Saturday, February 14, 2009
Jeanne Ann Buckli Harmon - "I was blind but now I see."
Jeannie left this life and entered a new one Thursday evening, February 12, 2009. In so many ways, I'm happy for her. She will have a new body, a pain-free one, a fully functioning one, but how we will miss her.
Jeannie always met life head-on. Her life was never easy, but she never just accepted what life dished out to her. She fought a brave battle. She was diagnosed early on with type 1 diabetes, and the complications of that disease plagued her throughout her life.
Somewhere in her 20's she had retinal neuropathy and lost sight in both eyes. For about two years, she was blind. She learned to function as a blind adult, living independently. Then she tried a new experimental procedure, laser surgery and voila, she regained her sight. She called it her miracle. And it was. She avoided night driving and bright lights, but otherwise saw sufficiently to read, write, use a computer and whatever other function she needed.
She didn't allow her disease to define her. Jeannie was her own woman. She wanted children, desperately, and was delighted when she was able to adopt Amy Renee. I'll always see Amy as a tiny infant with a bow scotchtaped to the blonde fuzz that grew from her head. Like a little duck with fuzzy down and a red bow. Later, she and Pat adopted a second child, a little boy, Michael. Jeannie believed her family was finally complete.
Somewhere in her thirties, Jeannie's kidneys failed. She had a kidney transplant, one donated by her sister, Barbie. We worried about her then, but she pulled through, as did the generous, loving sister. And she continued writing and editing, mothering and being a wife.
In her forties, her feet and legs began to bother her. There were sores that wouldn't heal. There was talk of amputation. Jeannie resisted mightily! She did not want to be confined to a wheelchair. There were some surgical procedures, but she kept her feet, and she kept going.
More recently in her fifties, her heart began to weaken. Her physical, organic heart, not her metiphorical spiritual heart! By now she's been living in Colorado for several years and I'm not certain about the details, but the strength and function of her heart was of concern. Jeannie kept going. She did partially retire, but kept busy at home as an editorial consultant and writer.
The last memories I have of Jeannie was a visit when I was undergoing chemotherapy. We went wig shopping! I tried on the most ridiculous wigs -- blond spikes, red curls, long straight locks -- while Jeannie laughed and gave them a thumbs down. She tried some too. The ravages of diabetes and medicines had left her hair thin, so she preferred a wig. But she wanted a more sedate one, a more conservative look. Neither of us decided on a wig that day, but we had fun laughing and posing. Two middle-aged women both engaged in a fight for life, but determined to enjoy every moment that life would give.
Jeannie's last moments were as she wanted. There was little drama, she was surrounded by her family, her granddaughters. She gave them their Valentine's Day presents and simply leaned back and closed her eyes. She died as she lived, quietly, with dignity and fully functional until the end.
Jeannie, we will miss you. However, I'm happy that vision and mobility are no longer a strugge. The battle is over and you've won the victory. You were blind, but now, you have 20/20 vision!