Saying goodbye to Suzanne

Suzanne

Suzanne in Italy a few months ago

Last week I heard the sad news that Suzanne Elliott had died. I knew Suzanne through her community development work in the ’90’s (we were both members of The Community Developers Network back in the day), and as fellow members of the trade union choir years ago also. We had more contact in recent years for a variety of reasons. She was a vibrant, active and bold woman, and it is hard to imagine her gone, after a horribly quick cancer. Suzanne was ‘out there’ in all kinds of ways, so it seems very appropriate and fitting that her memorial service/funeral was a truly amazing event. It was held down at the Port, where she lived for many years, and was conducted in a spirit she would have highly approved of. There was a lot of singing, some great speeches, some laughter and of course tears, and a wonderful party afterwards. The setting was beautiful, there were flowers and photos. The river was just outside. The rituals and farewell gestures were funny, moving and connected us into a sense of what was best about Suzanne herself – we caught her vibe I think.
This made me think about how important it is to say goodbye. Suzanne really loved life and worked over many years to make it even better. To say goodbye to her in such a full and complete way seemed so right. Just as welcoming life enthusiastically is what we should do when babies arrive, maybe saying goodbye similarly is also good, as an acknowledgement of how amazing it is that we have our lives, for all that they are good and bad, up and down, and also how unique and special the life is of the one who has died. Not to say it is not sad – it is of course, but it is also about life in all its richness and complexity, and that is precious and to be celebrated as well.
There is an allegory that I think originated with Bede, the old monk “It seems to me that the life of man [and woman] on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your captains and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing.” I love the idea that we flash through life like birds through a hall – from darkness and into darkness. Suzanne loved her flight I think and was very colourful on her way through. I am inspired to really enjoy my journey, and make the most of it, by her lovely farewell.

Suzanne's funeral 2

Waving Suzanne off as she crossed the river for the last time… a few of those present

Suzanne's funeral 6

The Port River from the Birkenhead Bridge

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2 Responses to Saying goodbye to Suzanne

  1. romi789 says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for your unending ability to capture life- and death- in such creative and thoughtful posts. I’m pretty sure I met Suzanne at Writers Week last time I was there. it sounds like a fabulous way to go ‘over the bridge’.

    • Hi Romi,
      You did! I had forgotten – I had some very funny times with Suzanne at Writers’ Weeks, and it’s great to be reminded of you meeting her there too. It’s always a treat to hear from you my dear.

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