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                                                                    Lewis Suggs

                    Gone but Not Forgotten

                                      
 

                      A Tribute to Lewis from his Daughter, Trudy.
                                                   Reprinted with permission.

March 2001

Many of you who have followed my writings since my college days know that I lost my father, to an overnight and sudden case of bronchitis.  I was 16 at the time, and his death continues to affect me every single day of my life.  I’ve written often about Dad, and I will probably always write about him.  He’s such a mysterious figure to me - we were very close, yet not close at all. 

In 2000, I took a series of road trips (20,000 miles in all). I left my job, left my life behind in Minnesota, and went to seek fulfillment, and I found it.  The first destination was to Morganton, NC, where the North Carolina School for the Deaf (NCSD) is.  It’s also where my dad went to school.  My dad spoke about NCSD on a daily basis when I was with him and with such fondness that I felt I needed to visit NCSD to be able to truly understand his spirit.

The very first night I was in Morganton - I had been there a couple of times as a child, and again for the 1994 Homecoming, but didn’t remember too much of either visit - I felt as if I truly was home.  I stayed there for a week, in addition to a few visits after that.  I met so many individuals that knew my father, my uncle or my other relatives that also attended NCSD. In each of them, I saw a startled look whenever they saw me say, “My name’s Trudy Suggs.” They’d ask, “Lewis or Mike?”  And I’d always proudly say, “Lewis.”

So many people still don’t know that Dad is dead.  How could he be dead? He’s not even old!  One night a group of friends and I were at a local restaurant during my visit in Morganton, and we ran into two teachers from NCSD.  One of them recognized my last name, and immediately began to tell me how much she loved my dad’s silliness and sense of humor.  She then asked the much-dreaded question: “How is your father doing?”

Dreaded question, not because Dad had died, but because I knew I was about to drop a bomb and affect her spirit.

As soon as I told her that Dad had died at the age of 40, she dropped her fork and tears welled up in her eyes.  I could see that she was now suddenly faced with her own mortality, since she was the same age as my father.  As they left the restaurant, I saw the woman tell her husband, “How could he be dead? He was so young.”

As I have gotten older (and no longer that smart-mouthed little brat - although some people may disagree), people are now looking at me as my own individual, my own person, rather than somebody’s daughter. I’ve gotten to meet so many people that have known me since I was a baby or known my parents from when they were kids.  I often get e-mail addressed to me as “Anita’s daughter” that will begin with, “I am a friend of your mother’s” [or father’s].  This is how intimate the deaf community is, and this is the very reason I know that any deaf person’s death easily affects the rest of us.

On that note:  recently, I went to see a movie. Upon my arrival, a friend introduced me to a local school administrator who was deaf. The administrator’s first sentence to me was, “I knew your father.”  As we exchanged introductions, she shook her head in amazement and said, “My goodness, you look so much like your father.”

It does make me feel rejuvenated when people share stories about Dad - especially when they say I look and act like him.  It’s neat that I can develop characteristics like his when I haven’t seen him in a decade.  It shows me how much one simple life can affect so many.  My dad wasn’t anything special in terms of ‘life achievements.’ He was simply a state worker, single (with a love of women and beer), and rented a small typical bachelor’s pad in Springfield, IL.  Nothing outstanding about his life at first glance. Right?

Wrong.

During my visit at NCSD, I met one of the oldest teachers there, now retired.  As he was telling me about how he had toured all seven continents of the world, I realized that this was the same printing teacher my father had talked of so fondly.  I told him who my father was, and his face lit up.  He told me of how my father was ornery and a terrific printing student (copies of his grades say otherwise, though). 

I told the teacher to hang on for a second, and I ran out to my truck.  I had these two huge scrapbooks that I made of my father’s pictures, and in one of the books was a black and white picture of my father standing next to an enormous printing machine.  Above the machine is a sign hanging from the ceiling saying, “THINK.” 

When I showed this picture to the teacher, his jaws dropped and a stunned look came over his face. “That’s my machine. That’s my sign. That was mine...” he said.  He seemed lost in memories - and said he hadn’t seen this machine for 20 or 25 years.

He then started crying, and told me this was an incredible gift for him, to see a future generation bring back memories to him.  It was a powerful moment for me, to see that because of my father’s death, I was able to let another respected man know - through my perseverance of my father’s memories - that he, too, was important to my father.

For years I felt a longing to close the chapter on my dad’s death. But along the journey, I found out that these kinds of chapters aren’t meant to be closed. They’re meant to be savored in the most enlightening ways possible, and they’re meant to be continued.  I take great, great pleasure and comfort in the fact that I am a living memorial to my father.

Death is simply a hard reminder that we must- always remember people’s spirits. We must preserve these spirits by living them out in whatever ways possible. 

It’s been a long, hard journey for me to understand this - and accept this. I’m just grateful I’ve been able to let other people know that they were important in one man’s life - and now my life.

When my father died, I found a poem in his wallet.  My father wasn’t very poetic - far from it. So I’m not sure why he had this poem in his wallet.  I like to believe that he left it for me to find.  One of the lines says, “Please know that I am always here with you.” And you know what? 

He is.

 
                                
             Trudy and her Dad from December 1989, when she just-turned-15 and about two
                       years before he died. Picture was taken at her aunt's in Trinity, NC.
 
 
Obituary:

Lewis L. Suggs, 40, of Springfield, Ill., died at 4:46 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at his residence.

He was born Dec. 22, 1950 in High Point, N.C., the son of Clay and Viola Freedle Suggs.

Mr. Suggs was employed in the purchasing department for the state of Illinois. He was a member of the board of directors of Springfield Center for Independent Living.

Surviving are his daughter, Trudy Suggs of Westmont, IL; mother, Viola Suggs of High Point, N.C.; one brother, Michael Clay Suggs of Herndon, Va.; and one sister, Mrs. Gerald (Patsy) Lowman of Archdale, N.C.

Services will be 11 a.m. Monday at Cumby Funeral Home, in Archdale, N.C. With the Rev. Earl M. Burr officiating. Burial will be in Floral Garden Park Cemetery in Archdale, N.C.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Springfield, with the Rev. LaVerne Carrington officiating.
 
                      
 
 
 It is with great gratitude to Trudy Suggs for providing the contents for this page.


                                          This page was last updated on 03/23/2011.

                                

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