I first met Mark and Susie in the early 80s when my family moved to Nashville. My husband came to work with what is now known as Lifeway, and I worked for Mark as his Music Assistant at First Baptist Church. We have remained good friends all there thirty plus years as our children have grown up, married, and had families of their own. Even when jobs changed for my family that took us away from Nashville, the ties of friendship have always remained strong. My personal journey has been one that includes the loss of two godly, wonderful husbands. One died of terminal brain cancer, and the other from a sudden heart attack. Mark and Susie were there for me and my family each time. So, you might say that our families have a long standing "history"!
I am one of those people who have never been on Facebook, therefore, you know what generation that puts me in! Because I was a Facebook hold-out, when Susie was first diagnosed with her cancer, I missed the early part of her journey. Later, I received emails of the "notes" that Susie and Mark shared about their progress. I, like so many others, encouraged Mark to publish the notes because of their overwhelming message of gratitude. So many people face the ugly monster of cancer every single day and have nothing to help them navigate the depression and hopelessness it breeds. SUSIE KNEW HOW TO DO IT, and it needed to be shared.
When Notes from Susie was finally published, I found myself putting off reading it. Somehow, I felt it would reopen the painful memories of the losses I had experienced. I preferred to keep them safely tucked away somewhere out of reach. But, then, a very close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and was facing a similar journey as Susie. I purchased Notes from Susie for my friend, believing it would be helpful to her, however, I knew I couldn't give her the book without reading it myself. So I dove in, head first! What an unexpected blessing it was for me. The message of gratitude dispelled the painful memories that tried to emerge from those recesses of my mind... I was reminded again how very powerful the hymns can be. My sense of gratitude grew and grew as I read, and my soul was filled with God's song of life that lives on in spite of cancer and loss. Thank you, Susie, for showing us how to do it right and in a way most pleasing to our Father in heaven.
I strongly recommend Notes from Susie for anyone facing cancer head on. It is truly a handbook for navigating the dreaded, treacherous road of treatment, not only for the one with cancer, but for the one, like Mark, who walks beside, cares for, and loves one through it all.
For someone experiencing great loss and finds themselves in the throws of grief, Susie has a word for you as well: Dying is more about living. She did it well and taught us that trusting Jesus with a heart of gratitude is the key.
And in the style of Susie and Mark, I raise this hymn...
Simply trusting ev'ry day, trusting thro' a stormy way;
even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus, that is all.
Brightly doth his Spirit shine into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall, trusting Jesus, that is all.
Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call, trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting Him while life shall last, trusting Him till earth be past;
Till within the jasper wall, trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall, trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting Jesus - Words: Edgar Page Stiles, 1876
Tune: Trusting Jesus, Ira D. Sankey, 1876
- "Mike" Brayshaw
I have a very close friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer and was facing a long and difficult journey that would likely mirror a similar path as Susie traveled. I purchased Notes From Susie for my friend believing that the overriding message of gratitude would be helpful to her on her journey.
Well, my friend who knew about Susie, told me in no uncertain terms that she was NOT going to read a book about dying! I lovingly stepped back and simply prayed that God would open her heart to rethink her determination to NOT read the book!
The week before her first chemo infusion, she called me to tell me that she had spent a sleepless night reading SUSIE! Her very words were, "I am totally engrossed in Susie." Her depressive spirit lifted and you could see and feel the spirit of hope and gratitude begin to emerge. NOW, Susie is her "go to girl"! Every time she feels something or questions something regarding her journey, she says, "Susie said that...," or, "remember that Susie felt..."! It's been a beautiful transformation to watch and it is all about SUSIE! Thank you, Susie and Mark, for sharing your journey.
PS: I just got a text from Elaine. She had her second infusion yesterday, and she texted that she spent much of last night during those bouts of sleeplessness, rereading SUSIE! This time with a yellow marker underlining all of Susie’s comments about low energy! For Elaine, that has been one of the hardest things for her to deal with. It helps her persevere knowing Susie felt the same thing!!
- "Mike" Brayshaw