MONDAY JANUARY 26,1998
Family inspires F-M community with its courage
It is a topic most of us avoid. We do not like to talk about it. We do not like to think about it. It unnerves us.
But death is a reality. It is a part of living. Sooner or later we all have to deal with it. Some of us deal with it better than others. All of us would avoid it if we could.
Certainly, one of the reasons it is such a sensitive subject is that it involves emotional trauma that takes a toll on us, hurts us, especially if it involves someone near and dear to us. I suspect another reason is that we don’t know with absolute certainty what awaits us after death.
Death sneaks in like a prowler in the night.
Many of us believe there is life after death, that we go to a better place – a place where there is no suffering, no pain, only eternal peace and happiness beyond our simple ability to comprehend.
It’s a beautiful, comforting thought. But it’s one we have to take on faith alone because no one – with the exception of our creator himself – has ever returned to tell us what awaits us after death. So, although we want to believe it with all of our heart, there is that teeny, tiny bit of uncertainty in our admittedly limited psyches. And because our human powers of comprehension are so limited, we react as a human being would be expected to react – with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what lies beyond.
The subject is on my mind this week because of two deaths that affected me personally. One of them involved a young lady of 16 I didn’t even know, and that is my loss. The death of Charity Kohlman, daughter of Judy and Gary Kubalak of Fargo, affected virtually everyone in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Charity died suddenly of a rare heart ailment on the day she was to be confirmed and the day after she had become Godmother to her baby sister on the occasion of the infant’s baptism.
She was a young, vibrant, teen-ager, a dance devotee and cheerleader at Fargo South High School – a child so together at age 16 that her closest friends weren’t even aware of her heart problem because she didn’t want to be the object of special treatment and sympathy. She simply wanted to be treated like any other teen-ager. But her best friend – her mother – knew.
I, and I suspect a great many of us, thought of our own children when we thought of Charity. What a terrible loss is the loss of a child. It tears our hearts out, it rips us asunder, it totally devastates us. Children are not supposed to die. We are supposed to die after we have lived a full and rich life. That’s what our hearts tell us. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Death sneaks in like a prowler in the night, when we least expect it.
Our hearts were lifted by Charity’s courageous mother, who, although she was grieving from this terrible loss, still had the courage and faith to say to all of us: “I’m the luckiest person on earth. God gave me this beautiful child for 16 years.” No wonder Nativity Catholic Church was packed for the funeral, that the outpouring of support for this special family included, as her mother put it in a thank you in The Forum, “enough flowers to build a stairway to heaven.”
We are humbled by their courageous example. Would that all of us had the attitude of the Kubalak family. I, for one, have no doubt that Charity rests in the loving arms of her creator; that her baby sister, Summer, will be the beneficiary of her special protection as she grows to adulthood. For, Charity is truly an angel of God.
The second death that affected me was that of a personal friend, a kind and gentle 71-year-old woman named Nadine Andre, a woman who lived her life doing for others, never much concerned about doing for herself.
In that way, she was much like her younger brother, Forum editor Joe Dill, who will be upset with me for publicly noting her passing. Joe, who thought the world of his only sister, prefers to do his suffering in private and that is his right.
But, I, too, thought a great deal of Nadine, whose special qualities were readily apparent to everyone who knew her. And I feel her passing should be noted because the world is a lesser place without her. Joe, and wife Marie, are in LaPorte, Ind., for Nadine’s funeral this morning.
Nadine had languished in a coma for four months following a tragic car accident, which occurred on a trip home from church. May her husband, Bob, and their five children, be comforted by the knowledge she is in a better place, reunited with her beloved parents.
So, while I am saddened by the passing of these two special people, I am also heartened by the lives the led.
And I continue to hope I am prepared to deal with death in the way Judy and Gary Kubalak are dealing with it. Their example is an inspiration to all of us.
Devine is The Forum’s managing editor.