24 June 2013

In Memoriam Carol Eileen Jaglowski

Carol E. Jaglowski

In memoriam Carol Eileen Jaglowski.  

I keep hearing these words but it still doesn’t seem real.  

In memory of Carol Jaglowski.  

We’ve lost her far too young.  She was 64.  She and her husband, my father-in-law, Dan, were planning their retirement together.   She had become a routine presence with her grandchildren, my three sons, her only daughter Jessica’s children.   A few times a week, Grammy, as our kids called her, would be hanging out with the older boys, Owen and Tenzin, sitting on the ground putting puzzles together, sorting Legos, teaching them to fold paper airplanes, listening to bird calls, and playing kid’s games.  Or she’d be holding the baby and watching the other lads while allowing their mother a much needed respite.

And now she’s gone.  We buried her on Friday in a wicker basket in a prairie in a cemetery decorated with giant memorials with bold, renowned names, like Dreyfus and Paul.  But grand memorials and ostentatiousness were not Carol’s way.  She was an unassuming, peaceful, and loving soul who should have had more years to live.  She was an accepting, open-minded person who early on in my marriage to her daughter asked that I call her mom, which from that time on I did.  

And at the drop of a quarter-note, she’s gone.  And however hard that is for us, for me, to accept, we have no choice.  That’s all we have.  Steven Wright said, “First you don't exist; then you exist; then you don’t exist; so this whole thing is just an interruption from non-existence.”

And Ecclesiastes reminds us, “all is vanity” that just like other animals humans “are of the dust and will turn to dust again.”  A lot of what happens to us is just a matter of chance or fate that we have little or no control of.   We can’t talk about being alive without talking about being dead.  

A few months ago, a few of us sat in a room with doctors and nurses who told us that when the feeding tube and the continuous dialysis were stopped, mom would die.  She wanted to go home in the worst way.  She wanted out of the hospital after two months of being stuck in bed.  As a show of her resolve and her strength, she proved the doctors wrong.  When one doctor walked in, his nose in her file, he looked up at her startled, and said “Wow, you look a lot better than your numbers.”  Even in this short part of her life, the last few months of it, mom was showing how she lived with fortitude and perseverance and a strong will.

Mom believed in life and that belief extended into death.  She was an organ donor and her final wish was to be put to rest naturally where she’ll be among the wild flowers she so adored and the birds and animals she vowed to protect.  It was a wonderful side of her.  She believed in standing up for those who cannot defend themselves.  She took refuge and found peace in watching the birds and would have given anything to protect the wildlife sanctuaries across the country.  To protect some of the least regarded among us.  

Mom was a thoughtful person who trusted in family.  A couple of years ago out of the blue she called her Aunt Arlene and they enjoyed getting together for lunch.  They planned on searching through photographs, retracing their past through pictures.  

She was a loyal and committed wife who shared 42 years of marriage with Dan.  They travelled together to Alaska, Horicon Marsh, Florida, anywhere as long as it was together.  Dan was with her nearly every moment she was hospitalized.  When Mom died peacefully at home, she was fittingly with Dan in just the way she wanted to go.

She was a devoted mother and Grammy who would have done anything for her daughter and our family and often did, taking the kids to the domes, the botanical gardens and parks, flying kites, going for walks.  When she was sick, just hearing their voices returned the color to her face, and the brightness in her eyes.

She loved music.  A rocker at heart, she attended countless Kansas shows then would sit down at the piano and play a Beethoven sonata.  One day I got home from work to the sound of Hoagy Carmichael from the piano.  She was teaching our oldest son to play “Heart and Soul.”

Mom’s life was not an easy one.  She lost her biological father at a young age and was raised along with her brother Dale by her mother, Betty.  Years later, after Betty had remarried to Frank, when little Mark came along, mom helped care for him.  She learned a lot about living during those years, traits and qualities she learned from her mom that she passed on to her daughter.  And that Jessica will pass on to our kids.

Mom was an invaluable role model and resource for Jessica.  Mom taught her daughter the value of generosity and kindness.  And Jessica always admired her for that.  

There were times when we would be trying to solve a dilemma, we’d call mom and she’d know the answer.  One day on the other end of the phone, mom walked me through making pecan fingers.  Somehow, mine never turned out like hers though.   Isn’t that strange how that happens? We follow the same recipe but something’s just not the same in the end. 

Mom could be temperamental, especially in the face of a bad pun, but in the 18 years I knew her, I never heard her utter a disparaging word about anyone even when others were less kind.

In the end each of us comprises pages of snapshots some flattering, some regretful that we hope people will look at with fondness.  We hope that when we die, others will sit around talking about the good we brought to the world and hopefully we’ve contributed more benefit than harm.  We are who we surround ourselves with, whether they are our children or friends or relatives.  And we live through them and because of them.  We carry mom’s memory, we remember her through these pictures and a not-too-distant voice in our heads.  “It’s all in the grand scheme of things,” she would have said. 

The last time I saw her was two days before she died.  We were talking about the dialysis she had to suffer through three times a week.  It was hard on her.  She confided in me, “I don’t know how long I can do this.”  Five months of constant pain had finally worn her out.  

I’ll miss her.  I’ll miss her effervescence, her rambunctiousness.  I’ll miss sharing a cold drink with her.  I’ll miss her laugh and the twinkle in her eye when she’d feign disgust after hearing an awful play-on-words from her husband.  I’ll miss her uncanny ability to remember anything because in the end that’s all we are – memories.  We are only what we remember ourselves to be and what others remember us to be.  I ask that we remember Carol Eileen Jaglowski today for who she was, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a cousin, a woman with a huge heart who loved life and gave her all to what she did.  Look at her pictures, she was full of vitality.  

However hard we try, words can never adequately express how we feel.  That’s why there is music.  Hammerstein said, “All the sounds of the earth are like music.”   
The song you’re going to hear is a rock song by Kansas, mom’s favorite musical group.  This was the song she wanted played at her funeral.  It’s a little loud and poorly edited by the man at the podium but as you listen to the lyrics try to understand what the song means.  It reveals a lot about the woman we memorialize here.  For the underlying message is one of hope. 

(cue to play edited version of Lamplight Symphony)

No comments:

Post a Comment