Susan Neibur, aka Why Mommy, was so much to so many. An activist for breast-cancer research and awareness, an advocate for women in planetary science, an inspirational speaker at events near and far. But to us, she was also a fellow DC Mom, “one of the girls” we spoke to and saw on a regular basis, whether here in the DC area she called home or on the blogging conference circuit, where we capital bloggers would gravitate toward each other like flowers toward the sun.
There are no words to describe the loss we feel as members of this supportive community of women writers. Susan, who passed away Monday after living with Inflammatory Breast Cancer for nearly five years, was a beacon of strength and perseverance, a woman of virtue and courage. But we will also remember Susan’s sharp wit, her exceptional parenting, her love of chocolate and Diet Coke. We will miss her terribly — not just for her words, but for her humor, her candor, her hugs.
We’re taking the week off to focus on Susan — her life, her memory, her legacy.
“Susan restored my belief that one person can change the world. And she can do so as a mother, in her profession, and from her keyboard – all while being the epitome of grace and kindness. People like Susan are the role models we should hold up on magazines covers, reality shows, Twitter streams and SuperBowl ads for ourselves and our children. Though I grieve for the loss of my friend, I celebrate the legacy she leaves behind – I still have so much to learn from her.”
“Professionally Susan was Dr. Neibur, astrophysicist, but to my kids, she was always Susan. Susan who could answer any question they had about space, stars, planets, rockets, moons, etc. whether coaching a summer soccer team, between snacks at a playdate, or when greeted with a gentle hug from my youngest the second she stepped through the door of our house. Susan fueled a love of space related topics by explaining things in a kid-friendly way that they always understood. While there is a big push in education to expose girls to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), I never needed to look any further than Susan as an inspiration and role model for my own daughter. Her legacy lives on in our own children and their innate curiosity to explore the world around them.”
“Just like the gravitational force of the moon on the tides, Susan had a pull that drew people to her professionally and personally. She believed in people, in their capacity to realiize their dreams. Susan brought people together, she believed that everything was possible, and she taught us to live each day with love and kindness.”
In Paradisum – The English translation of the Final Commendation from The Roman Ritual
May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you into the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
May choirs of angels welcome you
and lead you to the bosom of Abraham;
and where Lazarus is poor no longer may you find eternal rest.
May saints and angels lead you on,
Escorting you where Christ has gone.
Now he has called you, come to him who sits above the seraphim.
Come to the peace of Abraham
And to the supper of the Lamb:
Come to the glory of the blessed, And to perpetual light and rest.
—Jessica “A Parent in Silver Spring”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Susan was welcomed into heaven with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I am incredibly grateful to have known Susan, to have called her a friend, and to have been touched by her amazing spirit. I am holding her loved ones, especially Curt and their sons, in my heart and prayers.”“At every stage in her life… as graduate student, young scientist, mother, cancer patient… Susan took what was there and made it better, for herself and those who came after her. She embodied the Gandhi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She changed the world. Many times over. Her legacy is tremendous. Her memory is a call to action for all of us.”—Sue“Susan – thank you for teaching us all to be a better person. You truly lead by example in all that you do.”–Robin“I will carry a piece of you with me forever, Susan, for every time I look at the night sky, I will remember your spirit and dedication. The grace you showed in your words, even when in the depths of pain I cannot fathom, always inspired me, sometimes just to hug my children for an extra minute. Your memory will live on in the hearts of so many people around the world, blessed by your presence in their lives.”
“I only met Susan a handful of times, but she’s the kind of person who only took once to have an effect. She instantly showed her spunky spirit, her warmth, her grace, and a strength that belied the fight for her life that was going on almost behind the scenes. Of course Susan was quite vocal about her experience – she was ever the advocate and teacher in all she did. But for me, anyway, it was never forefront – that was reserved for Susan’s spirit. I didn’t know her well, but nevertheless I am changed for the better by having known her at all. I wish Curt and her boys grace and peace.”
“I only knew Susan from her blog. But, to say that Susan was “just a blogger” would be missing the point. Susan was much more than that…she was a mom, scientist, researcher, public speaker, nurturer of budding female scientists, and a cancer warrior.
I met Susan one spring morning at a local Italian ice cafe in Rockville. A group of DC bloggers had tweeted about a tweetup meeting. Not one to miss a gathering, I set off armed with Mapquest and GPS to put faces to the names of people I had only “spoken to” on Twitter. After several missed turnings and u-turns, I was late…as usual. Disheveled and irritated with myself, I approached a large group already seated at a large outdoor table. I was greeted warmly by one and all.
While I didn’t talk to Susan that day, I had the pleasure of chatting to her at many gatherings through Momzshare, DC Metro Moms, and conferences. What struck me about Susan was her ability to engage with whomever she was speaking. Susan hung on to your every word even if what you were saying was quite mundane and ordinary. I’m sure I rambled on about something or another while talking to Susan, but she always listened intently.
It’s a cliche, but Susan did light up a room when she entered it. I will never forget what Susan told the audience on receiving the 2011 Bloganthropy Award. She said that she was accepting the award not for herself, but on behalf of her cancer warrior friends, some of whom lost their cancer battles. And that is how I will always remember Susan…for her generosity.”
