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Monday, April 28, 2014

NJ Adoptees Can Get Birth Certificates in 2017: The Possible for the Perfect

This is Jenn, Susan's daughter, posting again on her behalf. As regular readers of this blog know, Susan passed away April 7th, 2014 after an 8-month battle with melanoma. She was an ardent supporter of S873/A1259, aka the Adoptees Birthright Bill, in NJ, and of adoptees' rights everywhere. Today, it was learned that the bill she long supported will be signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, albeit with a compromise ( Although the bill to be signed into law isn't all we would have liked, we know that in politics you often have to sacrifice the "perfect" in order to achieve the "possible."   Susan (my mom) fought hard to achieve a clean bill in NJ and she knew real change was coming in NJ and around the country, if not in her lifetime.   She would have  been ok with this compromise, recognizing how much it achieves for so many.
My mom, Susan Perry, on a trip to Disney with my family in 2010.

My family and I would like to extend our thanks to those who have worked so hard to bring this long overdue change to adoption law in NJ to fruition..... the NJCARE team, Senators Vitale and Allen, Speaker Prieto, those in the adoption triad around the country who have voiced their support, and those behind the scenes who came to recognize this as the basic civil rights issue it is.   Collectively this message got through to Governor Christie and helped allow him to make concessions that he previously wasn't willing to consider.   All in the adoption triad will benefit.   Hopefully those fighting for change in other states can use the NJ experience to assist their efforts to pass meaningful reform. 
Somehow, it seems fitting to post my dad's words about my mom at her service on April 11th along with this announcement. To me, they captured her perfectly.
My mom and dad in Spain this summer, before her diagnosis.

Good morning.

A few weeks ago when Kate and Jenn were talking with Susan about what they might say at her service, I piped in that I too planned to speak at the service.  Without hesitation Susan, knowing me so well,  responded,  “That’s not a good idea!”  So here I go, defying her for one of the very few times over the past nearly 45 years! 

And it was nearly 45 years ago, in the spring and early summer of 1971 that we would stand on her front steps and practice the lines from ee cummings’ poems that we planned to recite to each other on our wedding day along with the verses from 1st Corinthians 13 that so many millions have spoken over the years. Of course Susan had made the selections!  Most nights we couldn’t get through the lines without one of us cracking up in laughter! My lines were these:  

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud 
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life, which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Of course then I was confident about just about everything, and Susan would tell you unjustly so.  Now as I reflect on the lines from 1st Corinthians.... “for now we see in a mirror dimly,” I realize that perhaps Susan was right, and I didn’t quite have all the answers!  
Susan and the first family dog, Ranger
But I do now see some things “face to face”.... and find for the first time a wonderful connection between the words in Corinthians, " faith, hope, and love, these three abide, and the greatest of these is love,” and the lines in cummings' poem.   For faith, hope, and love are all emotions of the heart..... they are just there; you feel them or you don’t.    Susan and I worked hard to come to an understanding of our faith, as elusive as that often was for us, and over these past eight months we all were challenged by a hope that would keep sneaking into our hearts despite all evidence to the contrary.   And of course love, the emotion that welled up in our hearts all those many years ago, and has only deepened as we shared our life together.  

Together.... Susan and I did just about everything together.... and from the start, it was she who introduced me to just about everything we did:  

Water skiing, for it was watching her in the water trying to teach my brother Tom how to ski (one of the few things in her life she wasn’t successful achieving!) that the spark of love first was felt in my heart,

Tennis, and as best she could, teaching me how to hit a backhand. Did you know she had a great backhand?  One of my favorite things was to just be on the court working on our strokes together. And, of course, we could never leave until Susan felt she had hit the perfect stroke or left me sprawling at the net reaching for her passing shot, 

Snow skiing,  and the wonderful feeling of carving a turn in soft powder,  
Sailing, the joy of being up on a plane in our little sunfish flying across the bay, just the two of us;
After "Splash Mountain" in Disney together

Kayaking around the island at the end of our cove, stopping to swim in the same spot where we had both grown up swimming,

Biking to both ends of LBI and for many years our bike trip from Haddonfield to the shore, 

Gardening, a joy she found with the woodland garden at our new home, and at the beach house.   Already I am struggling to recall which pots go in which location.   

And just this past summer, the new adventure of stand up paddle boarding.  

And though it will be tough to see Susan’s skis in the closet, her bike, kayak, and sunfish in the garage, her tennis racket..... all of these things, because of her,  Kate and Jenn have taken up and now Grace, Emma, Genevieve, Eddie, Tyson, and Joseph also have come to learn from their Nana.   For it was Susan who taught Grace and Genevieve how to ski,  Susan who held their hands to build courage going in the surf,  Susan who cheered as they rode their first waves.  
Susan with the girls in LBI
Susan was a voracious reader, so it is no wonder that Emma is working her way through her 5th Harry Potter book.   And together Susan and Genevieve worked on drawing, an activity Susan turned to when she no longer could be physically active.   

When Susan took care of Grace, Genevieve, and most recently Joseph several days each week, they would exclaim in joy, “It’s a Nana Day!”   And, of course that meant going to Nana’s house..... a term that for a time made me feel somewhat slighted.   But of course  I understood well what they meant and why they said it that way.  And the same was true when all 6 of them would say, “We’re going to Nana’s beach house!”   Poppa Ty just happened to be another guest at Nana’s houses.

So, where do I turn knowing I have lost my best friend?

The answer is elusive, but I will start where Susan has lead me, saying : our grandchildren keep us looking forward and not backwards in time.  

This week I asked Grace and Emma, having known their Nana the longest of our grandchildren, to let me know what stuck out in their minds most vividly about her.  It only took a minute. Grace said, “ Nana always liked to boogie board.  She claimed she was the best even though secretly she knew she was not.  Even though sometimes she would mess up, she would always try again until she got it just right.  Nana especially loved it when her grandchildren did it with her.  She always claimed that she got the best rides even if it only lasted for 5 seconds.  Sometimes she would go deep in the water to get the best rides.  Nana always said that her back was sore after doing it, yet she kept doing it because she was determined and her love for the ocean was strong.”   
All six grandchildren in 2011. They loved their Nana fiercely, and she loved them.

And Emma added: “Nana had the best laugh.  She always giggled with us about her past, and when she was lying in her bed, she could not talk much but she laughed at our stories.  Nana had a great sense of humor.  Nana literally might have had the best and loudest laugh on the planet.   She had the habit of laughing at herself, even when no one else did.   We all loved Nana terribly and always will.”

We have a tradition in the summer of extending each day by gathering on the beach, getting in a twilight swim and having a glass of wine as the sun sets with those we love the most circled around us.  These were some of our favorite times together.
So, I will take to heart Susan’s words to me saying that she knew I will be OK without her.   She has been right about every important thing in our life together, so I will trust that with time I will see she is right about this too. 

 Susan, I say thank you,  for I will carry your heart, with faith, hope, and an unending love, I will carry it in my heart forever.


  1. I'm very sorry about your Mom's death. Susan had an excellent blog here and I know she helped many, many people. I think it is beautiful that you kept on writing through her. I hope this blog will remain up forever as it is warm, touching and informative. I wish you and your family strength through this painful time and thank you for continuing to fight for us.

  2. I'd always wondered about the name of Susan's blog. Now it makes perfect sense! And it makes me smile.

    Ty, I am moved by your words. What an amazing family you and Susan built together.

  3. Dad, I am just rereading your words tonight and thinking of you and mom. I know you'll get an email that I posted this message ... love you.


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