Susan Soper's Blog (66)

Collards and Caviar: An Obituary with Flair

Ruth Duvall Clark As Mother’s Day approaches, there are lots of children, mothers, sisters, spouses who are missing a woman who meant everything to them. Everything. In many cases, their obituaries probably did not reflect enough about them – their core being – to really illustrate the impact of their lives or the voids they left.



Unfortunately, as the cycle of life proves over and over, there are also…

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Added by Susan Soper on May 10, 2012 at 10:00am — No Comments

The Art of Losing



Just as we are about to move out of National Poetry Month, I want to sneak in an amazing collection of poems that came out last year. The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing (Bloomsbury, 2011; now in paperback) is the book acclaimed poet Kevin…

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Added by Susan Soper on April 26, 2012 at 1:30pm — 1 Comment

Gertrude… Going on 102!

Turkish ruins (Flickr Creative Commons/Ken and Nyetta) Gertrude Murrell DuPont Howland doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Especially not at this stage of her life. She’ll be 102 in July.

 

The Richmond native was a dutiful wife and mother until she divorced and became an archaeologist in her 60s, traveling to digs all over the world: from Afghanistan and Turkey to Italy, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. She traversed the Khyber Pass and went to Hong Kong.

 

Her second husband, now deceased, was happy to…

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Added by Susan Soper on April 17, 2012 at 9:30am — 2 Comments

Suicide and Obituaries

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, International Survivors of Suicide Day Last week, a former colleague emailed me wondering if I had heard about another writer from our we know who had died last summer. Shocked, I immediately looked up his obituary online. The obit said he had passed away on a Saturday afternoon in August. He was 65.

 

As I read further into the obituary, my shock deepened -- and my sadness:

 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Foundation…

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Added by Susan Soper on February 2, 2012 at 1:30pm — 7 Comments

Sharing the Gift of Obituaries

I recently wrote an obituary for a man who died suddenly and too soon. I didn’t know him – he was a friend of a friend – but because I am a writer and am immersed in all things obituaries, I am sometimes called on to pitch in for families and friends. In this case, my friend asked me to write the obituary because she wanted to give it to the grieving family as a “gift” – relieving them of as much of the decision-making, fact-checking, detail-gathering chores as possible at a time…

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Added by Susan Soper on December 19, 2011 at 3:30pm — 3 Comments

Legacy Letters: Moving on with life and love

When I was a child, we had an annual ritual of writing letters to Santa Claus and then going out to the backyard with my parents to burn them. Fascinated even then with all the rites of Native American Indians, I was certain my Christmas wishes would become smoke signals easily read by Santa in the North Pole.

  

I was reminded of this recently, reading The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members. These are published letters for all…

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Added by Susan Soper on November 22, 2011 at 4:30pm — 1 Comment

First Person Obituaries

It’s becoming more common for people to get involved in their own obituaries, but it happens in varying degrees. I once wrote an obit for an elderly doctor who had Parkinson’s; he hired me to collaborate with him to make sure every detail in his accomplished life was correct before the time came. His stories and accomplishments were told in the traditional third person. He didn’t die…

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Added by Susan Soper on October 26, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments

The Public and Private Remembrances of 9/11

As the 10thanniversary of 9/11 hovers around us all this week, it’s difficult for those of us who didn’t suffer the direct hit – whether in human loss or up-close trauma – to think about how we can pay tribute to those who died, to those who saved, and to those who were left behind to endure their grief.

 

Never before had our country been so publically bombarded with every moment of that horrific tragedy, shown over and over on televisions that day and on…

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Added by Susan Soper on September 9, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments

The Graveyard Tour

People often visit gravesites to commune with whatever piece of their soul might hover in that environment. I have a friend who takes the Easter lilies I give her each year to her husband’s grave, and another who devoted herself to restoring an overgrown, neglected burial ground in South Carolina. There is a woman in New York who advertises her services ($25-35) to visit nearby gravesites…

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Added by Susan Soper on August 22, 2011 at 8:30pm — 1 Comment

It’s Not Just About the Lobster... Remembering Mom on Her Birthday

Each year, as July 25 rolls around, my husband and I begin planning how we are going to celebrate my mother’s birthday with a lobster dinner. In Virginia, my sister does the same thing as does my brother in South Carolina.



Why lobster? Because no one we’ve ever known before or since could pick a lobster cleaner than Suzanne “Hebe” Moeller Soper. She perfected handling of lobster “crackers” and picks to get any and every edible morsel out of the shell. Out of each skinny leg… Continue

Added by Susan Soper on August 1, 2011 at 11:00am — No Comments

Whom to Include in the Obituary

Among the many decisions to make when a loved one has died is one that is full of potential missteps, unintentional omissions and political ramifications within the family: who should be included as survivors in the published obituary?

