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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Friday, May 30, 2008

In Memoriam - Justine Saylors

Justine Saylors passed away 24 May 2008. She suffered terribly over the loss of her son, Lance Gilbert Kowalski who succumbed to juvenile Neuroblastoma on 23 October 2003. In the end, it was simply too much for her to bear and she took her life. Lance would have been eighteen this year and Justine was 46.

Her Memorial service is set for today. I wish I could be there. Unfortunately, I found out about her passing a few minutes ago. I live in New Mexico. I wish I was there. However, since I cannot be there, this is what I humbly offer up:

Regardless of what anyone feels about suicide, we all must realize it is a choice available to each of us. I do not stand in judgment over Justine's final decision regarding her existence because I too have known such dark times that it seemed the only option for me as well.

To my advantage, I have been spared the experience of losing someone so precious to me that my will to live is eclipsed by the void left by the death of someone whom I gave life to. Ironically, this is why I have such a deep regard for Justine for it was she who crystallized in my mind just how precious life is and how appreciative I am to have my children. They are my world. It is because of Justine that every morning when I wake up that I thank God I am alive to appreciate everything in my life. I appreciate the aches, the challenges, the pains and the many clues that my creator places before me as a means of revealing just how much I am loved.

These words do not come easily because for nearly ten years I battled with the idea of taking my own life. I was in a situation where I daily faced the prospect of dying a debilitating, painfully humiliating death.

In retrospect, I recall it as being in a pitch dark room no - so dark that I had no ability to see beyond my hand - and before me were so many doors. Each representing a decision and and a choice for me to walk through. The one door knob never far from my hand for ten years was the option of suicide and the temptation to walk through that door was immense.

However, I was also cognizant that there were other doors even though I had no way of knowing what was behind those decisions or the consequences of choosing to walk through any of them, I kept my options open and decided not to decide - at times on an daily basis if not even on an hourly basis - about not walking through the door which appealed so much as it held a definite and final answer; the door called, 'suicide.'

The door I eventually chose was life and that choice turned out to be the one that was right for me because I could not see into the future and while that was scary, I could not see any 'future' in the prospect of taking my own life. As it turned out, the one who has no name and who cannot be seen had something else planned for me, something magnificent, a life filled with awe, wonder and appreciation.

These days, I move through life with more deliberateness, conscientiousness and aware that every day is a gift, every ache is a gift and when my eyes close for the last time, I will no longer appreciate the gift of life - at least in this realm. Since the average Human being's life time is so limited and it can quite literally be over just one heartbeat from the present, I choose life. I choose to watch hummingbirds and take time to enjoy the simple things like smiles and flowers. I live every moment in the moment and I appreciate everything that is precious to me. I revel in the mysteries of life and I speak out when I see injustice and unnecessary suffering. I work daily at being mindful of all creation and never take anything for granted. Thus, words like, 'I love you' roll of my tongue with ease - there will come a time when that will no longer be possible. That time comes far too early in my estimation.

I do not fault Justine for her choosing to walk through the door of suicide because I respect her Humanity and her decisions are ultimately her own - that is as it should be. These days, so many people are into regulating other's lives with laws, morality and their own custom-made religious spins that they do so without regard for what is most sacred to the creator;


While such a concept was central to the founding of this great nation, everyone seems bent on making everyone else bend to their particularly valued religious and ideological wills. To me that is the ultimate sin; when we seek to impose our way on others because we are so convinced that we must be right.

Humans have the unique capacity to reason and this double-edged sword has been abused by the coalition-types who seek to impose order through their religion, morality and need to place an otherwise chaotic world in their own order. I am not of that ilk. I so value freedom to live that I would never seek to judge someone else's decisions regardless of how much they might conflict with mine.

That said, Justine Saylors lived her life and died according to her own plan. She reacted to life's events in a way only she could fathom and when death visited her through her son, it affected her in a way none of us can fathom. I respect her decision and I thank heaven she was a part of my life. I learned from her and I felt her pain. I met her son through her and I developed a deeper appreciation for life.

I love her and I wish I had known her better because when our correspondences trailed off - I knew she was going dark but I neither had the time nor the ability to reach out to her as she groped in the darkness for the right door to walk through.

It is my sincere hope that this nebulous void we call the internet reaches out to other people as the internet has reached out to me - if only to let the world know 'I exist' and moreover, we share a connectedness and a Humanity that supersedes our smallness in such a great big universe.

May she finally rest in peace, reunited with her beloved son. I wish had known her beyond the few correspondences I was lucky enough to share with her.

Tonight I cry for Justine. I cry for Lance. I cry for the suffering souls on this big blue ball who walk through it wounded and broken. Tomorrow I will fill the hummingbird feeders, I will water my plants and feed my animals before I eat. I do this routine every day out of appreciation to my creator for blessing me with life. I will make certain that everyone around me knows how valued and loved they are and I will think of Justine. It won't be difficult to keep both her's and Lance's memory alive because that automatically happens with every act of kindness, every act of compassion and every realization that theirs and every other soul's memory is kept alive by simply walking through life with an abiding appreciation for that which is most fleeting; mindfulness, love and Humanity.

They remain alive with every embrace, every kind word, every revelation of appreciation. They walked this earth and it has been made a better place because of it.

My heart goes out to Justine's family and all those whose lives she touched. I pray that someday we have all the answers which seem so terribly elusive as this tragic loss has visited upon us all.

God bless you Justine Saylors.


At Sun Jun 01, 01:04:00 PM MDT, Blogger Cara Dawn Romero said...