“Susan was one of my first blogging friends. We met long ago, at a wine tasting at Sarah’s house. And she glowed with a light and a warmth from her. Susan was one of the people I most looked forward to seeing at every blogging event since, near and far, from Chicago to New York City, to just this past summer, at my house, where she brought the famous red dress. She always, always, lit up a room.”
“What I remember most about Susan is that she didn’t let cancer define her. I have had my share of health issues in the last few years and Susan was always worried about how I was feeling and would send me a quick note to ask if I was feeling better. She genuinely cared about everyone and was passionate about everything she did. Miss you Susan!”
“Susan was an advocate for all of us when it came to our respective different projects. Even when she was not in the best of health, she continued to cheer on her “village” from Twitter and Facebook,celebrating each one of us when we had good news to share. She showed me how important it is to stay focused on the friends in your life,not become consumed with our own internal worries and to take the time to share in the happy times, as well as the sad ones.
I’ve never known anyone who’s faced cancer the way Susan did. With so many people, an illness is always the “elephant in the room” that we’re afraid to talk about for fear of saying the wrong thing. Susan helped us all face her disease — and taught us how to face our own conditions and issues — square on, with dignity and no pity.
But my favorite Susan story of all time is a funny one that she enjoyed telling with much humor. She was getting on the plane to attend a conference several years ago and was wearing one of her lymphedema sleeves. One of the flight attendants said to her, in a mocking way, ” Ohhh. Do we have a boo-boo?” Susan stared her in the eye and without missing a beat, very matter-of-factly replied, in the same tone, `Noooo. We have cancer.'”
“My kids adore the “Bubble Guppies” cartoon on Nick Jr., and their favorite episode is “The Moon Rocks!” And, ok, I love it, too, especially because of this (truly) awesome song called “Sun, Beautiful Sun.” I find myself singing it more often than I’d care to admit.When I learned about Susan’s passing, I was walking onto the playground with my kids. It was late in the day, and the moon was coming out. We all commented on what an especially big, bright moon it was. Soon after, we headed back to the car to drive home; when I started the car, this song was playing on the CD player. I think Susan would’ve appreciated it.”In our solar system, everything keeps spinnin’ around. Yeah, yeah! The planets in their orbits and the moon…kind of our cosmic town. Jupiter is gassy, Venus is bright. Mercury’s hot, Neptune’s cold, but Earth is just right. There’s one force in the middle of it all….our source of light and heat: a big fiery ball.Sun. Sun! Beautiful sun. Sun! We move around you slowly because you are our only one. One! You’re our sun.We’ll pick up your light ’til it turns to night, showing other stars much farther away. They dance in our skies, until the next day, when night fades as you rise. Our beautiful sun.
Asteroids and comets and gas are all just floating around. Peeking through our telescope, with so many sites to ooo-aaah… during the day when you shine upon, you’re the brighest thing to see in a whole sky.Yeah, during the day, when you shine upon, you’re the brightest thing to see in a whole sky. Yeah, during the day when you shine upon, you’re the biggest thing to see in the whole sky.
And the rounding shape keeps moving outside…Sun. Sun! Beautiful sun. Sun! We move around you slowly because you are our only one. One! You’re our sun.
We’ll pick up your light ’til it turns to night, then stars appear and twinkle away. I wish I might, I wish I may, when night fades as you rise. Our beautiful sun!
“I always looked forward to seeing Susan. She had a calm and grace about her that drew people in. I will miss that fantastic smile of hers, her light and her insight. She taught me patience and how to be a better mother. I will always love her for her that.”
“Susan advised me on topics ranging from the sun’s rays to women in science. She carried herself with such grace and worked to make me feel welcome amongst other DC Mom bloggers. Forever, I will thank her.”
“It is so hard to choose a memory of Susan to share because I have so many good ones of her, but when my mind wanders, it settles on one particular day at the playground. It was such an ordinary day with two friends getting together with their kids. The stars aligned for us that day, however, and our kids managed to have such fun playing with each other with no hurt feelings, no boo boos, nothing but fun. They had so much fun playing and we had so much fun talking and then we had some more fun playing with the kids and then we gave this creepy dude hanging out in the parking lot the stinkeye and then we talked some more. I’ve taken my kids to a lot of playdates at the park, but this one stands out. It was perfection.”
“Measuring Susan’s goodness and impact on our world would be like trying to count the stars in the night sky with my naked eye.”
“The first time I met Susan in person was at a gathering of DC Metro Moms in 2007. I had just written a blog post about some very personal problems and the first thing she did was hug me and say “you are strong.” I think of that often, and Susan, whenever I falter. Because if the strongest woman I’ve known thinks that I’m strong, well, then I must be. Thank you, Susan.”
“I was talking to Susan right before her double mastectomy and she said she was looking forward to wearing pretty little tank tops. I have never before encountered that sort of optimism in the face of adversity.”
“Like everyone she met, I feel like Susan connected with me. She had the remarkable ability to find something meaningful that you shared and expand upon it. Of course, she did it so beautifully with universal issues – motherhood, inspiration, discovery, hope – but she also did it with small things that it seemed *only* you and she had in common. She made you feel special, immediately. Because she was.”
Please feel free to leave your favorite memories of Susan or thoughts in the comments. We will be adding to this post as the week goes on.