My first real recollection of Susan Briscoe was standing beside her in the late day sunshine in the park in Sutton. I was watching this little guy, her Nathan, scale the basketball net. He was agile — uncommonly nimble — and seemed somehow suspended as he negotiated the structure on the tips of his fingers…
My first real recollection of Susan Briscoe was standing beside her in the late day sunshine in the park in Sutton. I was watching this little guy, her Nathan, scale the basketball net. He was agile — uncommonly nimble — and seemed somehow suspended as he negotiated the structure on the tips of his fingers with no apparent fear. Susie watched very nonchalantly as I stood there biting my nails. My gaze swung from him to her and back again, sure that at any moment she would speak up and tell him to come down this instant but instead she grinned. She exuded this calm — what seemed a completely natural confidence that, despite the fact that her small son was a dozen feet in the air over what suddenly looked like an incredibly hard bit of asphalt, all was right with the world. I was gobsmacked.
Some time later I did a little repair work on her house and found myself pushing my way through her yard, finding incredible beauty in the savage way the plants crept over one another to carve out their spot in the sun. Susie stepped out into the middle of it, into what anal gardeners would deem a disaster and she fit right in. There were no empty apologies, no excuses for unweeded beds because she had no interest in taming her little piece of paradise. It was a wonderful wilderness and it obviously brought her immeasurable happiness.
After knowing her, if only a little, for a while, I bought her book of poems, The Crow’s Vow. I devoured it. I savoured it. I read and reread each poem, now able to picture her standing by her window looking out on to the garden, enjoying the seasonal comings and goings of the birds, watching mother nature do her miraculous thing, all as her relationship dissolved. Her writing gave voice to so many unexpressed feelings — moments of dissatisfaction, moments of doubt, moments of pure joy. Again, it seemed, in the total absence of judgement. Examination without criticism. Appraisal without blame.Devoid of the mean-spirited recriminations that seem to permeate our culture. It was, as they say, a breath of fresh air.
And now she’s dying. Quickly. And she’s chosen to bring all of us along with her on the bumpy ride, generously sharing the heartache and tribulations of her untimely end.When most would turn inward, jealously guarding every last minute and living in fear, she has laid it all bare, delving into the darkest places of one’s heart and bringing it out into the light for our edification and inspiration. What a gift.
She would undoubtedly scoff to hear it but I have learned so much from her. Her approach to raising her boys has made me realize that parenting isn’t so much about ruling as it is about accompanying. Watching her watch her kids was a lesson in knowing one’s place and relishing (almost) every minute of it. Reading her poetry taught me about loss and acceptance and finding beauty in moments of pain and I am sure her words brought not just pleasure but comfort to those who were mourning the end of their own relationships. I suppose it is only fitting for one who has taught us so much about living to also teach us about dying but it is also incredibly brave and it is kind.
It seems very, very wrong to imagine her face-splitting grin being extinguished but it does bring some comfort to see she is charting her own course. She is dying the way she lived — honestly, openly, with acceptance, with love.
And I know the wilderness has already found a place for her.
You can read Susan Briscoe’s heart-touching blog, The Death Project, at https://susanbriscoe.wordpress.com/