Life isn’t fair.
I swear I say that phrase every single day. Yes, your sister got 1cc more cupcake than you did. Life isn’t fair. Get over it.
But tonight, I am angry and sad. Because life isn’t fair. Today, Susan Niebur of Toddler Planet, AKA WhyMommy, passed away from cancer.
I forget how I found her blog. I think I was looking for some other science geeks to read and I stumbled onto her blog. Or maybe she stumbled on mine. I am not sure. She had worked in planetary sciences and was working at NASA at the point I met her. She had 2 young sons, one just born. I loved her choice of “WhyMommy” for a moniker, since that is what she expected to hear as her sons grew up. “Why, Mommy? Why does the moon glow? Why is the sky blue?”
We wrote back and forth a bit. Then, shortly after we met on-line, she was upset that her son was only nursing on one side. She saw a doctor, fearing a breast infection. Instead, it was irritable breast cancer (IBC). The breast cancer without a lump. She was scared, who wouldn’t be, but started to include her treatment and disease as part of her blog.
For the past 5 years, I have continued reading, and commenting. I have watched her boys grow, but not grow up enough. It hit me a bit ago that this day was coming. We all know that we are going to die. It’s part of life. We just don’t know when. We hope and expect it will be when it’s the right time. When we’ve done all we’re going to have done in life and be ready to move on. But, life isn’t fair. Sometimes, we do know when the day is coming. Susan knew it was sooner than later.
In the last year or two, Susan became Catholic. I find this slightly ironic to mention as this post is in the middle of my posts on religion, but I also could see that this was the right thing for her. She was finding the peace she needed to accept her life and the things she would miss. Her sons becoming adults, the questions she wanted, the fight to have more females in planetary sciences end, the life she and her husband had planned.
This is hard to write. I think of all of the things that I don’t want to miss. I see my own mortality in Susan. I can only hope that I have the calming words that Susan had in her writings when it is my time to leave. I hope I can express my emotions as clearly as she did.
I am really going to miss Susan. She had a way of reporting how she was feeling, mentally and physically and then turning around and being genuinely concerned about you. She never seemed to be put out by her children’s needs. And I mean that in a mom sense. Yeah, we all get frustrated with our kids, but when she wrote, she made it clear that she knew her time with them was measured and she was going to get all of the love into them she could.
Despite our love for astronomy, I think my connection to Susan was more of an observer of life. I was lucky to share in her observations, insights and opinions. I have learned to listen to my children more and pay more attention to the big things, and let the little ones go. I’m not perfect and neither was Susan, but I learned so much from her.
Thank you, Susan. For sharing. For letting us into your world. Even though we never met in person, I have always felt like I’ve been your friend.
We will all miss you.