It’s been over two months since Susan O’Malley passed and seven years for Juanita Lee Gibbens. Two wonderful women that touched my life and many others. Their presence was steady, secure, heartfelt, and honest. While time is used to record an absence, their legacy is stronger than ever. Why does it take loss to understand what we have truly gained?
A term to describe Susan and Juanita would be beautiful. While both ladies were gorgeous on the outside, it was their outlook and perspective of the world that was beautiful. They would engage in a moment completely, slow down, and be patient for an authentic experience.
My grandmother Juanita Lee Gibbens took me to Paris during graduate school. It was my first overseas trip and I was very excited! To this midwestern girl, it was truly magical. Part of the excursion included visiting the Louvre, Musee de O’rsay, Champ-Elysees, Palace of Versailles, and Notre Dame. We traveled perfectly together: had the same sleep schedule, ate leisurely, and enjoyed the day’s offerings. At each stop, we would patiently pause for the best in everything. According to Juanita: “A beautiful view is always worth the wait.” Her advice never disappointed.
In 2010, I asked Susan O’Malley for assistance with an exhibit at the Art Museum of Los Gatos. Over two weekends fueled by cookies and oranges, we visited the art studios of Mari Andrews, Sharon Chinen, Nancy White, Emily Clawson, Lorene Anderson, Mel Prest, Lea Feinstein, Amy Trachetenberg, Klari Reis, and Carol Ladewig. At the end of our journey, Susan declared: “Jenny Balisle, I really had a fun time with you.” Surprised, it took me aback. No one had ever said that to me. I replied with a smile, “If you give me a chance, I’m really not too bad…” We both laughed and said our goodbyes. I was so happy that she had given me that opportunity. At the Factor XX opening, Susan gently escorted her mother while beaming with pride.
With the loss of these two women, I have to strive or at least try to be better. Susan O’Malley’s posters declaring “IT WILL BE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE” highlight our physical landscape. My grandmother’s words reinforce this wisdom. Both women spoke to beauty in words and action. I was unaware at the time but am now fully conscious.
Be grateful for every moment on this Mother’s Day. While my grandmother had the opportunity to raise a family, Susan O’Malley will be doing so from heaven. Their love continues to embrace while their words provide guidance. This is the true definition of beautiful.