.Suzanne Brita Schecker
Sometime during the night of September sixteenth, 2020, Suzanne Brita Schecker, sister, aunt, dear friend slipped away from this life she loved and enjoyed. She leaves behind a host of bereaved who may take solace in the fact that even in the face of great suffering, she found a way to savor life, nurture hope and above all honor the divine love.
Originally named Brita, she was born in a bomb shelter in 1944 in Darmstadt, Germany, and as a toddler wandered the toxic rubble of the fire-bombed city. When Suzanne was five, her mother brought the small family to New York City. They struggled financially and for a time Suzanne and her older sister Karin boarded with foster parents. Eventually the family was reunited and Suzanne, Karin and their younger brother, Henry grew up in Brooklyn.
Suzanne studied acting in New York and moved to Berlin with a group of fellow free spirits. After her return to NYC, Suzanne settled down at the Harris Poll, and began her lifelong love of all things political. For the rest of her life, she delighted in discussions and debates on the issues of the day. Suzanne spent time in New Hampshire where she learned to respectfully argue politics with more conservative friends. Her time at Sirius Community in Western Mass led to her adoption of a new name-Suzanne. She studied psychology and earned her doctorate at UMass. She practiced psychotherapy at Crossroads Community Growth Center in Holyoke and other agencies until her move into private practice, which she maintained until her death. For many years, Suzanne also worked as a court investigator and guardian ad litem, safeguarding the wellbeing of children and ensuring their voices were heard.
During all these transformations, an enduring theme of her life was growth-through learning, self-discovery and spirituality. Until her death, she was still attending classes and workshops on a variety of topics. Her extraordinary empathy not only made her an excellent clinician but also helped her understand suffering, including that of people experiencing injustice, intolerance and war. She was also exquisitely attuned to the suffering of animals, especially elephants.
For most of her life, Suzanne struggled with a sense of guilt and shame over her German birth and heritage. Her involvement with the group One by One began to lift that burden as children of the Holocaust and children of the Third Reich came together to face and understand what had happened. Through an honest examination of events, including visits to Auschwitz, and loving, open encounters, healing and reconciliation happened for many. The topic of Suzanne's doctoral dissertation was the effects of the Holocaust on third generation descendants of Nazi Germany and Holocaust survivors.
Suzanne was one of the first to join the Treehouse community in Easthampton, MA, which formed to connect elders with foster and adoptive children and their families. There, Suzanne found a loving community and made many deep and lasting friendships. Her afternoons with the children were a source of delight and she often spoke of their accomplishments. She looked forward to all the many events and gatherings at Treehouse.
In recent years Suzanne suffered a great deal with three rapidly occurring and unrelated cancer diagnoses, difficult treatments and the effects of long-standing diabetes. She faced every challenge with courage and determination, sharing her journey and insights on Facebook. She had thousands of followers moved by her openness and inspirational messages.
Suzanne was deeply spiritual all her life, exploring many religious practices and beliefs, discovering the central truths underlying them all-the truth she called Love. She returned to her Catholic roots toward the end, enjoying the familiar rituals and discussions of the bible with a small group at Our Lady of the Valley church. During her last bout with cancer she undertook a series of healing ceremonies with a community that practices in the Lakota tradition. She described this as the most profound healing of her life. The insights she received from that community resonated with her until her death.
Suzanne is survived by her brother, Henry Schecker and his son Henry Jr.; three nephews: Curtis Epstein; Elliott Epstein (wife Debra, and son Skylar); and Jeffrey Epstein (wife Nora, and children Laura, Katie and Thomas); and cousins in Germany, Vancouver and Seattle. She also leaves many heart-broken and devoted friends.
Suzanne was not afraid of death. She reveled in the introspection advanced age brings on, musing about life and death and all things in between. But she also loved the pleasures of life-great art, music, books, flowers, design, good food-and above all loving relationships, including those with her succession of pet cats. She cared deeply for the health of the planet and prayed to and for our Mother Earth. She signed her Facebook posts Big Love, which says it all.
There will be a virtual memorial service for our dear friend Suzanne on Saturday, October 10 th at noon (to accommodate those in other time zones). Please go to Suzanne Schecker's Facebook page to find the link.
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