Support Kelli in the loss of her Mom, Suzen.

Suzen Maxwell, my Mom, business partner, roommate, and most of all, my best friend, left her body to join the world of spirit on Monday, May 10th at 10:20 pm.

To those of you who heard the news and from whom I have received condolences, thank you. I hope I was able to adequately express my gratitude. 

For those who are hearing this news for the first time, I am sorry you are learning of this now. Reaching out to everyone is exhausting. I am doing the best I can. Writing the story of what happened is one way I am able to share it widely without having to tell it over and over again.

Many friends, farmer market vendors, customers and members of our community have reached out with beautiful words in memory of Suzen and with the offer of help. This campaign for donations serves a dual purpose, informing you all of what happened and receiving help. Here I have written of Suzen's illness and the story of the two of us and our work in this community.

I hope to hold a celebration for Suzen with a scattering of her ashes on her favorite beach, Point Hudson. 
I hope to have it on or around her birthday July 19.
Suzen's body was cremated. We will scatter her ashes on the beach. For now they are in a beautiful metal tea box. Please get in touch if you wish to be informed when I plan the celebration.

My Now, an ask for time:
This is an overwhelming time in my life. Not unexpected, but impossible to really prepare for. I am reaching out in hopes to receive support to give myself the time I need to adjust to this new life. While I want to hurry and get back to vending at the farmers market, I know that I need to give myself grace and take the time to make this transition. I plan to continue in my work. Crust Bakery and Market Kitchen are my heart and soul and I wouldn’t know any other way of living.

I have yet to have the strength to dig into the end of life costs, the unpaid medical bills, what is in savings. I will need to move to a new dwelling. I will need to go through all of Suzen’s things and decide what to do with each one. All of this will take time. The work I do to get to market each week also takes a lot of time. I foresee needing to skip markets, here and there. A financial safety net will facilitate that. 

Being business partners who lived together, our finances were intertwined for convenience sake. Now I will need to gain access to Suzen’s accounts. Doing so beforehand proved to be too difficult, we tried and gave up many times. A word to others, overcome that discomfort and do the work anyway. I so wish we had sorted everything out before. That said, I didn't expect Suzen would die so soon. She felt she had a lot of time left. But we never know, none of us do, it can happen in the blink of an eye.

It still doesn't seem real. I find myself thinking of things to share with Suzen. She was my sounding board for ideas, my taste tester, my backup, the one I turned to with everything.

A little history:
Suzen and I started Crust Bakery in 2012, and in 2014 we started Market Kitchen. It had been my dream to cook and bake for my community with the bounty of the region. We had spent several years searching for the perfect community, in Port Townsend we found it. We needed a kitchen to work from and found it for sale, in one weeks time we completed the purchase and moved in. The phone started to ring and we filled it with others following their dreams of making and selling food.
Suzen always supported my dreams, she told me to be free, to be whatever I wanted to be. She always said “leap and the net will be there to catch you”. Suzen was my net. Time and again throughout my life she caught me and held me up.
Suzen was proud to say that she was able to work as long and as hard as folks half her age. With Market Kitchen she made possible a support system for other small food businesses. She said that even though she didn’t have any commercial kitchen experience, she would share all of her wisdom to help others. We ushered many a cook and baker in our doors and out again when they were ready to expand. 
Our work agreement was, I do the cooking, cleaning and selling and she would be my prep cook, market companion and oversee the finances. Last October she stopped coming to work in the kitchen but continued to come to market. All the way until the week before she died, she continued to take care of the finances and small tasks I gave her to do at home.

When we first came to town, folks weren't sure if we were partners or friends or mother and daughter. So many of you get our names mixed up. Now I am on my own. There is a huge empty space next to me. It will take a long time to get used to this new life. I am grateful to do so with many hands at my back. Without my safety net of Suzen, because of all of you, I will be okay, in time. I have shared tears and hugs with so many of you already. I am grateful for the support.

The medical background, briefly, then the last week, described:
In July of 2020, Suzen went to have what she thought was prolapse repaired. It was found that it was a mass and may be cancer. We spent a lot of time and money finding a surgeon who would remove it. Finally in October 2020 it was easily and completely removed. At the time the mass was being studied, fluid was seen around her lungs. Fluid was drained 3 times and then did not return, tested negative for cancer. A mass formed in her left lung, blocking it completely. It was never tested to see if it was cancer. She had scans that showed small spots of cancer in her abdomen. Chemo was not recommended. Throughout this time Suzen had difficulty eating and lost so much weight. She did not have any pain. She slowly became weaker but continued to do anything she could.

She utilized all forms of healing, naturopathic, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, somatic healing, reiki, tapping. Allopathic was her last resort. She took many supplements, tinctures and teas, hardly any prescriptions. She supported her body in a loving and gentle way. She began to meditate and listened to healing sound waves. All in all, considering what the doctors said, Suzen fared incredibly well. She continued to drive herself to the beach for a daily walk. She came to market every Saturday and there received so much care and love, it was the highlight of her week. She was very independent. The stairs into the house, lack of energy and eating enough food were her biggest challenges. 

