[What follows is the text of the eulogy I delivered for Janet at her Celebration of Life event on 5/16/2005. The celebration was held at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. – Greg]
Hello and thank you for being here.
Here we are, gathered together to celebrate a life over 51 years in the making. Like a fine quilt, its a life woven by a master’s hand from many threads that together tell a rich story. Each of us represents one of those threads. Some long, some short, each a different color and part of a different story. Ask anyone here about how they know Janet and you shall hear those stories.
My thread began a bunch of years ago, when an amazingly beautiful woman introduced herself, shook my hand and took my breath away. From that moment, life has been one long pursuit to catch my breath. And just when I though I had it, that amazing woman would touch my heart and once again take my breath away. It happened in the midst of stunning beauty on Kalalau, on the trails of the Colorado rockies, in crowded public places and silent private moments. It happened in the light of her laughter and smile as she told a story or sang a song. It happened while listening to her breathe as she slept.
If I had been given the choice 14 years ago of either not knowing Janet or sharing the journey we had together, I would have started down the path with Janet without hesitation. What an amazing voyage and in a lot of respects, it was effortless. Each morning, I fell in love with Janet all over again. Each day she made me want to be a better man.
I was asked if Janet had lived all her life here in Colorado and I answered, “No. She probably lived twice that.” Consider it a privilege, my friends, to spend any amount of time in the company of someone who is living their life to the fullest. I have been privileged to spend 14 magical years in the company of just such a person.
Each of the past 10 years, Janet sized up the cancer dragon, did battle and won. This year was different. It turns out, this is the year, as Janet said, she did both death and taxes. This year her victory was permanent and the dragon extinguished. Janet and I were fortunate. We had 10 years to talk about this day. Many people are lucky to get 10 minutes.
I am grateful to the efforts of a great many people for making the past 14 years possible. I regret I cannot publicly thank everyone. There isn’t enough food here to sustain the effort nor enough alcohol to make it tolerable for all of you. Yet, there are a few who’s contributions must be recognized before this impressive array of witnesses. People who have been with us from the beginning.
First and foremost, a very deep and humble bow to Janet. She has completed an odyssey of truly epic proportions and if our love was the sustaining force behind that effort, than I am profoundly honored.
Researching health issue with Janet was often a little like determining whether or not the designated hitter rule was more or less green than a pig. Janet’s effort for creating the optimal solution for her health often appeared to be a matter of finding the right wrench to pound the correct screw. She had so many variables in play as she sought to restore her health it would have driven any lesser scientist mad. All this might give cause for criticism, except for one undeniable fact. What she did somehow worked. Time and again she refused do-this-or-be-dead-tomorrow treatments. Time and again, she was knocked down hard, got up and moved forward. Time and again, she lived far beyond professional expectations. It made no difference if it was a chemotherapy treatment showcased by a prestigious university or a vial of tar peddled by some alternative medicine hack â€“ it was all snake oil until it passed Janet’s set of criteria for quality of life.
A deep and humble bow to Jeff Matous. Jeff was the doctor for 49 of Janet’s 55 chemotherapy treatments, remained her doctor through hospice and knows first hand the pain of loosing a loved one to cancer. I do not know how Jeff acquired the qualities which make him a physician of unparalleled intelligence, humility and compassion, but I am certain it wasn’t from medical school. Quite early on, Janet sailed into that part of the world for which mapmakers simple drew water and scrolled “Here be Monsters”. Even so, Jeff stayed on board. Janet knew how to ask tough questions and Jeff took every last one of them straight on. That level of dedication comes from the heart. Thank you Jeff.
The same bow to Jeff’s nurses, Lori and Megan. Their compassion, expert knowledge, experience and dedication were a constant source of comfort and reassurance for both Janet and I. Thank you Lori and Megan.
I bow again to Rain and Gary Klepper. Their knowledge and expertise for how to support a healthy body while it fights disease was every bit as important to Janet’s success as was chemotherapy. In fact, the two together resulted in an even greater, positive effect on Janet’s health than either chemotherapy or nutritional support alone could have achieved. Thank you Rain and Gary.
A bow for Patty Wang, Janet’s Chinese medicine doctor. Patty’s herb and acupuncture treatments provided comfort and relief when all else had failed. Thank you Patty.
A bow to a host of real life guardian angels who’s constant support over the past 10 years has made our journey far more bearable: Randy Paulsen and Dennis Wanebo for helping restore a sense that, when it counts, the world can be made fair. Angela Burdick and Bruce Rindahl for providing precisely what was need at the perfect moment without having been asked. Amber Dahlin for helping Janet give voice to her story. Cynthia Chapman for supporting both Janet and Cherubim Foundation. Chris Crowley, long time best friend and best man at our wedding. Chris’ wit and humor is the one I measure my own against.
We are here today to show our continued respect for Janet, to recognize her life, acknowledge her contributions, grieve our loss and say goodbye. We are also here to celebrate her life and to celebrate each of our own lives. It is a day to meet and say “hello” to many of the other people touch by Janet. It is a day to recognize that what ever challenges each of us face, we have another opportunity.
For my part, I wish to honor Janet by offering a simple prayer on her behalf. I begin this prayer by calling in the light.
Hear these words from my heart.
You have given this world the gift of one of your children.
I knew her as Janet Laurel.
My grief announces that she has completed her work here and has returned to your loving embrace.
Please accept her.
Through her tears and suffering
she showed courage and strength.
Through her courage and strength
she gave inspiration.
