I lost someone close to me this weekend. Susan Spitz was my first girlfriend, we grew up in Raleigh and met at our church youth group. We dated in high school and for awhile after. She was beautiful, a champion volleyball player, a music fan, smart as a whip, and always down for adventure. I was crazy about her. We stayed close ever after. There would be pauses, sometimes for months and months, then we would get each other on the phone and spend hours. A few years ago she had a bad accident, and her arm was paralyzed. She lived with a serious, debilitating, phantom pain that could not be treated due to the nature of the injury to her spinal cord. She was so tough. When we visited she would try to hide it, or brush it away if you asked.
I made these pictures one day in January 2003, when she came down to visit me in Greensboro. We stomped around in a park in town, had dinner, caught up and enjoyed that familiarity you feel with someone that knows you so well. It was a little while before the accident, and she was studying to be a massage therapist. It was a good couple of days.
Susan took her life on Friday evening. Her brother Bill called and let me know. She left behind her dog Emma and her longtime boyfriend Drew. I know both of them are missing her intensely. Her dad too. The pain she was living with became too much. I think it was impossible for some of us that knew her to really get how much she was suffering. We thought we had an idea of it, but no. We would talk about it, and I would insist there had to be some kind of solution, as if she wasn’t spending all her time trying to find one herself. She saw doctors and psychiatrists for years, but no one could solve the pain. Sometimes we exhaust people trying to fix things that can’t be fixed.
I am not sure how to miss her yet. I fear that I will figure it out. She was one of the great ones, and the things she had to live with were not fair, and they were more than just about anyone could bear. I loved her so deeply, for so long. Like a lot of folks, I always will.