Sister-Friends, Joyce A. Brown and Susan Peters
This article is not what I was writing for this issue of Garden Spices…however, this is my catharsis moment. My sister friend, Susan D. Peters entered her eternal rest on December 16, 2022.
On December 14, Susan shared with me she had reviewed the book Rest as Resistance for this issue of our beloved Garden Spices Magazine. I was still noodling around with several areas and had only scattered notes. Prior to our by-monthly submission, we’d always discuss the word and our feelings about it. Sometimes we had to encourage each other to stop musing and write.
We agreed we needed a “rest” from the hectic pace of our lives, the holidays, adult children, and world tensions—a rest where we could recuperate, rejuvenate, and recenter to serve others better. After the rant, we promised ourselves a vacation together in 2023. A real vacation to an elegant place that included luxury suites, concierge services, and relaxation, first class service … a place to let go of the stressors of the past few years, be rejuvenated, and be ready to run on.
We even identified several places that matched our dream of restoration. A place where Susan could swim: one of the ways she relaxed and rejuvenated. A place where we could explore and hopefully add to our historical knowledge. We ended the call after more than an hour of catching up, returning to our regularly scheduled lives, anticipating we would talk again soon.
I awakened on December 15 to a text notification that said, “Ms. Joyce. We need to talk. NOW!” I pushed the call button, and the news shook my foundation.
Susan’s gifts and graces touched her family and friends, Chicago, and her adopted homeland in Liberia, West Africa. Her experiences not only equipped her to live a rich and abundant life but also permitted her to work tirelessly on behalf of others. Each of us has a calling in our lives. The greatest among us accept the challenge and make fulfilling that destiny seem effortless. Susan carried out the intertwined roles of parent/ employer/entrepreneur/employee/friend and so many more labels. Susan was that tireless person who shared her gifts with everyone in her orbit. She was an encourager. She loved connecting people for problem-solving, community uplift, or just because they might have something in common.
On my worst day in July 2021, I called Susan. Crying. Desolate. Sobbing… “The oncologist refused to see me. She doesn’t accept my insurance. What can I do?” Susan calmed my hysteria by talking me through options as she’d done every day since my diagnosis of Stage Zero Breast Cancer at the same time my mother entered Hospice in preparation for her transition to ancestor.
Only a few people knew about my diagnosis, had undergone genetic testing and biopsies, and needed a lumpectomy before the tumor spread. Most women my age are told they can discontinue mammograms at age 70. Had I taken that advice, who knew where I’d be ?I was 72 at the time. Susan talked me through my righteous black girl indignation, anger, and dissatisfaction with managed care and insurance companies dictating care. She worked with multiple women’s networks and didn’t hesitate to use her resources for anyone needing care. Then, in true Susan fashion, she called a friend specializing in women’s health, especially breast cancer. Susan explained my situation to her colleague, who assured her I would receive quality care.
Susan’s friend contacted one of her former employers: a breast cancer surgeon. She explained my situation. The surgeon responded, “if she has insurance, even if it is out of network, we still get paid.” Susan’s intervention allowed me to slow down and focus on my mother’s last days without being overwhelmed. On the day following my mother’s services and burial, I traveled to Northwestern Medical Center for the doctor’s exam, consultation with a heart specialist, and pre-op testing. One week later, the lump was removed from my right breast.
One part of Susan’s legacy will be that she made an indelible impact on family and friends. Whatever she committed to doing, she did it excellently, whether in her community garden, connecting community residents with health care resources, dancing, attending the theatre, or being the matriarch of her large, extended family. She embraced people and helped to build strong institutions.
Go, rest high on that mountain. Your work on earth is done, Susan.
Joyce A. Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women, but her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria and Battle Creek, Michigan. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens. Visit her Author’s Page