Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dear Mom

Oasis Reflection: It's October again.

Halloween is Susan Pittmann, my mother's, birthday. When I see pumpkins, black cats and witches, I think of her. Why would that be a concern, you may wonder. You see, she was murdered in a hate crime 18 years ago by our neighbor, Jim Brooks. (I wrote about the murder.) Since that time a lot has happened around her story. Isn't it strange how a life can continue in some way even after it passes? Every October brings with it a time to reflect, whether I want to or not, about that tragic event. I thought I would just go ahead and write about it here, on my 100th blog post.

Dear Mom,
I turn to you on this day because I am compelled to embrace your life. You are the door that has led me on so many life journeys. I want to thank you for your strength and open mindedness. Do you remember that you once told me that I could have benefited from a mom who was more sensitive? I want you to know that you were enough, and that I did not need any other mother.
You were a strong straightforward person- a woman bound to accomplish, an entrepreneur, and a visionary. We had our differences. You liked having a practical vegetable garden and I loved growing flowers. You liked painted properties and I liked painted canvas. You were tough and I was sensitive. You were a 'people person' and I was somewhat reserved. Let me be clear about your insight, Mom, you were wrong because you were exactly what I wanted and needed. You taught me to toughen up, and I'm still learning that lesson from you.

Do you see that book cover I posted here, Love in the Balance? It arrived in the mail last week. It has a character, Evonne, who is loosely based on you. And the scene of the murder trial, news reports, the sentencing of Mr. Brooks are all factually correct. Some of it sounds like it came right out of the TV news reports, "Our top story tonight is the double murder this morning of two local women at their home in a quiet rural neighborhood...It is unclear whether the murders were the result of a boundary dispute. The women were in the process of installing a fence separating their property from that of the suspected killer." There is one mention about a daughter, Jenny, who spoke to the reporters and at the funeral. Her words make people understand that her mother was a loving mother, grandmother, and friend-and that living a lesbian lifestyle does not mean that you are someone who is separated from the normal embrace of family life. That message is what I try to share as well. I think you would like the book. It's about self-acceptance and celebrating life.

I found out about the book because the author, Marianne Martin, was interviewed by the film maker, Brian Alexander for the Pittmann Puckett Documentary- yes, there is a film being made about you and your partner's murder, and how it mobilized the gay-lesbian community into action. Did you know that the Michigan organization you founded (with others), Affirmations, is still going strong? It serves as a community and support center for people who are discovering and/or celebrating their sexual identity. There is an art gallery named after you, too, and I copied the dedication for you:

The Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery was founded in memory of two of Affirmations founding members and strongest supporters, Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett. The couple was killed in their home by a neighbor in 1992.

I went to Michigan last March to be interviewed for the film. It was a powerful experience, and I felt as though I could say all that was important to me about you and your murder. I hope the film is seen by many people, and that it continues to expand and open the perception of those who are narrow-minded. While I was there, I was able to visit the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery. I was proud to know that your presence continues to be felt within that organization. I particularly appreciate that an art gallery was named after you (and Christine). Do you remember that the first college class I ever took was with you? And it was art history?
I am strengthened by the memory of how you lived your life. Your graduation from Wayne State University at 50 years young-as you would say-continues to inspire me to strive forward regardless of artificial age limits. Thank you for showing me how to change and become strong enough to obtain my goals in life.
Just before you were killed, you told me that you were proud of me and how I lived my life. Mom, I hope I always make you proud of me. I hope my life reflects the best of your legacy. I will always love you.

Your daughter,

Cynthia "Sue"-included for you, Mom xxoo

PS. You will be happy to know that the Hate Crimes Bill was signed into law just three hours ago----------

Thank you, dear bloggers, for sharing this time with me.

(Thank you, Maithri, of Soaring Impulse for the posting this award winning photo on his blog. Heart Hands by Paolo Sapio.)


  1. Chynthia, thanks for sharing this letter and the story of your mother. This is a beautiful tribute from a loving daughter. It touches people across the ages, across the universe.

