Editor's note: Susan Mozykowski and her determination to live life with cancer was the focus of stories in the July 8 and Dec. 23 editions of the Journal-World. Staff writer Karrey Britt and photographer Nick Krug have documented Susan's journey. She died Jan. 5.
Friends and family gathered Saturday morning at Lawrence Wesleyan Church to remember longtime Lawrence resident Susan Mozykowski, who co-founded a Lawrence preschool, sang in a Lawrence jazz band and wrote numerous children's and Christian gospel songs.
Certainly, those are great accomplishments. But what people will remember most about Susan was her personality. She was one-of-a-kind.
I am so grateful that Susan entered my life June 6. She was like no one I had met before.
She thoroughly loved life and appreciated everything: her family, trees, bugs, a spoonful of ice cream. Susan even had a certain appreciation for her aggressive brain tumor. She believed that God had chosen her for a reason and that reason was to inspire others through song and faith.
I loved to hear her play the guitar and sing. She wrote a song, "Bound For That Kingdom," that brought tears to my eyes every time she performed it. What was amazing is that she never forgot the lyrics to her songs although she would forget a doctor's appointment or what day of the week it was because of the cancer.
Susan was someone who you wanted to be around. No matter how her day was going, she would lift your spirits. She was full of compliments - she liked my hair, outfits, writing, personality. I would get an ego boost every time I was around her. She said several times, "I sure would like to meet your mother. She must be someone special to have raised such a wonderful daughter." It was the nicest thing anyone had said to me.
Even in December when she was bedridden, Susan made me laugh and praised those around her including her stepdaughter, Sarah Roenfeldt, who said something that day that stuck with me.
Sarah said, "I just love taking care of Susan. There was one day when Dad didn't need me ... and I was sad. I was going through Susan withdrawal. I was like, 'I need to go get my Susan fix.'"
I thought that said a lot about Susan.
Susan also was a great storyteller. I could sit and listen to her for hours because she told stories with enthusiasm, using her hands and deep blue eyes.
We went to lunch in October at Schlotzsky's, one of her favorite spots in Lawrence. After mixing a cocktail at the soda fountain and going into detail about how much she loved the food and employees there, we ate and talked about everything from family to pets to cancer. The manager even came out and gave her a big hug. During that two-hour lunch conversation and others, I never heard her complain and I never heard her say a bad word about anyone - what a rarity.
When I am feeling down or things aren't going right, I just think about Susan, what she had been through and her positive attitude through it all. She motivates me to be a better person, to have faith and to appreciate life. What a gift.
By Nick Krug - email@example.com
My first meeting with Susan Mozykowski was at Brandon Woods Retirement Community. I walked in five minutes late to find her strumming a guitar and singing for elderly residents. The effects of a brain tumor were visible as she struggled to keep her train of thought while telling stories between songs. Her husband, Richard, would assist when needed but during the entire program she held fast to an endearing smile.
On more than one occasion, I witnessed Susan initiate conversation and randomly break into song before other swimmers in the TherapyWorks pool. She had not a pretentious bone in her body and could pull a laugh out of a complete stranger with ease.
Now more than ever, even in her death, I think it's only appropriate to walk away smiling with the pleasure of having known her, if only for a short while. To do otherwise just wouldn't feel right with someone like Susan, who radiated so much happiness.