ANGEL IN THE SKY – PART 4

A few months ago, it was very therapeutic for me to create a new arrangement for my song “Angel in the Sky.” I created the instrumental video below using pictures and other images I’ve illustrated.

Yesterday I was writing to a friend in grief. I promised her that one day it would get better. She wrote:

I remember the beginning of this journey. It was a black hole of agony. I never thought I would reach this point but here I am. I will believe you because you have been walking this path longer than I have. Thank you.‪

I replied:

Today it is 25 years since the horrible day when I saw my child dead on October 6, 1992. I will never forget that image or the trauma.

But all these years later, I am peaceful.

Last night, I went out with some girlfriends to celebrate my birthday (it’s next week). We had a Thai massage and as I enjoyed it I felt overcome with emotion. I softly began to cry, my cheeks were wet with tears and I wondered if the masseuse knew.

I kept thinking about how much I love my three living children and how lucky I am that they are all doing well. So much has happened since his death. I will always wonder what he could have been – that hasn’t changed. But my acceptance fills me with amazement. I am in awe of my healing.

The first four links below are versions of my new arrangement (with and without vocals and/or instrumentation). Under those are my older instrumental arrangements.

Angel in the Sky Vocal Mix 9-19-17

Angel in the Sky Acoustic Mix 9-19-17

Angel in the Sky Arrangement 9-16-17

Angel in the Sky Guitar Mix 8-23-17

Angel in the Sky #2 Arrangement 2014

Angel in the Sky #1 Instrumental 2013

Links to read lyrics and other stories about this song:

Story behind ANGEL IN THE SKY-PART 1

Story behind ANGEL IN THE SKY-PART 2

Story behind ANGEL IN THE SKY-PART 3

When I first began grieving the death of my son, Jason, I did not look up and feel that he was my angel in sky.

I survived the worst pain and carried my sadness silently for many years. Rediscovering music seven years ago changed everything. I found a way to express my feelings, which led to healing and joy.

Angel in the Sky” reminds me of my love and pain. I do still cry and my voice reflects that when I sing my song.

Feeling him close to me, inspired by music and finding joy again in life represents my healing. But his death changed me and I still see my grief as a lifelong journey.

The picture on the right is a piece of artwork Jason made while in preschool. It looks like an angel to me.

For another bereaved mother that I correspond with, her vision of grief is one of a stalker.

I have shared many of my touching exchanges with Sammi on this blog. It has been five years since Sammi’s son AJ died. She writes about her grief with heartbreaking honesty and I often feel compelled to write back hopeful replies.

Below is a recent exchange between us.

SAMMI:

You know that place: the place between being awake and sleeping, the place where you are gently floating in a bubble of unawareness. That’s where I was last night when I suddenly gasped and sat up straight, staring around the room. I was disorganized at first. I had been sitting on the love seat, dozing in front of the TV. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. The last thing I remembered was hearing AJ’s voice, his laugh. It was comforting to me and suddenly it was gone. “I haven’t gone anywhere”, a voice whispered. “I’m still here” it said and chuckled. It was back: my stalker grief.”

They always think I’m gone . . . always,” the voice said while laughing. The pain hit me then, right in the center of my chest, knocking the breath right out of me, spiking my heart rate to a pounding fury. I wondered right then how I physically made it through the beginning of this horrible journey. I think people fail to realize that we are not only dealing with emotional problems but also physical problems as well and how I handled the two eludes me at times like this.

I rubbed my chest and tried to slow my breathing when I heard it again. “He’s never coming back”, a chuckle, “You will never see him again,” a singsong voice, “You will never watch him get married or see his children,” a whisper, “Never, never, never, never, never – it’s over!”

My eyes started to burn and the lump grew in my throat. “Please,” I whispered, “Go away . . . please!” The ominous cloud that I had succeeded in outrunning started to descend on me. My soul screamed: “I’ve had enough – No more!” It was suddenly silent and I couldn’t hear a thing, not even the TV.

“NO!” screamed the nightmare voice. “I decide when it is over . . . I always decide when it’s over!” The words echoed in my head. I let the tears fall. I let the pain take over. I gave up the struggle and sank into the abyss.

We learn to live with the agony that has been dumped into our lives. We learn to live with the knowledge that a part of us will always be missing. We learn to live with half of our heart and half of our soul. We develop a persona that we show to the world that they will accept. We appear normal and we fit in. We have no choice because if we show our true faces, the world cannot handle that. I don’t really blame them. I was there once too.