  2. You have her strength, she would be proud and hooray for the passing of a so long overdue bill!

  3. I am sure that wherever she is, she is smiling, with her chest puffed up with pride.
    Your letter to your Mom was very moving to me, given that I have 'seen' some of your emotional processing on your blog. So many good things have happened to honour your mom and Christine.
    Cynthia, you would make any mother proud. ♥xx

  4. This is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. I love the delightful photo you chose to accompany this post. My heart goes out to you and to your family, Cynthia.

  5. How beautiful and difficult for you dear Cynthia. No one should ever have to go through what you, your Mother, your family has been through. I'm so glad the bill was passed,progress is a good thing in this case.
    I'm sure your Mother is very proud.
    Congratulations on your 100th post ♥

  6. Congratulations on your Centarian post Cynthia.

    Your mother, I'm sure is so proud of you for keeping her story alive and for the fact you are an awesome mother yourself.

    I'll be thinking about you and your mother this Halloween as well.

  7. What a beautiful paean to your mother. I loved every single word of it, even if the words were tinged with sadness. Many thanks for such an honest and open post.

    Greetings from London.

  8. beautiful.
    all of this.


  9. Hi Cynthia,
    This was such a lovely letter. I don't profess to feel exactly the same emotions as you would have as these expressions crossed your mind and you put them in words, but I can understand with how much feeling these words would have been written. Something that touches hearts indeed is the fruit of very deep and sincere emotions. You are a proud daughter, and I'm sure your mom was a proud mother.
    Thnak you for sharing this great letter!

  10. Cynthia, what a wonderful daughter you are keeping your mother's memory alive in such a beautiful tribute! She is proud to call you daughter and I aam proud to call you friend! xoxoxo

  11. Congratulations on your 100th post! One hundred more, please!

    And what a beautiful post you've written. Because you have honored your mother's life, we can all remember her with affection and respect .. and awe, too.

    I'm glad she is being remembered by film makers and authors as well.

    Sending love and admiration as you remember your amazing mother. Bravo!

  12. Cynthia, a beautiful tribute to your Mom on her birthday. Your letter is so articulate and caring. I know your Mom is and would be proud of you. She sounds like an incredible woman. I will look for this book. Blessings and hugs, Suki

  13. ps that heart hands photo is amazing

  14. Your mother would be so proud of you. just as you are of her. To have written this tribute when such a terrible thing happened to your mother shows a strong woman indeed.

  15. An amazing testament of love handed down, though oral and now literary tradition; and shared amongst us family of bloggers. Thank you Cynthia.

  16. Cynthia,

    Thank you for sharing this letter to your mother. I have no doubt that she is busting at the seams with pride over you! And think of the legacies of love and acceptance that you are handing down to your own children. :D

  17. Hi Cynthia, we are not all writers in our family but I certainly am glad that you are to tell moms story and to express yourself, being so far away from all of us. It is still hard for all of us even after all this time! I think I am just going to lay down & cry. Congratulations on your 100th blog!
    Love you,
    Linda Sue (the oldest one)

  18. A person's relationship with their mother, especially a girlchild, is so convoluted and mystical that we are bound to them forever in unimaginable ways. Every time I look in the mirror I see her...sometimes I hear her in my words...our mothers live forever in our hearts...your love for yours shines in your words...

  19. Beautiful. Affirmations is a wonderful organization and continues to support so many. Thanks for letting us all know about the book. I know the film will be wonderful. Brian is a fantastic filmmaker and is very passionate about your mom and Christine's life and legacy. Like you I hope that it will be viewed by many and continue "to expand and open the perception of those who are narrow-minded." Unfortunately there are still many.
    The making of the film can be followed at

  20. Hi friends! Thank you for your wonderfully warm comments. You inspire and encourage me to continue writing about difficult topics. When I realize that these words are read by people with such open-ness I just want you all to feel the love that radiates within.
    Okay now ((group hug))!

    Ms Linda Sue! Welcome, sis! What a joy to see that you found your way here. I hope the post wasn't too difficult to read. Don't you just love Mom's playful attitude in this photo? xxoo Talk to you soon.

  21. What a marvelous tribute to your Mother on her Birthday. In a way, it is a continuous celebration for the lasting legacy that she and her partner left behind. Not just for you and your siblings, but in the community in which she was obviously very active and passionate about. In many instances, dedications become cold monuments to the existance of those who have left us. However, in this case, it is like an eternal flame was lit so many years ago. And is kept perpetually lit by the love of those whose lives your Mother touched. Thank you for sharing this personal memory with all of us.

