Suzie Martens, a dear friend of my entire family, passed last week amidst the comfort and love of her family. Suzie had battled cancer for years, and battle she did. She actually survived much longer than her doctors predicted, but those who knew her were not remotely surprised.

The funeral service was beautiful, simply put. It felt like Suzie if that makes any sense. Perhaps it is because the priests all knew her so well, and because the eulogy and remarks were so fondly accurate. But it would be difficult to mischaracterize Suzie Martens.

I met the Martens family through my grandmother. She had become quite close with them because she was such a good friend of Suzie's father, Hank Wurzer. One of the perks of living with my grandmother for so many years was the marvelous time we shared with her many friends and their families. Such is the case with the Martens.

It is no wonder that my grandmother, and all those who had the good fortune to call Suzie their friend, loved her so. They were similar in the best ways. Suzie was unquestionably a most forthright, outspoken, and tremendously funny lady. Humor was her trademark as much as anything. She came by it honestly because her father was also full of humor and fun, as was her wonderful late husband, Bill.

What made Suzie such a cut above was her unyielding ability to laugh and make others laugh with her. No matter the subject, regardless of how dour things might seem, she always found the humor in it, or at least the lighter side, making everyone around her comfortable and easy. The first time I met Suzie I liked her immediately. She had that terrific knack for making people feel instantly welcome. She was pure fun. Her smile always hinted at mischief, and she was as generous as she was gracious with her time and energy. She did not have a pretentious bone in her body. And if you did, she'd be delighted to break it for you.

What strikes me about truly great families is their ability to deal with the worst sort of anguish and hardship while holding on to each other so tightly. The Martens are exactly that way. Suzie's suffering was a terrible ordeal to endure, but she kept her children and grandchildren close at all times. My guess is that there was every bit as many laughs during these difficult days as there were tears.

Suzie and Bill created extraordinary tradition for their children, much of which came from their own parents. When generations stick together, including all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, as the Martens have always done, the sense of family is invincible. The countless memories, the riotous stories to be told and retold, the loyalty and love that infuses everything cannot be compromised with death. This is the profound legacy that Suzie leaves as a mother, grandmother, sister, and friend.

I honestly believe that the true measure of success in one's life is the depth of love given and received. The testimony to Suzie's enormous success is unimpeachable. I picture Suzie arriving at the entrance to Heaven, waltzing on through without so much as an ID check. Her steadfast commitment to her faith, coupled with her direct and outgoing manner, would cow any angel who had a misthought to question her. I am certain the celebration began in earnest there when she arrived.

For all of us who loved Suzie, we are deeply relieved that her suffering is finished, but the loss of this outstanding woman is a terrible one. Her funeral service was beautiful, yet it left me unimaginably sad that she is physically gone. Suzie Martens was one of a kind. The great ones always are. As far as Suzie being gone altogether, I wouldn't bet a nickel on it. Love is love and its connections are forever. Her grandson Andrew wrote a poem that was shared with us that eloquently expresses the love that Suzie inspired.

To My Gran,
When I look at the horizon I see
You up and running.
When I look at the bright full moon in the wilderness in Wisconsin I see you cancer free.
When I am standing on the beach listening to the
Waves I see you having fun with your family.
When I think about you dying it is a blur.
When I think about you and Grampe back together again tears fill my eyes.
When I see you two in heaven I can't stop smiling
When I am alone with nothing but me I imagine you sitting with me.
When you are alone please think of me
And here is a little to remember me by.
Love you always even
when you're gone there will
always be a space for you.
Your favorite grandson, Andrew

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