At Sun Jun 01, 09:39:00 PM MDT, Anonymous Ellen Hanson said...

Justine was a good, caring, loving person. She helped so many others also dealing with grief. She also helped to raise awareness and funding for pediatic cancer. We are having an Alex's Lemonade Stand for pediatric cancer research this weekend, she had some of these too. I will think of Lance and Justine, and know that there is another Angel in Heaven watching over the kids. God Bless you and thank you for honoring my friend Justine. love, Ellen~Sean's mom

At Fri Jun 06, 09:23:00 PM MDT, Anonymous Nurse Carol in Indianapolis said...

I also say Bravo to you as Cara did.
I have heard this song before and cry each time I hear it.
I have had my own struggles with depression and a diagnosis of Lupus...but much worse than this was experiencing all three of my children's depressions.
I have never felt such helplessness, dispair and sadness when I have watched my teenaged sons lose weight and lay at the end of my bed sobbing, and my daughter disconnecting from all of us in the family. I worried every moment that they would also choose that "other"door that you speak of... I did not think that I could bear the pain of losing them but felt ill equipped to do much about how they felt. In saying that I so understood feeling so sad and hopeless that taking my own life would be the only cure for the pain that I had inside me. Of course my husband and I got the professional assistance that our children needed but it was not without much sadness and self blame. What, as parents, could we have done differently?
I agree with you that no one has the right to judge because no one can know exactly what another person is going thru or what they can bear. Life is just very very hard on a good day for many people and who am I to know what is best for them.
I have endured struggles with my Lupus diagnosis but have a renewed appreciation for life and the "little things" that I took for granted at one time.
I too was on iTunes and read about Lance, went to the page that Justine had composed and was stunned that she was no longer with us.
This was a very sweet & fitting tribute to both Justine and Lance.
My condolences to their family and to all who were touched by them both.
I feel in my heart that Justine is now at peace.
Best wishes and my good thoughts to those reading this.

At Mon Jun 09, 06:37:00 AM MDT, Blogger Susan Christianson said...

I was lucky to made friends with Justine thru the internet as my son had NB as well. I wish I had known she was having such a difficult time. She worried about me due to Lance passing our son's b-day, welost our son to NB on 1-2-03. I also told her not to worry about that, Lance would have a new friend waiting for him. Our son was 15 when he passed. Hugs and kisses to both angels in heaven.

At Tue Jul 01, 06:00:00 AM MDT, Blogger Cheryl said...

You are now in Heaven with your beautiful Angel Son Lance. Earth may have lost a wonderful person but Heaven has gained a beautiful Angel. Please give all our Angels a hug for us.
Adam's Mom (4/7/82 ~ 8/17/99)

At Tue Jul 01, 07:49:00 PM MDT, Anonymous Rosaleen said...

Justine...I will miss you with all my heart my dear friend. I will miss our talks on the phone, our visits on the net and your loving friendship. You are now with Lance & I pray for you both. Please give my daughter Denise a hug from Mommy & until we meet again my friend...I love you! My deepest sympathy to your loved one's. God Bless you and Lance, your sister in friendship, Rosaleen.

At Wed Jul 09, 02:10:00 AM MDT, Blogger Christa said...

Christa Lynn (Tompkins) Alsop:
I am absolutely destroyed over this news. I was fat and pregnant when I was Justine's bridesmaid at Saint Monica's so long ago. I have been trying to contact her to tell her of my husband, Steve's, untimely death on 6/28/08; 3 days after our 25th wedding anniversary...

I'v known Justine for so long and knew she suffered about Lance, but just did not see this coming.

As I'm going through my own tremendous grief - my love, thoughts and prayers are with Justine.
Hey girl - find Steve and parteh.

I love you so - Christa

At Sat Sep 06, 08:59:00 PM MDT, Blogger Lance Snider said...

I am very sorry to hear of Justine's passing. She was a good friend to me when I was a new comer to Malibu California in 1984. We would take walks and talk about life. She was funny! and she was serious! Life takes different turns and we had not spoken in 25years. I Googled her today and was led to this site and sad news. Everyone was better for knowing her. Lance Snider

At Sun Sep 07, 05:56:00 AM MDT, Anonymous Lorenzo Roberto Almada said...

The poem that I wrote for Roberto Alaniz entitled "Alma de Aztlan" I think of as one that he wrote through me after he was murdered. I would be willing to translate it for you.

This is: Lorenzo Roberto Almada

At Sun Sep 07, 10:11:00 AM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...

Welcome Lorenzo and I would appreciate your translation. Your blog is great but there is no place for comments.

I look forward to getting to know you more and if you are ever in New Mexico, give me a call - dinner is on me.


At Mon Sep 29, 10:23:00 AM MDT, Blogger Desiree said...

My beautiful sister, I miss you so terribly but I know you are where you wanted to be. I am so honored to know that I have your blood pulsing through my veins. I can only hope that one day I will be half the woman you were. In the meantime keep sending me the dragonflies... I love you!

At Mon Jan 04, 08:15:00 AM MST, Anonymous Hannah Rae Joseph said...

I never knew either one of these wonderful people, but a few days ago I was cleaning my room and found a copy of Angels on Earth from four years ago. I read her story and was moved to tears. This was huge for me, because I rarely ever cry. I just went on-line to e-mail Justine about how moved I was by her story and was shocked by what I found. I am so sorry for all the grief this family has had to go through, and I am keeping each and every one of you in my prayers.


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