It’s the Circle of Life, Simba

Written the morning of 6/25/14. 

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I apologize to you, my followers.  My worlds have collided and I have been very busy.

You see, my mother was taken to the ER on May 23, 2014, in the evening.  She had fallen against my dad, he lowered her to the ground, but then couldn’t get her up.  He called 911.

When you go to the ER, they look you all over.  I showed up on Saturday morning to find my mother on oxygen, trying to breathe and basically out of her mind.  She was agitated to say the least and trying to get out of bed.

What would transpire over the next 4 weeks would have never been a thought in my mind. We went through possible kidney failure – luckily that has been corrected, a leaky heart valve, and lungs that have been damaged due to years of cigarette smoking.

Last Friday, her Oxygen saturation levels went down considerably.  Now, instead of a Bi-pap mask on only at night, it has been continuous.  From joking around with me and telling the nurses stories of past escapades – to having a mask on and basically sleeping.  It was like flipping a switch.

Now we are faced with those difficult decisions in life.  Wow.  I thought I would have more time.  I really did.  I guess everyone does.  I wanted so much more for her, but it’s not up to me.

I talked to my parents just about every day.  I told them that I loved them.  We were always brutally honest with each other and our “Circle of Trust” was a safe zone.  Be who you are and we love you anyway.  I find that I am in what I told the nurses as ‘business mode’.  I need to do the right thing and get it done.  After that, it’s one big PITY PARTY.

I’m thankful that I have had her this long in my life.  There are many that have not been as fortunate.  I am thankful that this only lasted a month and it was only truly bad for less than a week.  Had she bounced back from this, she would have always teetered on the edge of where she is now – even the smallest infection could put her in the hospital.  That is not living, either.

I leave this blog post on that note until I can come back and write more later…

After the initial writing of this post, my mother passed away that evening.  I will be sharing stories to help celebrate her life.  It is still very fresh, but I hope that through the power of writing and sharing, I can find a little comfort.  It is interesting why you do things sometimes – like this blog post that I wrote in March, thanking my parents.  I’m so glad that I did!  


Morgan, Carolyn Obit Schroeder Lauer

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Remembering Grandma – Helen Wanda (Wagner) Galkowski

Today would have been my maternal grandmother’s 97th birthday.

Helen Wanda Wagner was born on May 12, 1917, to Franciszek and Mary (Suska) Wagner. She was the second child of the couple.  Helen was born in Freeport, Stevenson, Illinois. She spent her early years in the town before the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, some time between 1920 and 1930.

Helen made her 1st Solemn Communion at St. Joseph’s Church in Freeport, Illinois.

Helen Wagner, 1st Communion

She went to Alfred D. Kohn Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois.

In early 1936, my grandmother attended a cousin’s wedding.  It was at that time, Frank Galkowski, also attending the wedding, made the announcement that he was going to marry her.  They had never met before and he was tending bar for his friend, the groom.

Well, my grandfather was correct – they were married on June 13, 1936, at St. Salomea’s Church in Chicago.

Galkowski-Wagner Wedding Day

Helen and Frank went on to have 3 children and lived in Chicago until 1973.  In 1973, they moved in with her oldest daughter’s family (my mother).

Helen was an avid reader and crocheter.  She taught me how to crochet when I was 5 years old.  She also knew how to sew – I didn’t really take to that as much as I did the crocheting. I also remember sitting in her bedroom, pretending to read her Harlequin Romances (I was too young to really read them) while she crocheted an afghan or whatever it was that she was making.  Looking back, that must have been entertainment for her, too, because I “read” out loud and came up with all kinds of story lines!

She had horrible arthritis and lupus.  She took prednisone as treatment.  It caused osteoporosis and affected her liver.  It was a trade-off – reduce the amount of pain and probably shorten her life or deal with the pain.  She decided the pain was too much.

After years of prednisone (and losing her husband 11 months earlier) Helen’s body started shutting down.  This is when I truly discovered mind over matter.  We visited her in the hospital.  She kept rallying off and on for a couple of days.  My mother went into her room: “Mom, today is June 1st.  Is there anything that I need to pay?  Mom, it’s June 1st.  June FIRST.”  I thought it was the strangest conversation that I had ever witnessed. Not “Mom, fight like hell” or “Be strong”.  “Today is June 1st”.

Within a few hours, she was moved into intensive care and we were paying our respects. We were saying good-bye.  I will never forget it.  I spent time off and on the pay phone (yes, a pay phone) with a college friend.  I wasn’t ready for this.  I was sad. I fought with her as a teenager – she drove me crazy – not now.  I was a bit older and wiser.  I went into her room in ICU and held her hand.  It was really warm.  Her eyes were closed and I could see she was trying to relax.  I leaned over to her and whispered in her ear – “Don’t be afraid.  I love you”.  She nodded her head in recognition and I left the room.

Helen Wanda Galkowski died June 1, 1987, at the age of 70.

The story doesn’t end here.  The mind over matter thing – I later asked my mother – “What was the big deal about it being June 1st?”  Without missing a beat, my mother replied, “If it was May 31st, I would have had to mail her social security check back.  Now that it’s June 1st, I get to keep it.”  What?  What a bizarre answer.  The more I thought about it and the preceding couple of days, it started to seem less and less bizarre.

Hmmm.  That will be one of those things I hope to be able to ask her myself one day.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.


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