Coming away from Suzanne's funeral today, I suspect I was the person at the funeral service who knew Suzanne the least. Our connections were limited to the several meetings we had together, with Suzanne in her role as Executive Director of the South Australian state government's Office of Disability and Client Services (ODACS).
As a result of these connections the Suzanne Carman that I knew was the public servant who was in charge of disability policy and procurement. I assessed Suzanne's ODACS contributions through my own world view, without investing sufficiently to know more about Suzanne's history and motivations.
It is indeed a very dangerous thing to make assumptions about people based on limited information, for today I learned so much more about Suzanne's life.
For example, I didn't know Suzanne was from Cairns. I didn't know that she had a fine musical ear and talent. I didn't know about her faith. I didn't know that as a young adult she had deferred her studies to give service to the community. I didn't know about the remarkable range of public service roles she had undertaken in her career, clearly driven by the desire to make a contribution. I didn't know she had become a grandmother.
I only wish I had discovered these things while Suzanne was alive.
From the celebrant's words at the service today, it is clear to me that Suzanne wanted to leave a message of love and acceptance. For me, these values lie at the heart of social inclusion and in advocating for better lives for people with greater vulnerability.
But what I also think I have learned, or re-learned, today is that the same values need to apply in all such dealings, with those whom we seek to influence and with those who have different histories and perspectives.
Thank you, Suzanne, and I wish I had taken the time to get to know you better.