Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Times Up

by Donna Pendergast

It was a call that I never expected to get.  Susan Murphy-Milano was on the line and she wanted me to write the foreword to her book Times Up. I had to repeat the words to make sure I understood. "You want ME to write the foreword to your book," I  asked with incredulity? to which she answered, "Yes."

I could almost hear the smile in her voice as she repeated her request.  She went on to give her reasons, stating how much she admired me and what I had accomplished in my career and how she could think of no one else who she would rather have write the foreword to her new book.  As I listened through the fog, the words kept repeating in my mind, "She wants ME to write the foreword to HER book." WOW.

As I listened to her reasons, all I could think was why is this incredible woman saying all these things about me-she is the hero? We ended the call with me agreeing to write the foreword and her expressing her utmost gratitude that I would honor her by accepting her request. Honor to her? I thought as I hung up the phone. You have got to be kidding me. For the truth is, I was the one who was overwhelmed and honored. I never dreamed at the time that her chosen title for the book would be eerily prophetic.

In hindsight, I now know that the tone of that call was nothing out of the ordinary. For Susan, it has never been all about herself but rather always about everyone else. She has spent her life looking out for and trying to ensure that women in abusive relationships didn't have their lives cut short because they were naive and in denial as to the inevitable outcome of  their dangerous situations. You see for Susan it was a matter of life and death, she had seen a horrific outcome first hand and she was determined that no one else would have to experience what she had gone through.

In January 1989, Susan's father, Philip Murphy, a 30-year Chicago police officer and decorated violent crimes investigator killed her mother with his .44-caliber service weapon.  He then took his own life by shooting himself in the head.  It was the culmination of a violent and abusive pattern of behavior which had characterized her parents entire marriage. After finding her parents' bodies, Susan vowed to change the way intimate partner homicides are handled and investigated. It was to become a lifelong crusade which undertook with ferocity and passion.

She went on to become a nationally renowned  crusader and women's rights advocate who spent her career advocating for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. A much sought after speaker she has been regularly featured on shows such a  "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Larry King Live," MSNBC, CNN. The list goes on.   Her books Defending Our Lives, Moving Out, Moving On, Times Up, and the just released Holding My Hand Through Hell have empowered scores of women and set the standard as the go to  tomes for women in trouble. She was a contributor here at Women In Crime Ink for a period of time but had to give it up because  of the demands on her time and the need to fulfill other commitments.

But  it was what she did behind the scenes that really defines Susan as a person.  Always available on the other end of a phone she personally involved herself in the fight to keep women safe sometimes at considerable risk to her own personal safety.  I personally  was the recipient of Susan's concern and compassion last year when I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.She was always at the other end of a phone and her calls always seemed to come when I needed them most. In her personal life and her professional life Susan burned the candle at both ends and saved more lives than we will ever know.

As the fates would have it, she couldn't save her own. On October 1, Susan decided to forego her treatment and let nature take its course with her cancer.  I was blessed in my situation, needing no radiation nor chemotheraphy after my initial surgery. Susan was not as lucky. Without treatment, she is reported to be declining rapidly, although comfortable and well cared for by a team of hospice care workers and a dear and committed friend who is holding her hands toward heaven. It is a cruel and unfair irony. The woman who saved so many lives can not save her own.  She has fought a valiant fight but this  demon  is  just too strong. We all, of course, hope for a miracle, but the odds are hugely against her and time is said to be running out.

Susan realizes more than most that time can be short.  She has lived life fully grasping it and making the most of it, and she will leave behind  a larger legacy than most can ever hope to leave behind. So I know I speak on behalf of Susan when I say these words,  fight the fear, follow your dream, seize the day, don't be afraid to love, take a chance. You never know when your time might be up.

Go softly on the wings of angels, sister. You have earned some rest. I love you!

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinion or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.


Delilah said...

Donna, thank you for this beautiful surprise at a time when it's most appreciated. Susan thinks the world of you, you are one of the "chosen ones" that she learned so much from and admires so deeply.

There are many people that she took advice and information from, but what she took she gave away to so many more. She and her work will always continue, her legacy is in place, and each of those who honored her in her life will be blessed immensely. She is one of a kind and like a rare jewel will always be admired.

Heidi Hiatt said...

What a great tribute! As a contributor to the Time's Up blog that grew out of the Time's Up project, I'd like to mention the Document the Abuse website, http://documenttheabuse.com/, that Susan has spearheaded as well. It contains information on a tool that everyone helping domestic violence victims should be aware of, the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (EAA). Susan has knocked it out of the park on this one.

How many people can go home and be told, "well done, faithful servant, well done?" I believe that Susan will be one of them.

Anonymous said...

She is such an amazing powerhouse crusader, my heart is saddened by news of her decline. You inspired me Susan! I followed you, googled you and devoured everything you said and did- it helped me everytime I even considered listening to 'his" BS apologies and almost 4 years later I never went back, followed through with charges against him, stood firm when he tried to scare me with cold stares as I testified and cried with relief at his sentencing! You made a difference in my life and I never even met you.
thank you thank you thank you

Christina Gutierrez

Cathy Scott said...

Beautifully written, Donna. Susan is one of the good ones -- so talented, so giving, so dedicated. I'm honored to call her friend.

Mahendran said...

I support women and they should given equal rights.

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