Helen T. FabisMay 6, 2011
March 1, 1914 - April 30, 2001
March 1, 1914 - April 30, 2001
Dear Aunt Helen,
My Shining Star. You are a treasure, my inspiration and motivation, all I do is in memory and honor of you.
The beginning of our relationship, the special bond between Godmother and Goddaughter began at my beginning, my Baptism, growing stronger and deeper each year. As a young child and throughout my adult life, I was greatly influenced by you, what I saw in you, especially your love of family and the close relationship between you and Mom.
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 10 long years since Cynthia and I last saw you. We miss you. I miss you so very much, spending time with you, wishing we could pick up where we left off, our lively conversations, talking on the phone, catching up on family matters, our latest sewing projects, your displeasure at how difficult it was to find “Made in USA” labels on clothing and your favorite subjects, politics and current affairs.
Your wise and caring words are always with me, I can hear you saying it now, all people have a beginning and an end. It’s what you do in the middle that matters most.
You had a kind word for and about everyone, always in the background, never wanting recognition or any special attention of importance. You were and still are a very important person, the core, the heart and soul of our family, loved by everyone who knew you and many more who knew of you.
Always soft spoken, considerate, the caregiver for your aging ailing parents; memories of you as a hard working business woman, a 1940’s entrepreneur who drove a car, a fashion designer and gifted seamstress and so much more. Warm memories of you and Uncle Wally dancing in your living room, celebrating your ultimate design achievement, you finished sewing my wedding dress. You were glowing, we had completed the final alterations, my wedding dress ensemble was complete, mission accomplished.
I wish I knew. No one could have warned us or predicted the future, the torment of the last days of your life, your unnatural death that forever changed my life. We couldn’t rescue you. The way your life ended was the end of my life as I knew it, the day you left us was a new beginning, leading me in a very different direction on a mission that directs and drives me to this day.
On the last day of your life, I saw a Catholic Nun getting on an elevator, seeing her was a sign for me to call for a priest. I hope your remember Father Mike, he was the last person to see you. He is the Catholic priest from St Stephens Parish that answered my urgent call for a Priest to come to see you. I called the Rectory nearest the nursing home. Father Mike was just about to sit down to eat his dinner. I told him about you, how you were being treated, forced to go without food and water, you were in a great deal of pain, getting weaker, barely struggling to survive. He promised me that he would leave immediately to comfort and bless you, he kept his promise.
I know what you’re thinking, yes, I did send him a thank you letter with a generous donation expressing our deep appreciation for being there for you. Since that time, Father Mike was transferred to my parish, he is our new Pastor only a few blocks from our house.
And, there’s more, on November 17, 2007 Cynthia and I went to St John Berchman’s School 100 year Anniversary celebration Mass and grand reception of an all class reunion in the Church hall where alumni gathered with their graduating class for buffet dinner while catching up and reminiscing with former classmates and teachers.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t believe my eyes there he was, standing at our table, it was Father Mike, I did not know we went to school together, or knew each other, we were in the same graduation class. Seeing him took me back in time firing up all of my emotions, taking me back to place and time to April 30, 2001. It was as if everyone vanished, no one else was in that room with us. Who could have known all those years ago, we were all together at St. Johns Berchman’s Church when Mike and I received our diplomas.
All of us in the family have changed; we are very different now, we view life through different, untrusting eyes. I can only hope and pray that you understand, I did my best. I needed to protect you as much as possible from hearing upsetting news. You asked me so many questions, you wanted to know where your stuff was, you wanted your own radio, your old clock, photos of Uncle Wally, your clothes and pajamas, it upset me to know you hated what you were wearing, you knew something very bad happened to you at that house. I promised you that the family would unite, Ed and I would not stop until we discovered the truth, what happened to you and then we would hunt down everyone who hurt you.
