A Daughter's Final Gift
By: Legacy Staff
4 years ago
Writing an obituary is tough, even for the most experienced writer. Capturing the essence of a life, no matter how "ordinary" that life may appear to be, is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. But when the subject is your own mother, this already daunting challenge takes on even greater importance. This is the situation Susan Spencer-Wendel found herself in when her mother, Theodora "Tee" Spencer, died in March. Spencer-Wendel, the author of Until I Say Good-Bye, was facing her own impending death from ALS and died this week from the disease. In her mother's obituary, Spencer-Wendel painted a picture of a vibrant, charming woman as well as the fear and pain of a person living with terminal cancer.
She describes her mother as a beauty, noting that "her face was gilded in cheekbones, with almond eyes that smoked without makeup" and that she was often likened to Sophia Loren. Spencer-Wendel enumerates her mother's civic accomplishments, including the founding of the Palm Beach Zoo with "just one monkey."
Spencer-Wendel's account darkens in 2011, with her mother's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the surgeries that nearly killed her trying to remove the disease. She chronicles her mother's transformation from a vivacious, outgoing social butterfly to an agoraphobic recluse afraid to share her prognosis with friends. Tee's final years were brightened by her grandchildren and the success of Spencer-Wendel's own memoir. Finally, after years of treatment, Tee Spencer went into hospice care and died in March, sleeping near her oldest daughter, Stephanie.