Some Pysics Insights

Eulogy for Susan Lawrence

This is the text of the eulogy delivered at Susan's funeral on 4 January 2014,
at Saint James Church in Manotick, Ontario.

Sue was a good person

Sue was kind, compassionate, and caring.  She was also very intelligent, well educated, and a free thinker, always preferring to draw her own conclusions rather than going with the majority, or taking the word of an expert.

These traits stand out in everything Sue did.

Sue was a consummate musician

She played clarinet, recorder, piano, and organ, and sang beautifully.  She started studying music young, and majored in it in college, where she practiced organ for hours for relaxation, for fun, for escape from the cares of the day.  She was a fabulous organist.

In addition to working as a choir director and giving piano lessons, while we were living in Massachusetts Sue performed frequently, singing with an accompanist.  After we moved to Ottawa, Sue sang with Just Voices, and later joined the Ottawa Choral Society as a paid chorister.

But she was many things in addition to a musician.

Sue was a loving wife and mother

Sue wanted to be a mother, and when she had a child, she was determined to raise the child correctly, with love, not punishment.

She was a whole hearted believer in attachment parenting.  It's simple in concept:  When the child needs you, you respond.  When Flora was very young, Sue was always there for here.

Sue also believed in homeschooling, and started teaching Flora when she was still too young to talk.  The teaching was always gentle, and always fun.  Initially, it consisted of showing large pictures of things -- butterflies, dinosaurs, numbers, all sorts of things.  There were also cards with big, single words, written in large red letters.  By the time Flora could talk, she had already learned to read.

Flora's homeschooling continued through elementary school, with Sue gradually switching to a “child led learning” or “unschooling” format, where Flora learned whatever she was interested in with no fixed curriculum.

As Flora got older, Sue felt she would benefit from practice speaking in public.  We already knew Flora was exceptionally good with language, so Sue looked into spelling bees, and signed Flora up to compete, representing the local homeschooling group.  To help Flora study for the competitions, Sue spent her evenings going through the dictionary, picking out new words, and building word lists for Flora to review.  Sue started with the Canadian Oxford dictionary and eventually moved on to the Third International.

When Flora reached high school age, she started taking some French classes at the local high school, along with some other classes that interested her. Sue continued home schooling her in other topics.  Recently, however, as Sue became too ill to do much for her education, Flora has moved to a nearly full time class schedule.

Sue was an activist

She was never content to just complain about things.  If something is bad, it should be changed.

Sue worked for Children's Rights

She wanted to teach others about the value of attachment parenting, and encourage a gentle approach to raising children.  To that end she started the Parenting in Jesus Footsteps website.  It started as a place where Sue could put a few essays, but it grew into much more than that.

We learned very early that there are a substantial number of people working to promulgate the use of corporal punishment, often in extremely severe forms, as a method of training children.

When Sue saw an ad for something called the rod in a homeschooling newspaper, she was appalled.  It was was a fiberglass rod about 18 inches long with a heavy-duty plastic handle.  It was intended for just one purpose:  Beating children.  It was manufactured by a family in Oklahoma, and shipped to customers all over the United States.

I spoke of the rod in the past tense.  It is no longer being sold.  That is due to Sue's efforts in her stop the rod campaign.  It took several years, a lot of work, and some clever sleuthing, but in the end she won.

Sue worked to have several other baby-whipping devices removed from the market, and she also went after baby-whipping books.  The first one she tackled was, as I recall, “Train Up a Child” by the Pearls.  I've read parts of it, and it's pretty nasty.

There is no practical way to force a book off the market in the United States, so Sue, and the group of activists which she led, worked to reduce the popularity of targeted books.  The sales ranks on Amazon provided a measure of how effective they were.

Sue also wrote and worked to pass an anti-corporal-punishment resolution in Arlington, where we lived.  It didn't pass, but the effort garnered a lot of attention and we hope the ground work she did will make it easier to eventually pass such a law somewhere in the United States.

Sue worked for peace

She hated war, and could see no point in either of the wars in which the Bush administration embroiled the United States.  There were regular demonstrations in our town, and Sue was part of them.  Sue also worked very hard on the John Kerry campaign, not because he was ideal, but because he seemed so much better than George Bush.

Sue became a vegan, and converted her family

She wanted to allay world hunger, and could not abide abuse of animals.  By becoming vegan, she addressed both issues:  A vegan lifestyle consumes far less resources than an omnivore lifestyle, and it requires fewer abused animals to support it.

After Sue became a vegan, it took over a year to convince her family to do so as well.  In the interim, Sue prepared two different dinners most nights ... a vegan meal for herself, and something else for her omnivore husband and daughter.

Sue worked for animal rights

She was a member of PETA in the United States, and went to quite a few demonstrations.  After we moved to Canada, Sue joined the small but active animal rights group in Ottawa, and worked with them to reduce abuse in this city.

Sue helped animals directly, when she could

We've had a menagerie of adopted or rescued animals in our home over the years, including, at various times, four cats, four guinea pigs, a lot of rabbits, and a number of mice.  The latter were rescued from the cats and nursed back to health before being released.

In addition to adopting multiple cats from shelters, Sue rescued several strays.  For some reason, people dump cats in Rideau Forest, where there is not much to eat, there are large predators, and the winters are ... well ... like they are in Ottawa.  It's a terrible place for a stray.

Sue's first rescue of a stray was one fall, when the weather was getting very cold.  She turned out to be an old, declawed cat which someone had dumped (who abandons a declawed cat outdoors?), and she was in the last stages of starvation.  She lived with us for several months, during which she ran up startlingly large vet bills.

Later rescues went more smoothly, and Sue successfully placed three or four former strays in new homes.

Sue was a Christian

She wholeheartedly accepted the words of Jesus, and particularly loved his statements regarding children and the poor.  However, the concept of animal sacrifice disgusted her, and she could never accept the Pauline view of Jesus as a human sacrifice who expiated our sins through his death.

In short, Sue's view of Christianity was much closer to that of Saint James than that of Saint Paul.

Sue was a very fine scrabble player.

She wasn't all work -- no play.  She enjoyed games, and she was good at them.  When we were first married, I taught Sue to play two handed pinochle.  She'd never played pinochle before in her life;  I'd been playing it since high school.  But after four or five games ... she started beating me.  Consistently.

And of course she creamed me every time we played scrabble.

She also enjoyed relaxing on a beach, reading classic fiction, drawing, paddling a kayak around a lake, and ... a host of things that are just for fun.

Finally, Sue fought the cancer herself

As with everything else, Sue did not take anyone's word for it.  She did enormous amounts of research, and selected all of the treatments which she underwent during the past three years.  And in some cases, when she couldn't find a local doctor to treat her with a drug but she could get the drug by mail, she did it herself -- or trusted me to do it.  (I will never again feel the same way about needles.)

It was an approach which took enormous courage.  And that is certainly something Sue had.

Sue died on 25 December 2013.  Page created on 4 January 2014