Please join us in a celebration of the life and legacy of the wonderful Suzy Lepeintre this Saturday Aug 5 at 10:30 a.m. at the McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell Washington. Together we can grieve her passing and remember her beautiful spirit.
Suzanne Rene Lepeintre
“It came back, the cancer came back.” That was Suzy hurrying up the stairs three years ago. She had gone to the doctor to check on a nagging pain in her side. She and her husband hugged each other on the couch. The tears came soon after. They both knew what it meant. Time was no longer a seemingly plentiful commodity.
Time for Suzy began on November 25, 1966 in Medford, Oregon and it ended on June 12, 2017 in Bellevue, Washington. She spent most of her childhood in Eugene, Oregon where she moved at the age of 8. She graduated from North Eugene High School in 1985. It is during her undergraduate studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland that she started to travel the world, a passion that would never leave her. While in Germany, she travelled throughout Europe and beyond, hitchhiking through Greece, Egypt and Israel. She fell in love with her future husband Francois in France and Germany. They married (for the first time) in 1992. Her beloved children, Delphine and Paul, were born in 2000 and 2004. The guiding thread of her life was connecting and sharing with people. Her friends became family and no one was a stranger for long.
Those who met her, even only once, would never forget her. There are some people whose sheer force of living and indomitable force of being make an indelible mark on your life. Suzy taught us how to be brave by relating to others fearlessly. She was fiercely intelligent, full of energy and piercingly insightful. She was courageous, sexy and funny. Suzy was compassionate with the world and herself.
Her professional accomplishments reflected her boldness to make a difference. She earned her Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language from the University of Washington in 1994. She began working for Bellevue College in 1999 and became a tenured faculty member in 2008. Bellevue College President Dr. Jill Wakefield recently wrote: “Suzy was beloved across campus for a variety of reasons: her deep commitment to educational equity, her positive spirit and courage and her dedication to our students. She was pivotal in the development of the Faculty Commons. We are so grateful to the years of service Suzy gave to Bellevue College. She will be deeply missed by colleagues and students alike.”
Suzy always said “you gotta live as if you’re gonna live.” It was no surprise that she decided to approach her disease with a plan, as she had always done. She detailed her journey with cancer and death in beautiful and exacting words. It is impossible for us to capture a sense of her intense and beautiful writing, we can only point you to her blog: https://thecolorofhopeblog.com/my-stage-iv-cancer/.
A true testimony to Suzy’s bravery was written by her oncologist Dr. Tanya Wahl: “…she met every obstacle with utmost spirit and grace. And, she had a very useful sense of humor about all of it too. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so clear about her goals, especially in caring for her family, as Suzy was.”
Family was defined by Suzy with a generous and inclusive heart, she will be dearly missed by every one of the people she included in that group. In her immediate family, she is survived by her husband, François, daughter Delphine, son Paul and sister Kaylea. Her parents Tom and Lynn Kersten preceded her in death.
It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s hard to let go of someone so young and good, so filled with life and love. Please join us on Saturday, August 5, 2017 at the McMenamins Anderson School at 10:30am for the celebration of her life. Together we can grieve her passing and remember her beautiful spirit.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organizations that were close to Suzy’s heart.
Our Suzy lost her battle with cancer this afternoon. Thank you all for your messages of love and support for her, her family and her friends. She was so much larger than life and her legacy of love, courage, and brilliance will live on. Please use her page to share memories – we will post details about her memorial soon. We do expect it to be later this summer. Hug your loved ones. –Serena
This is Serena. Suzy’s been quiet today. She rests in her bed almost all of the time now. We watched a Trevor Noah video where he tore Drumpf apart for abandoning the Paris climate accord. She laughed for a bit before she cried about it. She’s grateful for all of the kind words of support that you all send.
Suzy Update: The waiting is hard, she says, as each day creeps by with no measure. She straddles the present and the unknown, and is torn between wanting the wait to be over, and the hesitancy of wondering what does that “over” mean for her. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my fierce girl draw back. Her catnaps have lengthened into long bouts of sleep, but it is still the light sleep of life, not the deeper sleep that signals the end is closing in. At times when she’s awake she avidly listens to the daily hum of life around her, smiling at the silly stories I save up just for her, eating the better part of a cheeseburger that Francois has brought her. Each day he tries to tempt her with a burger, and some days it works. But other days she just wants a lemon drop, solitude, and another nap.
Suzy Update: Everyday passes by in a haze, she says. Day, hours and minutes lose meaning for time is suspended as she waits for something, yet nothing. She catnaps lightly on and off several times an hour. When she wakes she speaks of her emmense gratitude and love for you all– but her clear exhaustion has narrowed her world down to her children and the gentle love and quiet strength of Francois. Moving from a position is an event of great magnitude, so inertia flourishes. Yesterday was a good day where she happily ate hamburgers. Good days though, she says, extend the waiting. Today is a quiet, sleepy day where a cup of chocolate milk was plenty filling, and the hum and puff of the positive oxygen flow lulls her in and out of oblivion as she waits.
It’s time to make THOSE decisions. Who do I want in the room during my final moments? What do I want in the memorial?
