I know that I was meant to know Susan. She came into my life at a very critical time. And had we not shared a connection, she probably would have just been another Hugo parent to me, no one special. But instead, she was a role model.
I was wrapping up my year at Cristo Rey when my mom told me about Susan. She mentioned she was going through a divorce and that she was looking for work as an English teacher. Teaching at risk youth was a passion of hers, so she was checking out Cristo Rey as an option. I didn't know Susan, but my mom told me some pretty fabulous things about her, so I offered to hand deliver her resume and cover letter to our principal. Unfortunately that job didn't work out, but I maintained in contact with Susan.
Fast forward a few months. Susan got a job at a high school in Rochester. This time, I was the one looking for work. I had quit my job at Boys Hope Girls Hope and was desperate for work. Susan offered me a small babysitting gig. She had to leave her house pretty early in the morning, so she wanted me to come over and help get her kids ready for school and to be sure they got on the bus. I gladly took her up on it, and even though she thinks I was doing her this mega favor, it was actually her helping me. It got me up in the mornings. I got to see her every morning, and she always had that bright smile on her face. I learned that she too had done a year of service, through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. We could talk about that, openly. Most adults were somewhat hesitant of my volunteer experience, although they always told me it was admirable, I knew most of them could not understand why I did it. Susan understood. She and I had the same thought: we were servants of Jesus, and we were put on this earth to help other people to grow. We both loved teenagers, black coffee and the St. Hugo Community. She would leave each morning telling me thank you and to tell her kids she loved them. She did anything for those kids. She was so proud of them and of every accomplishment they had. She looked at them with these compassionate, loving eyes. I made a decision right then and there that when I became a mom, I was going to be like Susan.
When I got my job with Great Lakes Caring in April 2011 I had to stop going to the Jarrell house. It wasn't going to work out, I had to be out on the east side by 8 am. I felt horrible, but I also knew I had to move on. Susan was understanding. From then on she dropped the kids off at latchkey 15 minutes early so that she could still get to work on time. It was time for someone else to look after the three beautiful children every morning. I was a little sad, I liked those kids, and I loved seeing Susan every morning.
In the late summer months, I volunteered to serve as co leader of the youth group. Susan's oldest, her son, was now in high school and able to join the group. I got to see him, and to see Susan more often if she dropped him off or picked him up. We would always give each other very quick life updates, and I couldn't help but smile whenever I talked to her. The last time I ever saw her was early January. She was picking Nick up from youth group and I was walking outside to my car. She stopped the car and asked me how things were going, at work and with youth group. As she started to pull away she said "Just...thank you...for all that you do".
I never saw Susan again. I miss her terribly. I miss that smile and I miss her gentleness. I miss how important she made people feel, and how deeply and genuinely she cared about everyone. I hope that I can grow into the kind of woman that she was, because she was incredible. The sweetest person you've ever met.
One of the Sisters of Mercy asked me today, after allowing me to sob in her office, if I had been able to find any grace at all in this situation.
Yes. I have, although that is hard to believe. I have found that I am closer with my parents, a bit more protective of them and worried for them...but full of so much love for them and for all that they endure. I have gained the comfort and pride that my mom is one of the most loved people at St. Hugo. People were turning to her left and right when this tragedy struck, knowing how close she was to Susan and the kids. I have become more sensitive to tragedies like this, nearly falling to my knees when I hear a similar story. And, most of all, it has grown me closer to the students in my youth group. They carry so much pain and confusion on their shoulders, and whenever they walk in the room on Sunday nights I pray for each of them, pray that they are comforted, that they are happy, that they are safe. I have grieved with them, I know the losses they have felt. I'd do anything for those kids.
I want to sincerely thank everyone who has been there for me and who has been saying prayers for the family. I know tomorrow is going to be hard too. Last year I woke up on the 11th to my mom telling me the news. I won't ever forget that feeling even though I wish I could.
There is a very special person in my life these days, and this is what he said to me today. "Tomorrow will be hardest, but you will persevere and the pain will get better. All of the hurt and sorrow will be turned into motivation to embrace (your word for 2013) any challenges that come your way". Amen.
I miss you Susan. I know you are smiling down on all of us and bringing us through the pain.
Please join me in praying for Susan's Family:
Dear Lord, Wrap Your arms tightly around those three beautiful children. Help them to know that they are not alone, help them to see light when they close their eyes to sleep. Heal their hearts as they remember that awful night. Bring them happy memories, bring them strength and pour them with love. Amen.