In memory of a dear friend

For a week I went back and forth on whether I should write privately to several people or write about it here. In the end I chose to do it publicly.

Suzanne Keller who some of you know from the Suzanne’s Perfume Journal (formerly Eiderdown Press) passed from this life on May 5th.

Suzanne was a wonderful friend – kind, supportive, attentive and generous. We met just once but we periodically exchanged e-mails, and I hoped to spend more time with her in the upcoming years. I believed we had all those years ahead of us, so what is 3-4 months of missed comments or even just “likes” on posts when my life was so busy and hectic, right?

I didn’t know her illness came back. I didn’t know she was dying. And it was only when a note I sent to her to inquire whether everything was fine returned to me, undelivered, I discovered that both of her sites were down (her perfume journal and a site about her pet rabbit Boxer whom you met last December at Rusty’s 10th anniversary), ran some searches and found out what happened.

I assume that taking sites down was Suzanne’s choice, and she didn’t want to leave her thoughts out there in the digital Universe after she’d be gone. But it makes me even sadder: she was such a talented writer! And she wrote not only about perfumes: once she shared some chapters of the book she was working on – one more thing that I was sure would happen at some point in the future…

Since we met and communicated a lot on the topic of perfumes, I have dozens of perfume connections with Suzanne: if you were to run a search in my blog, you’d see how often she came up in my posts (and it’s not even counting her thoughtful and extremely kind comments). But at the moment all that doesn’t feel significant enough to write about (maybe in several months).

I could write about how her death has affected me – but it seems wrong too because there are so many people in her family for whom it’s an enormous loss, so compared to their grief whatever I feel is just a tiny prick.

I am grieving but I feel a little like an impostor: I’m not sure if Suzanne needed me in her last months, but I didn’t even try to be “there.” I was busy, I was sick, I didn’t know she was sick again, I thought she just lost interest in perfumes since she wasn’t wearing them any longer, I was waiting for her next post about Boxer, I was very busy, and there supposed to be tomorrow, next month, next year… I don’t have regrets that I didn’t get to talk to her, say or do something. But I regret if there was at least a moment when she would have felt even a tad better had I found time to send the same note I sent a month too late.

While Suzanne’s perfume stories would probably disappear forever, I want to remind those who read these before and share with those who hadn’t links to two interviews Suzanne gave 6 years ago: one at the Purple Paper Planes and one at the Olfactoria’s Travels. Who’s better to tell us about her than she herself?

She was such a beautiful person, so whether you knew her or not, if you’re reading this, please do something beautiful for somebody in your life with her name in heart. And send warm thoughts into the Universe to those who is affected the most by Suzanne’s untimely death.

21 thoughts on “In memory of a dear friend

  1. My heart hurts for you and for Suzanne’s nearest and dearest.

    If this is any consolation at all, it is obvious to me that Suzanne valued your friendship and wanted to spare you the pain of knowing that she was ill again.

    You are right, we should be kind and do beautiful things, and doing so in memory of a lovely person like Suzanne is a great tribute to her.

  2. Oh Undina, I cannot compute this sad, sad news. I never met Suzanne, but from what you have told me and how she came across in her writing she was a beautiful person inside and out: gracious and warm, with a wonderful ability to capture perfumes in words. Today happens to be the first anniversary of my friend M’s death. When someone dies well before their time, as Suzanne has also done, the loss is always bigger and harder to accept.

  3. I m so sorry, losing a friend is hard, especially when you feel you failed them in some way. But I agree with Jillie that she likely wanted to spare you the pain of knowing she was terminally ill. I will be sending positive thoughts out into the universe in her memory.

  4. I’m so sad for you Undina. I’ve had a couple of sudden losses myself recently. My thoughts are with you. I’m not a big reader of the blogosphere… you are one of the few. It sounds like I missed a wonderful experience…

  5. I know exactly how you feel. I think we all do, those of us who remember vividly blogging more and reading more, and getting to know people who we never would have met in person, intimately through their writing. Hats off to those who continue as I am certainly guilty of letting my hectic life take me away from more leisurely pleasures.

    About a year ago, I logged onto my old grad school email to find that an old colleague of mine had passed away. She was someone who was a few years ahead of me in school and I didn’t know well until I moved to Paris, where she was also living at the time. We became really close in a short amount of time and slowly drifted apart and out of touch once I moved back to the States. I think I saw her once more after I left France.

    It was definitely a shock to find out that she had died — so young! I felt so sad, but also guilty for not staying in touch and taking for granted that she would always be there. I know that imposter feeling; I was really affected by the news of her passing yet I also felt like I didn’t have the right to be since I didn’t even know that she was sick.

    I think we can be allowed to accept that continue on in life, there will be people that we meet that will move us and will always have a special place in our hearts. I am sending you many hugs, dearest Undina.

