I started writing this just after Susan died, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Today is the one year anniversary of her death on February 6, 2012. Today is the day to finish, add, publish. Today, like every day, I am missing Susan.
“All that survives after our death are publications and people. So look carefully after the words you write, the thoughts and publications you create, and how you love others. For these are the only things that will remain.” –Susan Niebur
A year ago I was reminiscing back to the day I met Susan and jotted down the next few paragraphs.
“I follow you on Twitter” she said as she looked down to my name badge at March 2010′s, 41st Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference, near Houston TX. I looked at her name badge, and my eyes popped out a little. I was talking to @womenplanetsci! Susan Niebur!
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning at the Women in Planetary Sciences networking breakfast, won’t I”? and before I could open my mouth to form the word of my reply, she was gone. She was down the hall inviting another woman she didn’t know to the networking breakfast.
On the day after that memorable and inspiring 2010 breakfast, I was in the conference hotel elevator with Susan and her husband Curt, who I knew from my work on the Cassini Mission to Saturn at JPL. Susan was rushing home, due to illness, I overheard in hushed elevator-abbreviated spouse-speak. I didn’t know anything about her cancer. All I knew about Susan was her science and her amazing personal presence. If you are lucky enough to meet someone in your lifetime with this electric aura, you’ll know it in an instant. I knew it. I knew she was a super-star the moment we met.
When I got home from that conference, I followed @whymommy in addition to @womenplanetsci on Twitter, found Susan’s Toddler Planet blog, and her Mothers with Cancer website. I read through several years of posts non-stop. I was sucker-punched with the news of her cancer, her cancer and science outreach, advocacy, and her fierce love for her family. My own sister Wendy had just completed breast cancer surgery and was about to start radiation at exactly the same time I met Susan. And at the same time my darling beloved husband Mojo was recovering from prostate cancer surgery, and had yet to receive his first post-op PSA. (Both are now three years cancer free.)
I was so very sad (heartbroken actually) to have missed the 2012 LPSC conference, held shortly after Susan died. Mostly, I wanted to feel Susan’s spirit there at the Women in Planetary Science luncheon, and share remembrances, laughs and tears with colleagues.
Oh, I miss her so.
I added this today: Four months after Susan died, it was time for our local Monrovia CA Relay for Life event. The cancer survivors take the first lap around the park, walking through and past hundreds of luminaria – hand decorated white paper lunch bags illuminated with a glow stick (no candles allowed, fire marshall regulations) inside – each remembering a loved one or thanking a caregiver.
Each year, the walkers stop and look at the moon or planets through our Sidewalk Astronomy club telescopes. This year, in addition to sharing the night sky with the crowds at my telescope, I made three luminaria. One was for my sister Wendy who is breast cancer free since 2010. One was for my hubby Mojo – who is prostate cancer free since 2010. The luminaria I made for Susan had a cutout of the planet Saturn for the light to shine through. I observed Saturn through my telescope, and thought of Susan, then colored the bits of luminaria cutouts to match the planet’s golden yellow hue, and made this special view of Saturn. I dedicated it to this amazing woman whose light and inspiration continues to shine on so many of us every single day.
Here are a few links I haven’t seen mentioned in other blogs:
But first, I really missed Susan’s DC Mom friends blog & Twitter posts. Getting a little caught up today.
NASA Solar System Exploration Susan Niebur’s NASA Solar System Exploration “people” page with great links!
My cancer blogs with tips from Susan to Donate, Educate, Advocate, Volunteer
Here’s Emily Lakdawalla’s February 2012 Planetary Society blog about Susan.