As the saying goes, you can pick your friends, but you canít pick your family. But sometimes, just sometimes, when the planets aligns just so, there are exception so this otherwise universal rule. In those instances, which are as rare as they are precious, we are privileged enough to find a friend who becomes family.
Thatís what Sue Gosline was to my mom, myself and the entire extended Stagnaro clan. She was family.
My mom first met Suzie, as she always called her, more than eleven years ago. My mom was coming off her unsuccessful first retirement and had taken a job in Chenango Memorial Hospitalís business office. Sue worked there, too. Gradually, what began as a casual workplace acquaintance became a close-knit friendship forged over innumerable lunches and their mutual ďdownstateĒ roots. (My mom comes from Brooklyn; Sue from Long Island.)
For the last decade, she has been my momís best friend. During that time, they took more shopping trips, played more rounds of golf, shared more lunches and sipped more glasses of white zinfandel (or gin and tonics, depending on the season) than I could begin to count. But more than that, they shared the highs and lows of life as only true friends do. No matter what was going on in each otherís lives, they were always there for one another Ė laughing together and crying together through thick and thin.
At some point Ė Iíd be hard pressed to identify exactly when Ė Suzie became more than just my momís friend. She became part of our family. She shared birthdays, anniversaries and holidays with us, and, for a brief period after her second attempt at moving to Florida, she even stayed with us for awhile. (Sue took to Florida much like my mother did to retirement. She tried moving there twice, but always came back to the rolling hills of Chenango County.)
There was just something about Sue you couldnít help but love. She had one of those personalities that drew people in like a magnet. She loved life and laughter, and was always ready for adventure. But at the same time, she was also incredibly kind, and generous to a fault.
I used to introduce her as ďmy momís friend Sue,Ē but I always considered her my friend, too. Iím not much of a shopper, but I could never resist the lure of spending a Saturday or Sunday shopping with ďthe girls.Ē All of my favorite shoes were purchased on these excursions. But Iím not going to lie Ė lunch was always the highlight of the day.
At this point, youíve probably noticed Iíve been writing this Ė one of the hardest columns Iíve ever written Ė in the past tense. On Friday, Sue passed away. Iím still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
About six weeks ago, the last week in May, Sue was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to pursue treatment on Long Island, so she could be close to her children Ė her daughters Carol and Michelle, her son P.J. and his wife Tiffany.
She had barely begun treatment when she had a number of complications and around the Fourth of July, she ended up in the hospital. In the early morning hours of July 8, she left this world for the next.
Iíve cried what feels like an ocean of tears already, and Iím sure Iíll cry an ocean more before Iím through. My heart has broken for Carol, Michelle, P.J., Tiffany, my mom, Sueís childhood friend Fuzzy and all those who had the privilege of calling Sue Gosline friend in her 66 years of life.
My mom and I traveled to Long Island this weekend to say goodbye. But it really wasnít goodbye, because she will be in our hearts forever, wrapped in a million wonderful memories.
In my heart, I know she is in a better place, free from the suffering she endured with this disease. But my head just canít make sense of it. I canít believe sheís gone. How could someone filled with such life and laughter, have been taken from us so quickly by this horrible thing called cancer? I want to stamp my feet, and kick and scream. Because itís just not fair. Cancer isnít fair.
I had already planned to participate in Chenango Countyís Relay for Life, in honor of all those whose lives have been touched by cancer. But now, I will be walking in memory of Suzanne Gosline. I hope you will join me in supporting this cause, which has hit so close to home for me and so many others. Together we can help find a cure for this horrible disease.
Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.