One of the most acute losses in my life was that of my sister-in-law, Susan. Married to my brother, Elden, this woman was kind and somewhat soft-spoken, but with a fighter’s spirit and love enough to fill one thousand universes. Susan fought breast cancer for years and years, finally succumbing to it in August of 2009.
My sisters and I would take turns being with Elden and Susan’s family, to help with their four kids and care-taking of Susan’s needs. My sister Kellene did the lion’s share of helping. I always wished I had even one-tenth of Kellene’s intuition and ability to help. Still, on one of my visits, Susan gave me a manuscript to read, and very shyly asked if I would look it over. I began reading it next to her, while she slept. After an hour or so, I moved from her room into the Family Room, and sunk into a corner on the couch. I realized I was straining to read it and looked out the window, surprised that the sun was on its way down. Hours had passed, and I was absolutely wrapped up in this story.
I woke Susan to talk to her about it. It was so well written, and I could hear her voice clear as a bell in it. Susan sat up as much as she could, and we started talking about the characters, who they were based on, and some of the references. It was a treat to talk to the author while reading her story. Even more so because this was one of our longest conversations, with Susan’s energy at an all-time high for that trip. She loved this story. She really loved talking about it. I really loved reading it.
I finished the manuscript and praised it over and over to her. She insisted it wasn’t finished and I told her I thought it was. I felt the ending was exactly as it should be, leaving me wanting more but feeling resolved. She let me put a copy of it on my computer so I could read it with Roan when he got a bit older.
I had one more visit with Susan, one more collection of days spent with her, but I do feel that the talks we had about her book were some of the last real conversations we had. Our last days together were some of the hardest I’ve spent. I watched my brother and his children lose their wife and mother. I was there to witness them saying good-bye to her, and had no way of helping, no way of changing or buffering what was inevitable.
And now it is almost four years later, and my brother has found a way to publish this story that meant so much to Susan. The book is a wonderful read on its own, it is one I would recommend even without such a personal connection. But with the added love I have for the author, I now ask that anyone who enjoys a good read go here to buy a copy of “The Forgotten Gift”, an interrupted novel by Susan Nelson.
My brother, Elden, best describes what the sales of this book will mean to his family on his site, Fat Cyclist:
Where the Money’s Going
Last July, I was kind of at the end of my rope. My 17-year-old son — already prone to depression — had been really struggling since his mom’s illness and death.
Finally, I had found a program that was really helping, but my insurance company was actively fighting me on whether they should have to cover his treatment. Eventually, they did cover his treatment, up to a point.
Then they stopped. And now that’s thousands and thousands of dollars we need to come up with, both for the treatment he’s had and the treatment he continues to receive.
By the way, my son is now doing great. He’s back at school full-time, and is headed off tomorrow to participate in an academic decathlon. Also, he and I are training together to run in a five-mile race next weekend.
I have to say, I think Susan would be really pleased at the idea of her novel covering the treatment that has done her son so much good.
Read the rest of his entry here. And by all means please pass this story on. My sister-in-law has an amazing legacy left for her children. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised in her name towards fighting cancer. Her personal battle has inspired many. And now her creative and magical side gets to shine, through this story. This is the Susan who I remember. Not the fighter or the iconic cancer-battling poster child , but the woman who was still so child-like and smiling. The woman whose eyes actually sparkled when she listened to Green Day and played Snowboard Supercross. This woman who loved being a mother more than anything, and whose children clamored to hear her read to them and tell stories. The fiction she spins is beautiful and easy to get lost in. The reality behind it is that you get to help her family by enjoying it. Click here.