Thursday, August 06, 2009

Death Sentence

Susan Nelson died last night. I don't think I ever met Susan in what we call real life, the space where Elden and I would chat while I wrenched on his bike at Sammamish Valley Cycle or where we'd gasp and joke on some particularly heinous climb on the Issaquah Alps. It's possible I did meet Susan one day at the shop or at the end of some ride and I don't recall the event. It's certainly possible, because my memory is imperfect at best and life is so packed with wonders that one person can't possibly recall them all. But I do know that I got to know Susan and her wondrous family and spirit through Elden's stories and his blog.

Once upon a time Susan Nelson got cancer and she fought it back. The cancer went away and she and Elden and the kids won. What they won was time, time we call life and they lived that life. But life, as we know but seldom say, is a 100% fatal condition. Cancer came back for Susan, spreading into her brain like dandelion seeds. I recall reading her doctor's poetic description as relayed on Elden's blog last year and thinking "death sentence". I'm sure a similar thought went through Susan's cancer-pocked brain but again she fought. And she won more time. And she did more, much more. She rallied the troops.

We are all on this earth under a death sentence. Perhaps your faith sustains you with a true vision of a life beyond this one or perhaps you honestly believe one shot is all we get. Perhaps you believe we keep coming back to this world until we get it right or maybe you're a nihilist and you believe in nothing. In that final case I can only agree with the Dude and note that "Oh, that must be exhausting."

I believe that life is exhausting and death comes for us all. While the George Costanzas of the world may neurotically obsess on their eventual demise, Susan knew that we are here for each other. We live and love while we can. Maybe we do things that seem odd to others, like tell funny stories about bicycling on the internet or inspire people with photographs and stories from the far north. Maybe you tell somebody how you saved your own life with a bicycle and hummus wraps. Maybe you make jewelry. Maybe you ride your bike to raise money to fight cancer. Maybe you remember to tell the one you love that you love them.

We are all here under a death sentence. My sincere condolences go out to the Nelson family in this time of loss but I want to thank Elden and Susan for sharing so much of their lives with us and reminding us that it is the sharing of ourselves, of our time and our efforts, that ultimately shows the ones that we love that we love them. Thanks, Susan. Thanks for fighting. Thanks for showing us how to live.
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