Her oncologist suggested an iron infusion to help give her more energy. She had one in April and another a week before she died. Before the second infusion, the nurse neglected to check her iron levels, saying she was too busy. Immediately following that infusion, Suzen began a rapid decline. She went from being able to walk on the beach over that weekend, to not being able to get out of bed on her own. She developed sores on her legs that wept clear liquid profusely. She had a hard time breathing. For the first time she complained of pain. Her legs and feet swelled and were freezing cold to the touch. She became distant, different, her tone of voice changed, the look in her eyes. It is my belief that she was suffering from iron toxicity. 

During that week, I continued to go to the kitchen every day and vended at market that Saturday. Caring for Suzen before going to work, coming home throughout the workday to check on her and helping her as soon as I came home. This was completely exhausting. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle more weeks like that. As I began to explore what outside help might be available, I discovered that without an awful lot of money, there really isn’t any support. I was told, it's the family who steps in to provide care. I was Suzen’s only family. I am grateful that last week didn't go on longer, both for Suzen and myself. To watch her suffer was incredibly hard. To not know how to help her was frustrating. I can't imagine what it was like for her to be in her body. She said she wished she could just have a different body. To go from so vibrant to so dependent so quickly was tough for us both.

On Monday, May 10, Suzen received a reiki healing in her bed. Shortly after, with the support of her herbalist and friend, 911 was called. Suzen had very low blood pressure and temperature. We suspected organ failure. She was taken by ambulance to Jefferson Healthcare ER. There she was quickly admitted to the ICU. She agreed that no treatments or tests would be done. They would only make her comfortable. She seemed calm yet distant. I don't really remember a lot of the details of what we said to each other as she lay there with a view of the water and the mountains beyond. Her doctors and nurses were expert at making sure she was not in any discomfort. They were kind and compassionate.

I gave Suzen permission to go if she was ready, to die if it was her time, to know that I would be okay. Later that night, after I had left her in the bed with that beautiful view, she did just that, she died. She joins my sister, Julie and our dogs, Loona and Angelica in the after here. Whatever that is, she now knows. She is safe and she is whole and she is at peace and I will miss her for the rest of my days.

Things I need help with:

Packing and selling or giving away Suzen’s clothing, furniture, foods she used for cancer support, supplements, etc. 

Finding a new place to call my home. Something small and private, a cottage, cabin, rv, trailer, tiny house. Anywhere from PT to Chimacum. I have a cat. I would like to get a dog. I need privacy to work through my grief. If I feel the need to ugly cry, I don’t want to worry I’m being heard. I need a space to be outdoors that is shady and secluded.

Market Kitchen is in need of tenants. Food vendors needing a place to work,  please get in touch.

I may need help in the kitchen with basic tasks like stripping kale or chopping veggies. Maybe labeling pastry bags. Simple things. I can offer food or produce in trade to start.

The accounting as I guess it to be (because it was suggested some potential donors might like to know)

Funeral Home $1700

A month of home bills $2200

A month of kitchen bills $2000

2020 personal taxes for Suzen $1500, plus mine and the business (thankfully postponed until July) a guessed amount

Medical bills $?????? I haven’t looked and I am scared to do so. She had Medicare but that doesn't cover any alternative treatments.

Lost income from missed markets $3000 so far or $1500 estimate per week

Cost of moving to a new home $???

I can’t total this up, it is just too overwhelming….

With her gone I am now left to sort through it all. I am not  surprised to find that in the past few months, she let some bills go unpaid, focusing on her treatments for cancer, for things to make her more comfortable in her body, to extend her time here. In the week before she died she paid thousands for new dentures that were put in on Tuesday and had scheduled cataract surgery.

I will put any donations I receive toward Suzen's end of life expenses, then toward unpaid bills, current living expenses, and moving costs. Anything left over will be donated to the Port Townsend Farmers Market association.

I chose $8888 because 8 is the number of infinity. For every dollar I receive I will be eternally grateful. I will give back the love the donations represent for the rest of my days.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. 

This has not been easy to write. I have so much more to say and yet I think it’s way too long already. 

I didn’t share how Suzen and I ended up living together as adults, the how and why of that is a good story. One I don't think I've ever told in its entirety.

I didn’t share so many of the messages I received about Suzen. I hope she knew how folks saw her, how respected and loved she was. 

I didn’t talk about navigating the healthcare system for the first time during Covid. I don't recommend it. It was not a good experience at all.

I didn’t talk about how my relationship with my Mom was because of her relationship (or lack thereof) with her Mom. 

I didn’t talk about my little sister Julie and how her cancer journey helped us during Suzen's. The big lesson, never fear.

There are so many things to talk about at the end of a life.

The end is a new beginning.

With gratitude and a full heart and eyes blurred with tears,

Kelli Winter

May 23, 2021

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Kelli Winter
Port Townsend, WA

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