  22. This is a beautiful and moving tribute to your mother. You can just see the character in the photo and a resemblance to you too. You were to have those years with her and unlucky to be robbed of more years. There is no excuse for hate crime.

    It is wonderful that her legacy is now the inspiration for a novel and a film and that the crime mobilized the gay-lesbian community. Bittersweet 100th. My thoughts are with you and your family. Big hug!

  23. Happy Birthday to your mother. What a lovely tribute. I'm sorry you lost her, especially in such a hurtful way. The Hate Crimes bill is an important step but we have to continue to work on loosing the hate.

  24. Dear Cynthia,

    A voice whispered in my ear this afternoon and said "Go to Cynthias...."

    I'm so glad I listened...

    This beautiful, heart felt letter to your mother is a testament to both your both your journeys...

    Strong women, with wild unbreakable spirits,

    My warmest love,


  25. Bless your dear mother, and thank you for keeping her memory and story alive. You must miss her so much. I think she would be proud of her strong daughter.

    We're looking forward to reading (at very least)100 more of your beautiful posts, and hearing more about Susan Pittman and her legacy.


  26. Cyn, sorry for my late arrival.

    Your letter to your beloved mother had me in tears and I'm sure I was not the only one who felt the overpowering emotion come reaching out to me. Every Halloween from now on I will think of you and your mother. She would have been so proud of you


  27. Dearest Cynthia,

    Forgive me for not writing earlier. I read, and re-read your post several times with a sense of awe and wonderment at the story you tell and the way you tell it. It is one of the most amazing blog posts that I have read and it touched me dearly. This is the amazing thing about the blogosphere--you meet people who have extraordinary stories to tell that you would never normally be enriched by. I am pained by the loss of your mother and her lover by such a hideous act of hatred. Though you don't mention what happened to Jim Brooks, I hope justice was served. Seeing your mother's photo was so important. She wasn't "just another victim." She was a vibrant human being--someone's mother. I think it was an extraordinary thing that you wrote her a letter. I am a skeptic about life after death, but if I am wrong, my hope is that it reached her and that she felt every warm and loving sentiment that you so lovingly sent to her. I am so pleased that her memory is being kept alive by the arts--through a museum, a book and a film--and that you have been a part of this. How special. Through your posts I have felt a tremendous sense of kindness and welcoming. I think that came through when you wrote your letter and through the picture that you posted at the bottom of the hands and the heart. Another person wouldn't look at the glass half-full, and you chose to celebrate your mother in a wonderful way by continuing to honor her memory and share her with the world rather than hide and forget. I don't know what more to say. You've touched me tremendously and I am enriched and lucky to know you so that I had access to this post. Happy 100 and I hope there will be many, many more wonderful entries to come. With many warm regards, xoxoxo One of 365

  28. Thank you friends for these beautiful and expressive comments. I'm off to the island of Dominica for a few days to attend a Caribbean literature conference. I've never been there before and look forward to seeing the island where Jamaica Kincaid's mother grew up. (Some of you know about my research project on autobiography and JK.) From what I've seen and read it's a beautiful green-on-green island. Photos to follow!

  29. Beautiful and so touching. I am still digesting all this. Glad I stopped by.

  30. A touching tribute that brings to the fore the essence of life, and living. Respect for life and living needs to supercede all else.

    Your mother was a brave woman, extraordinary in her resolve. And it's an honour to have an art gallery named after her.

    Yes, life does goes on, but it does not go on quite like before. That's the legacy of a loss the survivors carry!

  31. That was such a beautiful tribute to your mother. She had a wonderfully productive life. It is so important that you are sharing her story with the world. May it help to bring the peace we are all seeking.

  32. that was a great piece of writing. It makes one wish they had known your mother. What a senseless tragedy.
    Thanks for sharing.

  33. Cynthia
    This is so beautifully written from the heart that to read it is to feel a connection with your mother...and again with it was the very first time I read something you had posted.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly what is essential is invisible to the eye"

  34. Hurray for that signature!! I'm soo glad this has finally passed:) My heart goes out to you- lots of hugs!


Start a conversation with your comments here...