Written by Kristin Tabor
It’s been almost seven years since my sister Susie died of colon cancer, and it’s been almost seven of my hardest years on this earth. Nobody forgets the call of a brother-in-law incapable of talking to tell you someone you love only has days before dying. I remember dropping to the stairs and making desperate calls to the airlines. It was too late in the evening to get a flight and I didn’t have a plane out back.
The next morning as the plane was landing I began weeping as I looked at the Seattle skyline. I knew it would be the last time I would visit Susie. The two men on either side of me were almost frozen in fear having to sit next to me. I could feel they were uncomfortable. I didn’t care at that moment that they wanted to be in another row.
My sister Georgia, her son Nathan and Susie’s son David greeted me at the airport. Georgia assured me Susie would be alive for a couple more days. So, instead of immediately going to Susie’s home, we made a pit stop at Target. David threw-up at the moment of her death and I assured him no worries…I had just bought him a new football jersey. Somehow, he knew his mother had taken her last breath even though nobody had called us.
As we begin to head out to the car, I remember looking up into the sky and telling my sister Georgia that Susie was gone. It was just one of those gut wrenching experiences where your soul is able to able to peek inside the secret of death. I had this same experience the day my father died. Heaven filled the skies with a glow that talked to me.
The moment our vehicle approached Susie’s sweet home on Mercer Island, we were met with my older nephew throwing his body on the ground and giving me the nod of “no.” I don’t even think the car had stopped moving. I just ran hard toward the house screaming, “no!”
My breath of life felt like it went out the day Susie died. I am sure that it hurt my family to see me give up. While working full-time at Wells Fargo and mothering two wonderful kids, I managed to disguise my pain by masking it with activity; becoming fit and a little insane. Over the course of seven years, I started the Colon Cancer Coalition, ran 14 marathons, qualified for Boston, and rode my bike in March 2006 across the USA to D.C. to ask Norm Coleman to take a stand on colorectal cancer legislation.
Deep down inside of me, I’m still struggling to live without my sister. Like many who have lost, I’ve learned that time doesn’t heal all wounds; you just learn to live with the wounds and open yourself up to the other gifts in life. The ones we loved so deeply and we have lost in our life want us to live life and open our hearts to love again.
Susie inspires me every day. Her influence in my life is indescribable. She made my heart stronger after losing my parents at a young age. I’ve focused too much on the heartbreak of losing Susie rather than on the more important heart of life. The simple things she did were priceless moments in my life such as:
- Calling on Sunday afternoons.
- Winking at me when our family had incidents.
- Making me drink a latte even if I didn’t think I liked lattes.
- Sending the big boxes at Christmas to my children because grandparents were gone.
- Having the doll in her closet for my daughter when she was weeks from dying.
- Being ready to kill me for making her the original face of the Colon Cancer Coalition.
- Teaching me to stop snubbing trash magazines and enjoy the art of a mindless read.
- Introducing me to friends, great songs, movies, bean burritos, dance moves and stories.
- Driving to great new songs with the music loud.
- Performing in a rock band even if it’s make believe and your audience is a group of strangers in another car driving next to you.
Susie was an amazing woman who is missed by so many people. This story was written at the encouragement of Emily Anleu, the Colon Cancer Coalition’s Web Content Manager. It is a story dedicated to the memory of my sister and my best friend and a story of healing. “Hope is where it’s at.”
Special thanks to family members who have contributed to Susie’s memorial this past year for the Colon Cancer Coalition:
- Elinor Lindquist & Dave Salzar
- Mary Lindquist
- Georgia Lindquist & Peter Aberg
- Laurie Lindquist
- Jeff Mjelde and Tina Roth
- Tom & Juli Lindquist
- Paul Tabor
- Dr. Kaplan – thank you too for trying so hard to save her life.
Emily – thank you for telling me I needed to write this story.