Susan's Wake 02/03/96

Susan Hattie Steinsapir

(Andreas with thanks to Ray, who helped with parts of this...)

Susan Hattie Steinsapir's Wake was held on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Some 75 people came.

Mary Frye sent a package from Maryland which arrived just in time to share at the wake. It had photos of a Get Well Cook-In which many friends from held for Susan. She sent lots of photos of them gathered around a GET WELL banner for Susan ("Let's Get Cooking!") and a wonderful cake in the shape of an oven. Mary sent the signed banner and some of the cake decorations; the oven's door and grille, and the little model tea kettle that had sat on top of the stove cake.

Michelle Campbell also held a wake in New Zealand with friends; she sent an e-mail which arrived as we were gathered here.

On the mantle in the living room, photographs of Susan's happiest days: her graduation from law school and our wedding, were surrounded by lit candles.

On the other side of the room was our 8-foot Christmas tree, decorated with lights, pomegranites, ribbons, ornaments, and little glass hearts. We had left suddenly for the hospital in early January and no one had taken down the Christmas tree. Susan wanted a Christmas tree very much this year; in early December, we went up to the Sierra Nevadas and got a very large one.

Friends from brought a spectacular collection of food: the plates of food overflowed the kitchen counters, tables, and stove top. There were ice chests with beer and wine and more arrived all afternoon. Ray Bruman wrote up a menu of what was served:

Appetizers: A wonderful cheese plate, Cabrales cheese from Spain, salt-cured olives, smoked salmon on crusty bread and crackers, Caponata eggplant dip, terrine pate, Susan's goat-cheese torta, and another creamy torta with sun-dried tomatoes and sunflower seeds.

Entrees: Tunisian beans with chard, Wild rice with artichoke salad, a roasted ham, frittata, Spanish rice from the Vallejo's restaurant itself, and California State Fair tacos, both Susan-favorites.

Desserts: Gingerbread with apples, caramel sauce and zabaglione, chocolate truffles both plain and with Grand Marnier, Shoo-fly pie, Anne's famous brownies, kiwi-strawberry custard pie, lemon cake, chocolate chip cookies from New Roma bakery, Ganache cake with violets on top, Boston cream pie, pumpkin bread, miniature coconut shortbread cookies.

Drinks: Champagne and other wines from France and California, Pete's Winter Brew, a whole cooler of Henry Weinhard's beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bushmill's Irish whiskey, sodas and of course, "Co'Cola."

People wore name tags, since many had never met. Amongst strangers, one was stranger than most. She claimed to have been a close friend of Susan in law school and even to have known Susan's father and visited the same psychiatrist as he did. But... I'd never heard of her and Susan's father never went to a psychiatrist. Apparently, the woman had seen the article in the newspaper and showed up, pretending to be a friend. She left after only an hour or so. She had better walk carefully. Susan'll fling a lightning bolt out of a clear sky.

Susan's sister Ellen told stories, such as what it was like to try to do food shopping for Susan. Not only must the strawberries be from the farmer's market, and only from Harry's Berries, but they must be the ones from Watsonville, not Castroville (or was it the other way round?)

The computer was on and sometimes logged in to, but we mostly talked with each other. We did read out some of the messages from around the globe, but we didn't send messages; people found it more suiting to talk with each other.

Everyone gave me hugs and many laughed and some cried. I still feel numb and devastated; I don't have much appetite and only nibbled at food. But it's a very nice tradition for people to bring food over; I'd otherwise not eat at all and now there's lots of stuff in the fridge, so I live on ham & cheese sandwiches, chocolate pie, beer, and various salads. The four cats are happy; we usually gave them four cans per day but now I often give them another can or two. Poor cats, only one person now to talk to them and scratch their chins.

People stayed until midnight and several stayed over. My cats eventually came out of hiding, although Theia, the Danish cat, loved to hang around the kitchen and mooch for salmon spread. On Sunday morning, Anne Bourget and Sam invited people over for breakfast.

Sunday afternoon, Ray stayed to help with cleaning up. He took down the Christmas tree (we debated leaving it up...). We began the huge job of sorting out Susan's things.

So... cards continue to trickle in; florists come and drop off more flowers; friends call; donations have been made in Susan's name to the American Heart Association, which is a major researcher into heart disease, and to a grove of Redwood trees here in California.

I've begun to sleep in our home, which is so full of a void; I sleep like a baby; I wake up every few hours and cry. Those of you who've been especially grieved by Susan's death will know that there are no words for any of this; there's nothing one can say.

I'd like to thank each and everyone of you for your e-mails, your cards, your support, and your prayers. I'd especially like to give a final eulogy, not to Susan, but to you, who've been a part of Susan's life and took the time to talk with her and be with her in her life. It may be a rotten universe, but friends and family make it okay.



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