 

Not too long ago, obituary mentions were generally limited to next of kin and blood relatives. These days obit protocol is going the way of the rest of the world and what’s acceptable: pretty much anything goes.

 

A…

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Added by Susan Soper on July 5, 2011 at 5:00pm — 1 Comment

A Corny Tribute to Two Dads

Every year when Father’s Day approaches, my husband and I pick up a debate that has been with us through 23 years of marriage. Is my dad’s fried corn better than his dad’s? Or vice versa?



It’s really kind of a moot point but a semantic exercise we enjoy annually.



When our two dads were still with us, both of them World War II veterans who knew their way around a kitchen or two, we happily…

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Added by Susan Soper on June 16, 2011 at 5:00pm — No Comments

Rockin' in the Free World

Ryan Means had dreamed of joining the Army since the age of six, but it was not until his childhood playmate and best buddy Adam White was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers that he was mobilized into action. The despair of riding his bike around New York City, posting flyers, checking in with hospitals, and, finally, accepting that Adam was dead were…

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Added by Susan Soper on May 23, 2011 at 2:30pm — 2 Comments

Mom-isms that haunt us to this day!

As Mother’s Day approaches each year, I begin to hear my mother’s voice. It’s hovering, haunting – cajoling, reminding, prodding. It’s not particularly loving or sweet or nurturing. In fact, it’s pretty direct. Truth be told, it’s constructive criticism – not always welcome but determined to put me on the right path to adulthood.



"Stand up straight,” she would say, echoing what her mother drummed into her. And she absolutely did have me and my sister parading…

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Added by Susan Soper on May 6, 2011 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Remembering, Missing and Honoring Mothers

Margaret and Randolph Thrower Sweetbay Magnolia Grove at the Atlanta Botanical Garden Right on the stiletto heels of spring, eye-popping and heady heights of color and bounce – here comes Mother’s Day!



But for those of us without our mothers, even if you are one, it can feel more like a flat-footed event – particularly as Mother’s Day has gained commercial and emotional momentum over the years.



When my mother died, in 1968 at age 45, Mother’s Day was noted with breakfast in bed or by taking some special chores off her plate or by planting a…

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Added by Susan Soper on May 3, 2011 at 10:00am — 4 Comments

The Gift of Reconnecting

Sometimes it’s pretty hard to find a silver lining in a tragic event – particularly the loss of a valued friend or family member. But time, the most enduring healer, and patient reflection can often point to something positive that resulted from a terribly sad time.



A little over a year ago, a college friend, Sally Chambers Bond, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. She was devastated. She was brave. She was hopeful. With courage and grace she took on the treatments we…

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Added by Susan Soper on April 18, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments

It’s Never Too Late to Write and Reminisce

Who amongst us hasn’t had the best – but unfulfilled – intentions to visit a dying friend or relative? Or even to pop a card or note in the mail just to let them know they were in our thoughts? It’s human nature to procrastinate even with easy things so when it comes to the difficulty of putting words to a sensitive and final situation, it’s no wonder we don’t always follow through.

 

It happened to me not long ago and even though the person who died was not a close…

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Added by Susan Soper on March 4, 2011 at 10:30am — No Comments

Writing While Dying… Words of Advice from Moms Who Don’t Make It

During my siblings’ annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Bluffton, S.C. several years ago, my brother, Mike, pulled out a tattered, red spiral notebook he had discovered in a box. The distinctive handwriting was unmistakable – our mother’s script, written in a sort of back-slanted, left-handed style unlike any other. The pages were filled with her thoughts, life lessons and musings written about a year before she died at age 45.

 

My sister Wendy took the notebook…

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Added by Susan Soper on January 14, 2011 at 4:30pm — 2 Comments

Celebrating a Sweet Memory

Happy Birthday with Hershey Bars

On my dad’s October 8th birthday each year, I buy 100 Hershey bars and just hand them out randomly to whomever crosses my path that day. The first one always goes to the sales clerk wherever I happen to buy them, and then I move on: the post office, a department store, gas station, the restaurant where I buy lunch, the pharmacy while filling…

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Added by Susan Soper on November 3, 2010 at 1:30pm — 4 Comments

Keeping a Legacy Alive

The day my father was buried – July 4, 1996 – a young tennis player named MaliVai Washington made it all the way to the finals at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, Mal’s then-girlfriend-now-wife, Jennifer, came to the service on the beach at Ponte Vedra, Fla. to join a small band of George Soper fans paying their last respects.



George and Mal had been unlikely friends. A 70-ish white man, decidedly Republican and retired though not a “suit.” And a handsome,…

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Added by Susan Soper on October 5, 2010 at 1:30pm — No Comments

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