Monday, January 23, 2012

Losing a Friend

Back in June, I met a woman named Sue Ann.  She worked for a construction company, and I met her when I went through the model home.  Craig and I had been discussing the possibility of building a house, and as I was out scouting locations, I came across this subdivision.  Sue Ann welcomed me that first day like an old friend, told me to make myself at home, and answered all my questions.  I remember telling Craig how nice she was and that she was just one of those people that you click with. 

A couple of days later I brought Craig and Maddy back to see the house and the neighborhood.  When Sue Ann met Maddy, she told her about all the kids that lived in the subdivision.  She told us that she kept popsicles and water in the refrigerator for the neighborhood kids, and that she was on a lot of parents' emergency contact lists for school pickups.  She remembered that I had mentioned Maddy's love of basketball, and told Maddy about a girl in the neighborhood who was close to her age that also played basketball.  She made a point of getting them together so Maddy could meet her and be introduced to some of the other kids.

The subdivision had a lot of the amenities we were looking for - land, mature trees, remote setting but still within the acceptable 10-15 minute commute to Target and Schnucks - but what really sold us was how Sue Ann represented that neighborhood and the company.  Sure, we'd found some other areas that fit the parameters, but we felt "at home" here.  And so we started construction.

As the house building process went along, Sue Ann was on top of every last detail, remembering things that we had mentioned months ago, keeping us on track of when it was time to pick out lights, or brick or floor.  She was always happy to take my phone call, and never made me feel like I was bothering her when I was asking about yet another detail on the house.

She also became my friend.  I introduced her to Houzz and she introduced me to Pinterest.  We talked about kids and husbands and shoes as much as we talked about lighting fixtures and wall colors. 

Before the last fundraiser this past July, I asked her if she would mind putting up a flyer in the office.  Not only did she put up a flyer, she made three floral arrangements for the auction, and she made me pineapple pins to sell.  She couldn't make the fundraiser but she called me the next day to see how it had gone, and to ask when the next event would be, because she was putting it on her calendar so she wouldn't miss it.  She also asked for and wore one of our pink bracelets, and told me that she no longer talked on her phone in the car. 

When we had the memorial blood drive in November, she put up flyers and even convinced her boss to come by and donate blood.  She was a breast cancer survivor - 10 year survivor thankyouverymuch - and couldn't donate but she was doing all she could to get others to come donate.

In December, shortly before Christmas, we stopped by to check on the progress and drop off some homemade candies and cookies.  She welcomed us with hugs and she told me she was working on a wreath for me to put at the girls' graves.  I had been talking about the grave blankets I wanted to make, and so she decided to make a wreath to go out there as well.  She said she had found some great dragonfly fabric but she wasn't happy with the pineapple fabric, so she was sorry it wouldn't be ready for Christmas, but she'd try to have it by Kelli's birthday on New Year's Day.  She also had a New Year's baby, so she always remembered Kelli's birthday.  I was so touched, but I was beginning to realize that was just her nature.  She took so much pleasure in making other people happy.

She also said that she had some news for us and I immediately said "don't tell me you're quitting?!?"  She said that yes, she was retiring but she was going to wait until our house was done in April.  We would be her last house.

She told me that she had been thinking about it for over a year, praying for guidance, because she loved her job and her "families" (as she called us and the others that had built houses with them) and had been with the company for over 15 years, and it was a hard decision, but she wanted to retire and spend more time with her grandbabies, one of whom was just born November 22.  She said that she had followed the story of Jessica and Kelli from the time of the crash, and had read about my activism and how I was taking a horrible situation and changing laws and making a difference.  She said that when she met me and heard my name, she knew who I was and that I was an inspiration to her.  She also said that the more she got to know me, the more she thought I was her sign, and she knew that it was the right time to make her decision.  I laughed and said if I was the answer to her prayers, she better keep asking, and we both laughed.  Deep down, however, I was pretty humbled that she thought so highly of me. 

She knew that this was not only a house to me, but that it was also another way to remember Jessica and Kelli.  I'm always looking for ways to incorporate little things that remind me of them.  She loved my idea of a custom stained glass transom over the entry door that would have a pineapple, dragonfly and frog (for Maddy), and was helping me find an artist that could do that. 

When our floor trusses went in after Christmas, I was out there taking pictures of the progress.  The floor trusses have the date and place they were manufactured.  As I took pictures, I realized that my floor trusses are dated 11-23-11.  I told Sue Ann about it, and she said that it gave her goosebumps, and she said that my girls were still with me.  I told her it made me laugh because it just seemed like something they would do - I couldn't just have one or two trusses with that date, oh no, every dang one of them all the way across the basement.  Go big or go home - that's our motto.

 Later, she told me that she had called the contractor to make sure he cut a section with the date for me to keep before they were all installed.  Which was just another example of how she always thought of others.

This morning our builder called me and I answered the phone with, "ok, what did I go over budget on this time?"  Instead of laughing, he said no, that's not why I'm calling.  Just the tone of his voice told me that it was bad news.

He told me that Sue Ann had suffered an anuersym on Saturday and had passed away on Sunday.  She never regained consciousness.  She was 54. 

I only knew her mere months, but I feel like I've known her longer.  She was one of those people that is always positive, always smiling, that you can always count on for a laugh and a hug.  It's just not fair that she's gone.  I'm so sad for her family and for that brand new grandson that will never know firsthand how amazing his grandma was. 

I hope Jessica and Kelli find her and they have a laugh over the trusses.