  6. I’m so sorry, Undina. It can be delicate to navigate friendships in person, it’s even more puzzling online. The friends one makes online can be very dear to us, and yet we may never know what’s happening in their daily personal lives. On the other hand, people who know us well “in real life” may not know the thoughts and interests we share with others online. Your post is such a lovely, loving, candid tribute to a lost friend. Your sadness is natural and real, and it shows what a caring person you are. Sending a cyber hug to you, cyber friend!

  7. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I had the great fortune to communicate a bit with Suzanne-I read her blog for years, and won a bottle of fragrance in 2011. Well, that bottle of Sharif became a bridge to talking with my mom, after several years of silence. Suzanne’s writing was amazing, and I loved her stories about growing up in a farming family. She was a gracious person, and I know she loved meeting you-she said so, in a quick email :) She has been on my mind , recently-I still keep a few drops of Sharif, and think of her kindness every time I wear it. I’ll treasure the bits of correspondance I have. I didn’t know she had ever been ill-she wrote about running, and I pictured her as an amazing athlete.

    Take care of yourself. This is a horrible shock.

    Very best regards,

    Carole MacLeod

  8. Oh no oh no oh no.. . I was in touch with her just after her surgery.. I didn’t know she got sick again…Will write to you privately…loved her.

  9. Oh my God, I didn’t know either that her sickness returned! I really thought after she got better that life was back to normal and like life happens, I meant to write to her and ask how she was doing but never got around to it.
    This is truly heartbreaking news. I met Suzanne and Mark for a few days in both Paris and Rome that Asali and I spent with them and enjoyed their company immensely.
    I also agree that her writing was excellent, it is sad that we won’t be able to enjoy it anymore.

    I hate that this year I keep losing friends. Some near, some fear but still friends in my heart. :(

  10. What a dreadful shock. I’m so very sorry.

    Sadly I never got to meet Suzanne but she was an absolutely gem and one of our cohort of bloggers. It’s a shame her writing is no longer online but totally respect that decision. She was an immensely talented writer and a supportive, kind soul. She wrote some lovely comments on my posts that I will always be grateful for. What a loss to the world.

    A big hug to you as well as Ines and Jasia, who I know also spent time with her.

    Try to have your compassion for yourself. You have been going through a lot yourself and it’s impossible to keep track with what is going in everyone’s lives.

  11. Thank you Undina for writing about Suzanne´s passing, and honouring her life, and your friendship with her in this way. I loved her blog and was touched when she replied once to my comment saying that, almost a little surprised. Many apt thoughts have been written in the comments, life is precious and none of us know when it is our time to move on. I always value and enjoy your posts, and your comments on other blogs, I am thankful for all the marvellous perfume (and more) bloggers, active or no longer. All of you add a little bit of pleasure and beauty to many lives. I don´t always have the space to comment, but I never take your work for granted.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss, Undina. I did not know Suzanne personally but was very honored to have been featured in a guest post with her and also went to Rusty’s virtual birthday party with her. She also always had kind words whenever I guest posted.

    I have lately been thinking about survivor’s guilt and the many regrets attached to it but rather than be bogged down by it (it still happens), I try to be a better person each day, in a way, similar to doing something beautiful for someone. As I reported on NST, I came very close to being involved in a major car accident last Friday. It was at the same intersection where there had already been 2 life-changing incidents for me and my family because of random carelessness by total strangers. With all these said, I really do need to act on developing a plan on how to settle my affairs when the time comes.

    {{{{{ hugs }}}}}

  13. Dear Undina, that you for posting this, otherwise I would not have known.
    I mirror everything you said.
    Beside, I feel that terrible; on the one hand “why didn’t I do/ write/ enquire more”, wanting to write a long ‘in memoriam’, on the other hand feeling that I have no right to do so.
    It remains, that Suzanne was a dear friend, whom I had lost contact with during the last years due to my own struggles, but none the less. I had hoped to get back to her, to make another trip with her, her husband Mark and Ines. I thought, there’s always more time… there wasn’t, and it hurts.
    I want to say to much more, but as you put it perfectly, i too would feel like an impostor.
    There is no doubt for me that for those of us who knew her, her memory lives on.
    On a perfume Related note, having not worn this perfume in ages, I can tell from my diary, that the day she passed away, I wore a beloved decant I received from her, Tabac Blond, completely out of season. I believe she would have approved.

  14. Thank you Undina for sharing this sad, sad news. Some years ago, in my more active perfumedays, I had some contact with Suzanne and she was always nice, warm and as The Scented Hound mention above, very personable. I also enjoyed her insightsful blog very much.

  15. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear about this! But I am glad you shared it, and I think your write-up here is a nice way to share her memory. It’s hard to remember to check in with people we’re close with in real life, let alone online friends. Don’t be hard on yourself for not being aware of what was going on. I hope you’re able to grieve in peace. <3

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