~ December 31, 1935 – June 25, 2012 ~
Sue Gordon (sign name, SB on left chest) was an incredible artist, a talented storyteller, brilliant teacher, and above everything else … an amazing friend. She was prom queen in high school and I flaunted her yearbook around like a proud granddaughter. “LOOK AT SUE! SHE’S SO BEAUTIFUL!”
I met Sue at the Deaf Cultural Center in March 2010. She was friendly, spicy, outrageously outspoken, and I was immediately drawn to her. I signed up for shifts I knew she’d be working – I was infatuated with Sue and I just wanted to be near her. She taught me so much. She taught me sign language. She taught me about Deaf culture. She taught me about her life. She told me stories, all of which I wish I could remember, all of which I’m grateful to have known.
She told me a story about the first time she used a hearing aid after learning to speak. Growing up in Overland Park, she attended Kansas School for the Deaf with her siblings. She told me that she never spoke in public because she was ashamed of her voice. One time, a nurse (I believe it was a nurse?) told her that she had a lovely voice, and Sue felt confident enough to talk. She married a man named Orville. He was a hearing man who was slowly losing his sight. She said that they were a perfect match because he was her ears, and she was his eyes. She loved him, and when she told stories about him, her heart and eyes went to a special and sacred place.
Orville taught Sue to speak, and she got her first hearing aids. She told me that the first time she heard herself pee, she couldn’t stop laughing. She taught him how to stick the tip of his finger at the top of his mug so that he wouldn’t overfill his coffee.
I loved being near Sue. She made me laugh all the time.
She told me a story about the time at a family reunion when she called her grand daughter over to look up her denim skirt and ask her why she was wearing a thong.
“GRANDMA! STOP LOOKING!!”
“I just wanted to know!”
Sue was bold and unashamed.
Because her granddaughter walked away without satisfying her curiosity, Sue asked me why young ladies wear thongs. Nothing was off limits with Sue. I explained the best I could, and I promised to take her shopping for her very own pair of saucy underwear.
Sue was amazingly loving. She was bold and direct, and when she told you to do something, you better do it. At first, I couldn’t relate to her boldness. “LadyMo, go get me some water.” “LadyMo, walk me to my car. I’m ready to go.” After no time at all, I jumped at the opportunity to serve her, because to be near her was a blessing.
I was so lucky to have her as my family Christmas 2010. I was so far away from home, and my friends were all out of town. I made dinner for the sister missionaries, and Sue joined us. It was so perfect. Sisters Robinson and Avauli and I sat at Sue’s feet and she told us stories all night. We ate, we prayed, we shared our lives.
Sue was a goofy soul. She was quick witted and said whatever she wanted. She was old and cute and knew she could get away with just about anything. And she was loving. She was so loving. Her light was so contagious and so refreshing. She loved kids and loved teasing. She played. She lived her life playing and having fun and being happy. She created art, she created stories, she created lives.
Sue was hit by a car in January. When I found her at the hospital a few hours later, she was alive, alert, and making jokes. Her makeup was completely untouched. “Look, LadyMo, I’m a redhead!” She was referring to the gash in her head and the blood that stained her hair red. Only Sue. Only Sue could be hit by a car and still look perfectly perfect. Sue was always a prom queen, from her beautifully styled hair, perfect makeup, and brilliant soul. After she was released from the hospital, I had the blessed, and now sacred, opportunity to bring her dinner and spend hours being with Sue. We played games, we watched Switched at Birth and talked about cute boys. I told her about working at KSD, she told me about being a student there. She gave me a tour of her apartment from her wheelchair and told me the stories of the art on her walls and pictures on her mantles. We ate almond chicken from Bobo’s Chinese restaurant.
Her brother, Chuck Baird, died the same week I visited her. She was planning his memorial service and fitted her planning with stories of growing up with Chuck.
Chuck, Sue, and their siblings, created some amazing art. Their art, DeViA, or Deaf Visual Art, was amazing. When I worked at KSD, Chuck’s art plastered the walls of the school. Everywhere you looked, you could be absorbed into CB art. When I moved to Utah, I was homesick (I still am, who am I kidding?), but I had my first taste of home at the Deaf Center in Taylorsville where they had Chuck Baird art and where they knew who Sue Gordon was. And loved her.
If you know nothing else about Sue, you must know how much she loved her family. She loved her family with a love I can’t wait to share with my future family. I know that she was happy to live and laugh among us, but now she gets to be happy and in love and skip and dance and sing and sign with her parents, her brothers, her sisters, and her husband. I can only imagine the reunion with Sue running wildly into Orville’s arms. I bet he’s missed her a lot. I can only imagine the stories they are all sharing, sitting around, catching up and embarking on their life eternal. I imagine they are laughing, hugging, smiling.
I imagine Chuck teasing her, asking her what took her so long. And then hugging her. And I bet they are not wasting any time creating their eternities with art so it is familiar when the rest of their family joins them.
I imagine my future kiddos are sitting at her feet, learning sign language, learning to create and appreciate art (they aren’t going to get that from me!) My heart sparkles at the thought of her story telling, of her hands floating around, occupying time and space, and her throwing her head back laughing. I find comfort in the fact that while they will never know her here, they will know her there.
She’s saving a place for us. She’s saving some grace for us.
Sue, you’re amazing. My life is better because of you and I miss you so much. I loved being near you and learning from you and absorbing the love and light you gave everyone. I love your enthusiasm, your brass lady parts, your unabashed brazen wit. I love you for telling me how it is and for wrapping me in your love. I love you for sharing your time, your stories, your life, and your love with me.
I miss you, lady.