Earlier this week, my dear friend Suzanne Bercier died. She had cancer, which is never fair, but Suzanne especially was so beautiful and so good. We were college roommates.
She was from rural Louisiana, and everything you’ve heard about gracious, mellow Southerners was true in Suzanne. She had a merry eye, and thick, glossy hair; she was tall and slender, and when you sat down at her table, she made you feel like she’d been waiting all day for that moment.
She had an unshakable faith in the power of the Holy Name. When her room filled up with chatty, catty girls who veered into gossip and viciousness, she would whisper the name of Jesus and wait for the conversation to right itself. She always invited, never pushed. The cafeteria was right next to the chapel, and when it was late afternoon, I met Suzanne hundreds of times: she was heading to the bright chapel for daily Mass, I was fleeing to my smelly room for evening despair. And she would smile and invite, invite, invite. Want to come to Mass? Want to join us for a rosary? Okay, see you at dinner!
One clattering drawer of her dresser was full of bottles and powders, and every afternoon she would wince her way through a tall, clotted glass of some kind of chlorophyll drink. Maybe she would have been sicker without all those handfuls of vitamins, I don’t know. She endured so many colds and coughs, but holy cow, she worked, and worked, and worked. The idea of leaving an assignment undone was unthinkable to her, and she muscled her way through every dense text and incomprehensible passage. She chose Wallace Stevens for her junior project, because she was always looking for beauty.
In four years, I never heard her say an unkind word. She would laugh at herself, but never at anyone else. She was a fountain of generosity. When we came back to school our sophomore year, I saw her in the parking lot, she held out her hands to me, and for a moment, we danced. It was strange, and I broke away laughing, but that is how she was: she was glad to see you, and held out her hands.
God rest the soul of Suzanne Therese Bercier, and God comfort the family that she loved so much and missed so much when she was away. And one more time, here is the song that could always get her to sing along: