Here is the eulogy I shared at Susan’s memorial service:
I was lucky enough to have a big sister waiting for me when I arrived in the world. From the first day of my life, Susan was on my side. When we were kids, and played board games, Susan would give me hints when I was losing, even when she was my only opponent. She looked out for me, and I relied on her to do so.
I remember the first day of 1st grade. My mom dropped me off at school, and of course, as soon as she left, I started to cry. The teacher tried to calm me down, but when I couldn’t stop crying, she asked if I wanted her to call my mom. I told her no, I wanted her to call my sister. She was in the 4th grade. I knew Susan could comfort me, and I just needed her to tell me it would be okay. Susan came down from her big, 4th grade class, told me to stop crying, and I made her promise not to tell mom that I had cried. She always kept her promises. Neither of us told mom about that until we were in our 30s.
Susan was my life coach. I rarely made a decision without first consulting her, whether it was something small, like deciding on a color for a new sweater, or something big, like leaving teaching. Even as I prepared my words for today, I kept wanting to get Susan’s opinion on the drafts. She always had an opinion, and she wasn’t afraid to give it. Susan was decisive and direct, but her bluntness was tempered with kindness and sweet intentions. Just two weeks ago, when I was preparing an assignment for a potential job, I asked Susan to read the drafts. I didn’t realize it would become a teacher- student conference. She called me over, sat me down, and proceeded to tell me how and why one of my answers made no sense at all. She was absolutely right. Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Even when she was sick, and it looked like I was taking care of her, she was also taking care of me. When she went into cardiac arrest in the ICU, and the doctors were able to revive her, in the few seconds we got to see her on her way down to surgery, she pulled off her oxygen mask and told me “Don’t Worry.” I know she was scared, but she always tried to protect me.
Over the past five years, as Susan endured medical procedure after another, she showed us all how strong a person could be. In the words of one of her ICU nurses, she brought “Susan sass.” I remember once when mom and I were on either side of her bedside holding her hands; she was only a few days out of surgery, she was intubated and in and out of sleep. Mom whispered to me at one point, “look, she’s sleeping,” and Susan, with her eyes still closed, quickly slapped mom’s hand. Susan sass. Surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure, she never wasted her energy or time feeling sorry for herself. She just carried on.
After the second transplant, I was the one who was angry with the universe for what had happened. I was the one who grieved. Susan just found ways to fill her life with new joys and adventures. She knit project after project, she enrolled many of us in the Susan Yoo Accelerated School for Knitting, and she found ways to fill her days with new challenges and joys. She was so tough. She always talked about how thankful she was that she had been given a second, and then a third, chance at life. There were moments of struggle, and she was tired of being sick, but when I think of her overall reaction to her situation, her refrain was the simple phrase, “whaddya gonna do?” What she did was embrace her life and fill it, and ours, with joy. She started and up-kept her blog, immunosuppressedknitter.com, and wrote in a sweet, humorous, and courageous tone that captured her struggles, but also her indomitable spirit. She was constantly starting new projects, constantly coming up with new, fun ways to fill her days. She and mom tutored each other in English and Korean, she learned how to bind books, she did all sorts of puzzles. Just a couple of weeks ago, while also starting a massive origami project, Susan said she would like to learn the cello. She thought she might be able to find someone who would trade cello lessons for knitting lessons. She had an ever growing list of projects, and always planned for the future. Her body may have been weak, but her mind and her spirit were so strong.
My sister saw everyone as a potential friend; even when we were younger, she always had such a diverse group of friends. A few weeks ago, Susan and I went to the Friends of the SF library book sale. She was in her wheelchair, and as usual, took her knitting with her. She told me to park her at the end of a table, and sent me off to search for books. Susan told me later about a woman who came up to her and commented on the blanket Susan was knitting. Of course, Susan’s first question to her was, “Are you on Ravelry?” She pulled out her phone, pulled up the pattern, and welcomed the lady write it down. All of you here today, and the many others who were unable to attend, are the living proof of my beautiful sister’s generous and welcoming spirit.
Over the past few years, Susan and I had a few conversations about her inevitable passing. She told me several times that she was ready, she had made peace with it, and that I needed to do the same. Even in talking about her death, Susan was trying to protect me. She told others that she was worried about what would happen to me when her time came. When I said goodbye to Susan’s physical body, I made her a promise. I promised her that I would live my life the way she wanted me to. I promised her I would be happy. I will miss her so much, but I will carry on, as she carried on. Forever my role model, I will try to live my life as Susan did – without fear, without regret, with courage, fortitude, taking the greatest joy in the little things in life, and being limitlessly generous with my love. I will even keep knitting.