I received the following message from Jon Gilbertson (husband of the late Mary (Kay) Gilbertson, (Note: the original message included photo attachments that are not included due to file size restrictions. Chuck.)
October 29, 2008
Dear Family & Friends;
As the first anniversary of Mary’s death approaches I want to get back in touch with everyone and let you all know a few of the events that have taken place since last year and to refresh everyone’s memory of my wife, my partner, my sidekick and my beloved with whom I shared most of my life – 49 years. It has not been an easy year for me without her, but the memories are good and she is very much with me in spirit.
It is hard for me to comprehend that a year has already passed since I last talked to her, held her hand, hugged her and given her a kiss. Fortunately, almost up until the minute that she died I was able to do all of these things as she was completely aware of what was happening to her. I don’t think that I will have the strength to face and accept death as she did, but perhaps she taught me something about death.
Even though Mary was a teacher, well read, accomplished in philosophy, theology and literature and understood the many differences and points of view of great thinkers today and throughout history – she still firmly believed in her Catholic under-pinning’s and the hope for a life after this one. I know that is what helped her face her on-coming death – she faced it as a true Christian. Even though I understand all of that and know where she was coming from, I still find it very hard to accept her death because I still miss her so much. She was too young to die at age 67 not long after my retiring, as we had hoped for some relaxing years together as we grew old. It was not to be.
As many of you know, the first few months after her death were spent just trying to recover from the shock and to re-establish some semblance of stability and understanding of my new situation. Mary died on Oct. 29th, 2007 and by January, 2008 I had joined a bereavement support group at Calvary Hospital which met once a week and consisted of folks who had recently lost their spouse – both men and woman. As it turned out, these sessions were very good for me and for the others as it allowed us all to relate to each other on an equal basis – all of us dealing with the grief of losing our long time spouse and partner. We completely understood each other and the feelings and sadness that we were all experiencing. That support helped immensely.
As both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in 2007 were so soon after her death, I spent these occasions along with our son Jose, and dog Lou with our long time friends, the Pikes in Foxboro, Mass. Their children, our God-children, all have lots more children so being with good friends and such a large gang of kids helped soften the grief some – at least temporarily.
This spring brought the installation of two beautiful memorials/monuments to Mary which will remain permanently in place. The first was one that many of you contributed to at Calvary Hospital and is now placed on the wonderful ‘Tree of Life’ arboretum hallway at Calvary. You all contributed nearly $2500 to this gold plated memorial and it is very beautiful as you will see in one of the attached photos.
The other, of course, is her head stone that was installed at her grave, just before Memorial Day in the St. Alphonsus cemetery in Queensbury, N.Y. I spent a couple months early this year deciding what it should look like and what to put on it and I think that it honor’s Mary life just as she would want. The message on both memorials – “We shall meet in the sweet, by and by” – was her favorite which we discovered years ago in a small rural cemetery in Connecticut which we visited often and as recently as May, 2006. Some of Mary’s family and friends have visited her grave this summer and have commented on the beauty and appropriateness of this monument – everyone is invited to visit whenever you can
This summer, in early July, I decided to ‘break out’ and take a trip to Wisconsin to attend Mary’s 50th high school class reunion in Madison – Madison West HS, Class of 1958. I took our son Jose’, our dog Lou, and our 1998 Chevrolet Astro Van and headed west on I-80/90 toward Chicago on a 3 week junket. Mary had wanted to attend her reunion but didn’t make it, so after first deciding that I wasn’t up to going, but then changing my mind and deciding that I damn well should go – I did. It was absolutely the right thing to do as I met many former friends and classmates of hers, most of whom I had never met before and it was just wonderful. They even made me an ‘honorary’ member of their Class of 1958 with a page for me, in addition to Mary, in their 50th reunion class year-book. I continue to remain in contact with some of her classmates including two, who were bridesmaids in our wedding in June, 1962.
The Wisconsin trip was more than just the class reunion and just as important, it included visits with family – both Mary’s and mine. In the Madison area we stayed with my sister Jane, and brother-in-law Otto Cordero and visited Mary’s brother Bob Kay, her sister-in-law Inger, and their son and Mary’s nephew Tim. I also spent several days visiting the U. of Wisconsin Nuclear Engineering department including their test reactor and the engineering library – it was a real treat for me to come back to the department that I graduated from after 46 years away.
From Madison we traveled north to Melrose, my hometown where we stayed with my brother Joel and sister-in-law Sheryl and visited my sister Joan and brother-in-law Russ whom live in our old homestead. We celebrated my 70th birthday on July 17th with a back yard barbeque, relaxed there for a few days and got in some good bass fishing in northern Wisconsin for a couple of days as well. Mary loved bass fishing there and her memories and spirit were strong and very close to me while I was doing the things that we both loved and enjoyed so much during our life there.
Towards the end of July, we turned around and headed back on our path through the windy city of Chicago, through the heartland of Indiana and Ohio and on to New York. It was a good ‘break out’ for me and an excellent vacation for Jose’ who hasn’t been on a trip like this for several years now. Jose’ lives in Saratoga Springs, NY while Melissa lives with me in New York City and both have been doing OK during all of this.
The beauty of fall has come and almost gone in New York State and the Adirondacks and winter is approaching. This is the time of year that Mary loved best and is when she died – Oct. 29th, 2007 at 12:45 PM. This fall, we are in the midst of a presidential election campaign, an event that Mary and I were often involved with. Politics for her were very important and she took great joy in participating. She would have been a supporter of Barack Obama and his policies as I am now, and would have been appalled at what an economic mess our country is in. Let us hope and pray that our next president has the skill and the political will to get us out of this mess.
Affectionately yours, Jon.