We have come from far and wide to honor David and Mary Susan today:
Syracuse, Albany, New York City, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and yours truly, from Rio de Janeiro.
These two people we honor have obviously meant so much to so many.
My family is grateful for your attendance.
My task here is to distill into a few brief, memorable moments the woman I knew….
My only sister.
She was known by many names during her 54 years amongst us:
Boots, Sue, Mary Susan, my personal favorite, M.S., and several others that I cannot possibly mention here.
Now that I have had over a year since her unexpected death in July 2015 to reflect on how she should best be remembered, I have come up with one word.
This one word reverberates throughout all of my memories of Mary Susan.
So – just what does it mean?
Persistent, Stubborn, Strong-willed, Determined, Adamant
Growing up with three older brothers, and then a baby brother several years later, certainly had to have been a trial. Diagnosed with Epilepsy before she entered kindergarten, and the lifelong health issues attached to that, Mary Susan learned to fight like a trooper,
and overcome whatever life so unkindly hurled at her.
So, what did she do with all this injustice? She developed the quality I most treasure: her wicked sense of humor. Allow me to illustrate….
After one of her many horrific, highly-invasive brain surgeries at the world-renowned NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, where she so freely offered herself up for so many years of research,
there she was in hospital pajamas and a thin robe, her entire head wrapped in three inches of bandages…
With a quick stop at the Deli on 3rd Avenue, I brought her favorite rare roast-beef sandwich with creamy Russian dressing, a big bag of sour cream and onion chips, along with two buckets of steaming coffee, with half-and half, if you please…
Sitting on the edge of her bed with red lipstick perfectly applied, she took one look at the real food, one look at me, and barked:
“But, honey, where do you think you’re going in that get-up, it’s definitely not one of your better looks…”
“We’re going down for a smoke. Follow me!” as she stormed towards the elevator, breezing down the unit like a force of nature as the head nurse protested,
“That’s why we put a nicotine patch on!”
With an eye-roll and a smirk, I trailed in the wake….
And there we were, in the courtyard, in the freezing cold…sucking on her stash of Newport Hundreds, with her running, catty commentary on all the other patients and hospital staff.
“This isn’t such a good idea in your condition, honey, c’mon, let’s go upstairs and eat…..”
And with those piercing blue eyes, she deadpanned:
“What’re they gonna do, kick me out!”
She did have a point there.
A woman of great taste, an Iona College graduate, sober for over twenty years, running her own house-painting business, a voracious, existential appetite, and a lifelong guinea pig for medical science, Mary Susan always looked forward:
to a better life, an inclusive society for the fragile, and she committed:
heart, mind, body, and soul to anything that would improve her life…. our lives.
And she never once complained about her raw deal.
As the Rio2016 Paralympics Games are currently going on in my adopted hometown, I think about Mary Susan…a lifelong athlete and sports fan, how she would be watching, and cheering the athletes’ accomplishments. I’d fire up my skype…and we would compare notes.
I miss our chats, our raucous laughter, our in-your-face conversations.
And, as I would always say in our sign-off:
“Love ya, honey!”
And then would come that sweet, gentle response from my baby sister that I always looked forward to:
“Love you, too, Kev”.
- Delivered at the Memorial Service on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at All Saints Church in Syracuse, NY, our childhood parish, for Mary Susan and David, my youngest brother, who unexpectedly passed away at the age of 45 in June 2016.