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See Susana 1.

Susana 2

April 22, 1995

I just got word from a friend in Connecticut: Our Susana went on to be with the Lord Who loved her. Chip and I met Susana at church in Connecticut. We've never known anyone like her. She had the most expressive face I've ever seen -- probably the result of years trying to communicate in spite of her deafness. She has been also, for the past several years, blind.

But Susana was persistent - some would say obstinate - and she communicated by phone and letter. Susana's expressiveness conveyed anger as well as joy.

But she did everything she could for herself. One of the cleanest people I know, she was furious over the roaches in the subsidized housing where she lived - and persisted in writing her large, slanty, barely literate letters about the problem until finally the Governor ordered the entire building fumigated. If the Governor had not responded, the President would have been next to receive Susana's ire. Susana, all the time we knew her, was on welfare. She was a person I was happy to have my tax dollars support.

Susana wrote us, too, until she went blind. I translated her letters for our family. After teaching Junior High and High School English for years, I am our resident expert on reading the indecipherable.

Most of those letters - about five out of six - told us how much she loved us, and how we were her only friends. They told about how there is so little light in her apartment; I'm afraid her eyes were dimming. The letters expressed her trust in God.

But that sixth letter was a doozy. If she had not received a letter from me as soon as she thought she should, she wrote us off. She would say, "I'm glad Jesus is my friend, because He is the only friend I have on this Earth." She asked why we're mad at her; what had she done? She accused us of wanting her to pay for her Christmas present, long since sent, or some other small gift.

We dealt with her tirades many ways. I reassured her, explained things to her, fussed back at her. I quoted I Corinthians to her: "Love never gives up," and told her, "Now, don't give up on us!" She always apologized - but she always did it again.

Susana lost many friends this way. But Susana needed us, and I had to remember my own words - "Love never gives up." Love takes persistence, maybe even obstinacy, as well as patience. It takes correction as well as encouragement. It takes grit as well as sugar. Susana was just one example of a principle Chip discovered: People who need help most are often the hardest to help. Katherine Anne Porter said, "Love must be learned and learned again and again; there is no end to it."

There are Susana's in your life, too - people who need you, but are difficult and take energy. Learn to love them; don't give up on them. For, as Paul taught us, in spite of pain and strain and struggle, "The greatest of these is love."