Susan (“Shoshana”) Miller
b. January 1941 — d. Jan. 19, 2013
“Susan evolves and helps other people evolve.”
Someone once asked me what my friend Susan “did” in the world. I thought a moment and then told him that she evolved and helped others do the same. It’s true, that’s what Susan did. She evolved.
The first time I met Susan we bonded over the songs of Bob Dylan. She was thrilled to meet a feminist who, like her, did not condemn his “sexist” lyrics the way many of our sisters did. She was even more thrilled that I knew most of his lyrics. Together we launched into a joyful songfest that lasted almost 40 years.
Susan was always excited about one thing or another. She’d share her cultural discoveries, saying with great fervor, “There’s a lot to check out!”
I met her in 1975, while she was in New York waiting for a space to open up in a Colorado asthma clinic. Her friend Stephanie, who she’d known since childhood, introduced us. I was in a theater group with Stephanie, and was also madly in love with her. So was Susan, but having been at it longer, she played the role of mentor to my first and only serious lesbian relationship. Being bisexual in the lesbian-feminist community was another place where she and I bonded.
Our most significant bond, though, came from the kind of people we were by virtue of our experiences with disability. Susan was one of perhaps three people who understood from the inside out my life as the mother of a person born with a chronic medical condition. Having been born with asthma and eczema, as a child she was tied to the bed to keep her from scratching herself. Painful “medicine” was applied to her inflamed arms and legs—like so many treatments of that era, it was pure torture. That Susan became such an enthusiastic, fun-seeking lover of life is testament to the human spirit.
Some 15 years after our New York meeting I moved to San Francisco. Susan was living here, and we reunited at a Mother Tongue theatrical event. She was still singing Dylan, still bisexual, still checking things out. She became my cheerleader, faithfully reading almost everything I wrote, leaving a trail of comments sprinkled across my blog. I’m glad I have those comments–I’ll always be able to open one and feel her enthusiasm leaping off the screen.
She was a wonderful woman and a great friend. RIP Shoshana. I’m certain you’re still evolving.