When my brother-in-law Jerome was walking with his wife through her breast cancer death, he shared a tiny bit of the bizarreness that was created. Jerome’s belated wife, Beatrice, was a clear thinking straight shooter who knew how to call a spade a spade. She was worldly, sophisticated and down-to-earth, authentic and socially intelligent. Beatrice’s death was my first. I barely knew her. I’d been to her wedding and she to mine. My oldest was a baby and hers were toddlers when we picnicked on the coast of Ireland together. We shared a few family holidays.
But we weren’t close.
Beatrice’s death was my first. I barely knew her. I’d been to her wedding and she to mine. We’d celebrated some holidays and enjoyed amazing picnics along the Irish coast. I felt connected to her because we were raising young children fathered by young brothers and both living multinational lives. She was my age, my mirror.I was terribly awkward and naïve throughout her cancer journey and her death, a tourist on the periphery who somehow got an invite to very exclusive and intimate event.
I was terribly awkward and naïve throughout her cancer journey and her death, a tourist on the periphery who somehow got an invite to very exclusive and intimate event. The Lepeintres and the Klingsheims are a solid, wise bunch. There are core values of loyalty, of protecting those closest. Do no harm, if at all possible. Enjoy the moment life offers and leave the drama outside of the family meal space. There’s a magic in the family relationships we weave. We can use them to build shelters, refuges against the turmoil of the rest of our lives. But we can also tangle ourselves up in them, strangle ourselves. I remember (or maybe I misremember) a comment my brother-in-law Jerome made when Beatrice’s health was failing. I think I was pressuring Francois to go visit. (Francois had better sense than I). Jerome told me that Beatrice and he had talked and she didn’t want some sort of long parade of sad people at her door in the last months, trying to make a connection that hadn’t already happened.
There’s a magic in the family relationships we weave. We can use them to build shelters, refuges against the turmoil of the rest of our lives. But we can also tangle ourselves up in them, strangle ourselves.
I remember (or maybe I misremember) a comment my brother-in-law Jerome made when his wife Beatrice’s health was failing. I think I was pressuring Francois to go visit. (Francois had better sense than I). Jerome told me that Beatrice and he had talked and she didn’t want some sort of long parade of sad people at her door in the last months, trying to make a connection that hadn’t already happened.I so totally get that now. It was even rather obvious then. Who wants to spend their final months on earth surrounded by death and grief and moaning of sad people only peripherally connected to you?
My therapist pointed out that there can be great connection in these moments of vulnerability. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I have that and I expect to continue to experience that. Each one of you here offer me those rich insights into our shared humanity, a touch of love and heart. In some deeper , longer relationships, there’s some reconciliation, an aligning of perspectives, between what is being experienced/has been experienced by a person you love and what you have perceived. It rings with the truth of a tuning fork when you find those moments. You can hear the overtones of understanding.
I’m not avoiding sharing. And I’m pretty good at vulnerability. I’m just choosy about which experiences I want to invest in and expand and which experiences I’m ready to seek closure in.
We all are.
At least we should be.
Death steals all of your time, even while you are still living. It tangles my mind and weakens my body. It cements me with wet layers of horribly big heavy emotions. And that’s not even considering the physical impacts.
My mother used her every last breath and ounce of energy to try and leave her daughters in a good space. Mom wanted everyone to feel as good as possible around her. It was a loving and true gift.
But it was also horrific. She insisted on trying to make one last trip with us, her daughters, for mother’s day (or was it Memorial Day?)and spent the entire trip throwing up in the car and pasting on a smile and talking about how beautiful the area was, how gorgeous the flowers were. We were like children bringing our parents breakfast in bed, burnt toast, smeared jelly and horribly oversweet chocolate milk. She sat through our road trip rituals and smiled to show us how much we mattered, that we’d done well with our little excursion. She swayed greenly and vomited out the side of the car every 20 minutes or so. By the time we arrived at our Mother’s Day/Girls’ Weekend Getaway she’d soiled every piece of clothing she had.
So this is to my friends and family. I’m just going to tell you. YOU DID GOOD. You were such a support for my soul, for my life. I’ve had such a great time growing, loving and learning with you. Let’s just look for those smiles, shared experiences in pictures and memories. Let’s live like we’re going to all keep on living and not try to cram vomit trips in.
And for my loved ones who might feel pushed away… I can’t even imagine the loss. But isn’t there some quote about death waiting for no one? We’ve lived our lives together for years. We are what we are, we’ve done the best we can and it’s been amazing. But dying steals time. My brain doesn’t process quickly or correctly. My tasks are buried under mountainous emotional weight. I need more and more time and more and more space. It means I’m going to have less.
But never less love for you.
I’m not done living yet.
I’m going to live as if I’m living long enough to take it for granted, just as we’ve always done. We’ll take each day and enjoy its gifts. And if there was some magic moment or experience you didn’t get or couldn’t find, I have a really really great therapist I can recommend. 🙂 Seriously.
(So please don’t make me vomit, OK? 😉
And keep those cards, lunch invites and emails coming.