriended in real life, though. But the variety of people and the different views that they have, have changed me for the better.
These friends are just like the ones I can see at a party or church, only I’ll likely never meet them. We all worry when kids are sick. We cheer for them when they have a job interview or a big meeting. We want them to share the recipe for that delicious dinner they showed us. We cry when they lose someone special to them or a pet.
We feel helpless when we can’t physically be there to help them.
And we weep and grieve when one of our own dies.
It brings up a very big fear in most of us mothers out there. I’m not afraid of dying, but I am petrified beyond belief of dying and leaving Henry and Jason behind. In fact, it’s so paralyzing, my heart rate is up just typing that.
When I was telling Jason about Susan the other night, he got very bothered thinking about what would happen if I died. The first thing he said was, “I wouldn’t know who to tell. I don’t know how to tell all your friends that are online. You have to leave me very specific instructions.“
I actually have a file on my desktop that’s called OPEN IF I DIE. I need to update it, but essentially it has all my login information and very specific instructions on who to tell and how to be able to tell them.
I urge you to do the same. Just as you would have a will and life insurance (YOU SHOULD HAVE THOSE THINGS NOW!), in this day and age, you should have a document that tells someone what to do to let your friends online know of anything that has happened. Do it for Susan. Because I feel 100% certain her husband had specific instructions on how to share her death with those who loved her dearly.
Since Monday, Coldplay’s song Yellow, one of my favorites, has been in my head. The lyrics are at the top. I feel like Susan’s aura was yellow above all so I went and looked it up.
Yellow is the color of awakening, inspiration, intelligence and action shared, creative, playful, optimistic, easy-going.
I see Susan in all of those words. And I will forever see her in every star and moon.
Thank you, Susan, for being an inspiration. Thank you for sharing of yourself, your struggles, your celebrations and your life. Thank you for paving the way for women in science and advocating for breast cancer patients. We are all better people for knowing you.
And I’m forever grateful for the one gentle hug I was able to give you.
Rest well and shine bright on your family today and always.
Image: Flickr user Cano VÃ¤Ã¤ri