Through her inspiration
she spread the power of love.
Janet, you no longer need call in the light. The light has called you in. And so, may the Angels above carry you into Paradise.
Unfortunately, God, I’ve never known Janet to leave the house in one go. She would invariably return at least once, often twice, to fetch some forgotten item – a cell phone, lipstick, or folder of papers. Well, on the likely chance she has left this world without her resume, myself and others would like to send along some of the highlights for your consideration.
[Comments from family will be included as I receive copies.]
David Pokorny, Janet’s brother
Harry Roy Pokorny, Janet’s father
Some of you may not know that I am Janet’s Dad.
I just wanted to say a few things about her struggle over the last 10 years.
She was a fighter willing to take risks hoping to beat the cancer.
She was taking all kinds of supplements and vitamins in addition to the chemo and radiation.
She went to Montana to get an experimental medicine. When it was no longer available from that source she went to a Doctor in Ireland to get it from him. Finely she found a source in Texas or California.
She visited a Psychic in New Mexico for comfort.
All to no avail. About a week before she died she called to say goodbye. May she rest in peace.
I would also like to thank her husband Greg for all he did to maker her comfortable through their struggle.
He fed the dogs, walked the dogs, washed the dogs and cleaned up after them in the back yard.
He did the shopping, the laundry, the house cleaning and everything else that had to be done.
Greg we love you for all you did to make Janet’s life as pleasant as possible and we thank you again.
Dorothy Pokorny, Janet’s mother
Alexis Pokorny, Janet’s niece (read by Colleen Pokorny, Alexis’ mother)
Whenever I think of my relationship with my Aunt Janet I think of royal Purple. Her letters were almost always written with that color and she made certain that even I had my own purple pen stash to respond to her letters.
But what really comes to mind is how she made me feel like royalty. She counted down the days to our next visits in her many letters, postcards and emails. It made me feel honored to know that she was eagerly marking down the days till my arrival. Then, when I finally, after hundreds of days, got out to Denver, Colorado, we would go out for High Tea. Let me tell you, we got all dolled up, and wore these adorable Victorian hats and drank red zinger tea, and we ate cakes and biscuits. Those have to be my most fond memories with her.
She gave me opportunity to explore, was guiding and understanding, and to me was my second mother. She taught me to pray for people and show concern and passion to those in need on a level I could only hope to aspire to. The love she bestowed on me made me feel like royalty, but inside, I know that I am only a princess and she is a queen among the angel kingdom, and God truly loves his angel queen.
George Johnston, Janet’s uncle
Although very difficult for me, this is a great honor to speak of Janet Laurel. I welcome the opportunity for myself, as Janet’s uncle, and for my very loving and sympathetic wife, Norma.
Although we have known Janet for most of her life, it was not until the last 10 years or so that we really got to know Janet and thus became her loving friends.
Although we were separated by 1200 miles, we spoke often perhaps every week or so. Janet was easy to talk with. Some conversations were longer than others, some lasting over an hour or so, some filled with emotion, many with laughter.
We came to understand Janet. Sometimes, that was not always easy. What we came to understand was that Janet was highly focused and that she was determined to be in command of her own life, whatever she confronted. With such focus and with the prayers of many, Janet was able to beat the odds.
Quoting from Janet’s book, Heart and Soul ,
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I found myself asking, What is the message in this disease ? Still quoting, “For me, the choice became to see the good and the opportunity, or to succumb to negativity.”
Quoting from The Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth am I here for?
“Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity. Many people spend their lives trying to create a legacy on earth. What matters most will not be what others may say about your life but what God says.”
“His question will be – what did you do with what I gave you?
Janet accepted the challenge of this opportunity and created a means of helping others to see the message she clearly saw.
Quoting from a letter written in July 2001 (to the parishioners of St. Andrew’s Church in Ann Arbor) expressing appreciation for their continuing prayers, Janet wrote ” not a day goes by that I don’t enjoy this wonderful planet and the beings upon it that God has made for us.”
Those of you who were fortunate to read Janet’s account of the passing of her friend and associate Linda last October can appreciate the impact Janet had on others, and the love and compassion with which she gave of herself.
To know Janet Laurel has been an inspiration! And as my wife has reminded me, she always ended our conversations with, I Love You!
In closing, we want to express our enduring love and appreciation for Janet’s husband, Greg who was a full partner in Janet’s accomplishments.
Now Janet, we will continue our conversation – We are listening! And we love you!
Many of us here know well the skill with which Janet could wield her infamous “Cosmic Two by Four”. There are probably some of you here who actually paid for the experience. Then there’s me, who asked for the the live-in experience.
I am certain, we had all best continue our efforts to improve our selves, love ourselves and each other and by extension make the world a better place, just as Janet did. If we don’t, I have a hunch she’s still capable of swinging that “Cosmic Two by Four” in our direction when we least expect it and most need it. When I think about where she is now, God only knows how much power she’s packing.
As Janet’s transition drew upon her and her participation in this world dissolved along with her last breath, not for the last time, I am certain, she has taken my breath away.
I shall leave you with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson…
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
By anyone’s measure, Janet has succeeded.
I invite you to stroll around the gardens, to take a moment and smell the roses, perhaps enjoy the evening sunset. Among the flowers is where I most feel Janet’s presence, she loved them so very much. God bless each and everyone of you for being here to day, for your support and for being a part of Janet’s life. I encourage each of you extend a hand or a hug to those around you and share your favorite Janet story. Everyone here is amazing. I know this because Janet only knew amazing people.