I noticed from our first trips to the hospital up North, you never referred to ‘her’ by name, your temporary guardian’s name. You asked me many times, who is ‘she’? Why is ‘she’ here? Why is ‘she’ making decisions for you. You wanted ‘her’ gone out of your life but there was nothing we could do, we were powerless, I didn’t have any rights to help you or to complain.
As hard as I try, I cannot recover from what I witnessed. It is impossible to forget or to erase those heart wrenching memories, the visions, I can hear you, I can feel you and see you, confused, afraid and frail in that stripped down Medicare room, so weakened by medications, the psychotropic drugs that further damaged your mind and your body.
When you were transferred to Illinois, I visited you every day, suddenly there was a drastic change, you weren’t allowed in the dining room for your meals, no food was brought to your room, I was shocked at the cruel treatment of what the temporary guardian called Hospice care that was forced on you. I didn’t understand why, why now? I thought guardianship is supposed to protect you from harm. I thought Hospice care was compassionate care, comfort care. What I didn’t know and found out later we were deceived; Hospice care for you was a code word meaning elimination of the problem by prolonged death by starvation and dehydration, their method of hastening your death.
‘She’ came by the day you died, I remember ‘she’ looked you over, telling me that any funeral plans would be on hold because ‘she’ was having surgery and there wasn’t any money for a funeral anyway. ‘She’ left you slumped over in your wheelchair, and then ‘she’ was gone.
Cynthia was here for several days trying to get you some relief. She was doing her best pleading for help from the staff to get permission to order the antibiotic medications that you needed with our promise to pay. You were too weak to hold your head up, Cynthia and I wanted them to stop torturing you, she was pleading for help from the staff, to help us get you out of your wheelchair, you needed to be lying down in your bed.
You were too weak to hold your head up, Cynthia and I wanted them to stop torturing you. I was holding your head up while Cynthia was pleading for help from the staff, trying to get medications for you, someone, anyone to help us get you out of your wheelchair and put you in your bed.
No one came to help us, it seemed like an eternity. You were slumped over in your wheelchair, in agony, pleading with me, holding me, too weak to speak but only a word or two, silently screaming, pointing to your mouth to give you water.
I was in a state of panic, doing my best to stay strong for you, acting as if everything will be alright, trying to hold myself together, I was so upset and beside myself at the horror of watching you struggle and suffer. I found a water glass, I did give you a few sips of water, you were able to swallow without any problems, you wanted more; I gave you more, you were so thirsty you were pulling on the glass, water was spilling on the floor.
I would have given you as much water as you could handle, but I couldn’t, I was in serious trouble, when a member of the staff walked into your room and saw what I had done. She was angry at me, she told me to get rid of the water, one warning, go along with the plan or else. Orders were, you were allowed to have only one or two drops of water from an eye dropper.
We were desperate, stopping their plan was hopeless, we knew there was nothing more we could do to give you any relief, we had pushed our limits, if we had disobeyed their orders, their Hospice plan, one wrong move would have me and Cynthia forcibly and permanently removed from your room.
Mercifully, Father Mike comforted and blessed you; your final days of suffering were over.
I kept my promise to you with support and extraordinary assistance from Ed along with Attorneys Frank Jablonksi and David Sparer. the family united. We became your voice, with the help of an army of soldiers from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office fighting for you - as if you were their treasured Aunt too.
We were determined to hold “her” accountable, and we did. “She” went to jail, Aunt Helen, for what “she” did to you. At “her” sentencing, the Judge admonished “her” as “she” stood there with “her” head down: "The funds should have been used for her (Helen Fabis) benefit, but you used them for your benefit...You took money from someone who could not protect herself. You were supposed to protect her...We as a people will be judged by how we treat the least in our society and those who cannot help themselves."
Justice was served that day and we were so glad. But what we wanted – and what I still want – is you.
We miss you, we love you, we are eternally grateful for the short time we had together.
All my love,
Estate of Helen Fabis vs. William Skibbe et al;
Dane County Case Number 2002CV003962
Great Escapes: "Woman Sentenced for Swindling Great-Aunt"