11/16/05 Karen Knows
Once in a while, one of our families is given their answer. Sometimes the answer is not the one they want to hear. They have found the missing person, but he/she is dead. We also have families who get joyous answers and are then reunited with the missing loved one. There is yet a third answer, and it is one I did not think of often.
Just last month, when I attended the 5 year missing event for Gina Bos in Lincoln, I was talking with Gina’s sister, and she was telling me that one of the mothers of a missing person she gave support to had passed away. She has never had that happen before. Neither had I. She told me she was surprised at how difficult it had been to digest that news. She also wondered who would pick up where the mother left off in the search for the missing family member.
This morning I received an email from the family of Karen Zoltkowski. Readers who have been with me for awhile might recall the story of her son, Jeff, who has been missing for 12 long years.
You may want to read it first, and then return here. http://voice4themissing.blogspot.com/2005/08/no-helicopter-ride-no-son.html
Karen’s sister Michelle and her daughter Cristin let me know that Karen had passed away on Monday. She died unexpectedly during surgery. I stared at the email and read it several times. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought back to the last time we had conversed. It had been a month. Oddly enough, I had just thought of her a couple of days before this, making a mental note that we hadn’t talked for awhile, and that I needed to check in with her.
It is difficult to write this, but I wanted to honor Karen. She was a role model for mothers of the missing. She dealt with Jeff being missing for 12 years, and yet she still made efforts to find him. She was not bitter, as I have seen some become when they have a long term missing person. She just kept on being his mother, loving him regardless of whatever had separated them. I was inspired by her ability to keep trying for Jeff, even though the years of dealing with his being missing surely had taken its toll on her.
By the way, Cristen and Michelle said they will take up where Karen left off in the search for Jeff. He will not be forgotten, and neither will Karen.
I looked back in our correspondence, and I want to share a few things that Karen had to say.
“I was very touched by the story Travis wrote about his friend Ryan. I think that this is a lesson all of us could learn even if we are a lot older than Travis.” (See Lesson in the Loss)
“I believe in hope, I believe it is what makes us survivors. Nothing is a waste of time.”
“In the beginning I thought that if he was dead I didn't want to know, but I realize knowing is better than the uncertain.”
“Obviously when you are in our situation you are so appreciative of anything someone does. It gives hope which carries you through day to day living. In some ways it is someone validating that your child matters to someone other than you. It is a wonderful gift to give a family that wakes up and goes to sleep with a hole in their heart.”
“This is not about me. Sometimes I allow myself time to deal with certain issues relating to Jeff. I cannot sink my head in the sand and pretend this has not happened. It is better to do something than have the search stop.”
From the story in the above link, I share some of Karen’s thoughts:
““My greatest fear is that someone hurt him and they are getting away with it and that someone did not value who and what he is. I fear that someone out there knows where Jeff is and does not care enough to tell. I fear that he is ill or hungry, and I can't help because I do not know where he is. I fear that I will go to my grave not knowing where he is. I fear that I will not know how to deal with it.
Some days are easier than others. I pretend to be ok, but my heart is broken. I deal with it like every other parent that has a missing child - one second at a time, praying for the Grace of God.When your son is missing, he is the first thing you think of in the morning, and the last at night. You try to be joyful about simple things in your life, and you pray that the future brings news about your beloved son. You pray that he is safe and not hungry or ill. You hope that you can continue to take one breath at a time because the hole in your heart is so painful.”
Karen had died before she had her answer, but now she has it. She is at peace and her search is over. Now she can truly rest.
Thank you, Karen for allowing me to share part of your life’s journey and to learn from you.
November 16, 2005
Age 58, November 14, 2005. Loving mother of Jeffery and Kimberly (Ronald) Caramagno. Grandmother of Olivia. Dearest daughter of Betty and the late John Bowser. Dear sister of Michele (John) Erickson, Kevin (Chris) Bowser and Mark (Darlene) Bowser. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. Visitation will be Thursday 2-9 p.m. at Harry J. Will Funeral Home, 37000 Six Mile Road, Livonia. Funeral Service Friday 11:30 a.m. at the funeral home. Interment Glen Eden Memorial Park. Memorial contributions may be made to Protect Jason, Post Office Box 3035, Omaha, Nebraska 68103.
I am honored that Karen (and her family) thought so highly of our organization as to remember us after she was gone. To be in the position of effecting the lives of others so profoundly in this way is a privelege and a blessing.