This is a very different -- and difficult -- post for me.
Today, I would like to recognize the life of Ken Jablonski. Ken died 15 years ago, sometime between the hours of 4 and 8 AM on February 22nd, 1993. He was 34 years old. He had suffered from severe kidney disease, leading to total kidney failure (and two failed transplants). He had survived more than 20 years of kidney dialysis. He was also, for the many years that I knew him, totally blind. Early in the morning of February 22nd, 1993, while waiting for the taxi to take him to his thrice-weekly dialysis treatment, he suffered what appeared to be a fatal heart attack. When the taxi company called the authorities to report his non-appearance that fatal morning, the police found his body on the living room floor, reaching for the phone.
At the request of his family, I was in charge of his funeral arrangements, and the disposition of most of his material goods.
Ken was a unique man. In spite of his physical disabilities -- and his blindness -- he was a musician of extraordinary skill -- on the piano, the guitar, and the electric guitar -- as well as being a gifted composer. He had one of the most profound -- and funny -- senses of humor that I have ever encountered in my life. Reading from a Braille manuscript, he proclaimed the Old Testament Lesson at my wedding, and remained very interested in my family life until his untimely death. (He died when my oldest son was 2 1/2 years old, and one month before my oldest daughter was born.)
Ken was an honest man; a generous man; a giving man; and a godly man. To the very end of his life, he was concerned about the needs and hurts of others. Upon his death, one of the tasks which fell to me was to "clean out" his computer -- and I found many more examples of his kindness and decency about which I had no knowledge -- even as his closest friend.
One final example: about four months prior to his death, Ken had the opportunity to meet the severely retarded and disabled daughter of my wife's best friends. She was only a small child at the time. After my wife's friends had returned home, Ken penned a letter to this little girl: a letter gripped with love and emotion. Some years after Ken's death, this little girl died as well -- and at the visitation for family and friends, Ken's letter was posted prominently by the casket. I don't believe I've ever met a more compassionate person in my entire life.
Ken, while a devout Christian, often joked about giving up "religious ritual" for Lent! And, true to form, he died just two days before Ash Wednesday! Tomorrow, while a day of abstinence, a part of me will be strongly tempted to give up -- in Ken's honor -- my Lenten disciplines -- just for a day.
Kenneth P. Jablonski -- may you rest in peace! May your friends be as lucky as you, to remember you so faithfully! And if, perchance, I should (in your honor) stray on Friday, please intercede to the Almighty on my behalf!
Labels: blindness, Personal, Tragedy