AJ, you had so much to give. You weren’t done. You should be here. I can say how much I miss you, ache for you, until I am blue in the face. Nothing changes. Nothing ever will. I will always, no, matter how much time has passed, wake to that stalker whispering in my ear. Time will never change that; it will only lengthen in between visits.

AJ, how I yearn for you. I can’t even type these words without the tears starting. Living without you has not become easier. Missing you has not lessened. I wish daily that it had been me. That is how it is supposed to be, parent before child.

It should have been me.

JUDY:

Sammi, your writing is so gut wrenching as you describe your grief. But one day, perhaps your story will ease into a different direction.

Your story begins the same way. Except that when you hear AJ’s voice – instead of being stabbed by the stalker of grief, you will hear AJ speaking to you. You will be enveloped by his love and feel certain he is surrounding you always.

Some of the aching and longing might eventually diminish over time – but love never changes. I understand how it can feel hopeless. I remember that so well.

But you have acknowledged that the stalker of grief is definitely visiting you less and less. You are wise to know it might come again.

I look forward to when you have more and more moments of feeling AJ with you. I say my son returned to me. That was the beginning of my healing. One day he came back and that realization has helped me every day.

Thinking of you with so much love and care.

The thought that someday my grief would ease didn’t seem possible 25 years ago.

When grief is raw and torturous, someday feels like never, the loss is too huge and the hole is gaping. Coping with that anguish leaves no possibility or hope for feeling better, let alone peaceful or joyous about life.

I do believe there is a chain of support that develops with grief. Holding on and later on helping others was very key to my survival of grief.

The exchange below represents three bereaved mothers. The first mother has just begun her journey. The second mother, Sammi, is five years along on her journey. I am the third bereaved mother.

Today I cried

Today I thought of you

Today I missed you

Today I cried

Today I wished you were here

Today I thought of something you would like

Today I saw something you would want

Today I saw your picture

Today I heard your favorite song

Today I cried

Today I thought of something that would make you laugh

Today I looked through your things

Today I saw your friends

Today I knew your siblings missed you

Today I still can’t believe you’re gone

Today I cried

Today I longed to hold your hand

Today I longed to hear your voice

Today I wished it were me

Today was hard. I hope I have the strength to do it all again tomorrow.

Danni (Dani tragically lost her daughter Caitlin only a few months ago in a tragic accident.)

 

Today you got out of bed.

Today you took care of your family.

Today you lived through the pain.

Today you shared with those who understand.

Today you will cry again.

Tomorrow you will do it all again.

We are here.

Sammi

SOMEDAY . . .

Someday, you will wonder how you survived this horrific grief journey.

Someday, there will be moments when you’ll still cry. But then you’ll wipe away the tears.

Someday, you will look back and smile when beautiful memories return.

Someday, you will hold someone else’s hand that is in total despair to help give them the strength to keep going.

Judy

 

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PEACEFUL AND INSPIRED-PART 2

It was so different for me to be traveling on my own. I opened the window of my quaint motel room and the smell of pine was glorious. After showering, I threw my suitcases into my Honda Civic. I turned on my meditation music to inspire me for my 5-hour drive through Northern California. I was leaving Paradise (what a beautiful name for a mountain town!) and driving to Santa Rosa.

Dappled shadows sprinkled over my car as I navigated the mountain road. Once I hit the bottom, I sailed past rolling hills and vineyards.

A sign caught my eye and I turned off the highway. My car shook as I went down a long dirt road into an orchard. After a restroom stop, I carried a large box of fresh peaches and put them on the seat next to me. The peaches would be a lovely gift to share with Cindy when I arrived. Soon I found myself eating a juicy peach as I drove – I was truly in heaven.

Cindy and I knew each other in high school and had been very close while in college. We lost touch shortly before I was married. At our 30th high school reunion, we reconnected. And only a few months ago at our 40th reunion, she mentioned to me that I could visit her anytime I wanted to.

I decided to take her up on her offer. When my 27-year-old son told me he wanted to visit his uncle in Northern California for five days, I knew it was a terrific opportunity for him and I to spend one-on-one time together on the long drive there. I could visit Cindy after dropping him off and this would definitely add adventure to my life.

It was a long time ago when Cindy and I used to go horseback riding, hiking and folk dancing. Losing touch with her felt sad; I had even written a song about it. But my mind was still foggy about why it had happened.

After our 30th high school reunion, Cindy came to visit me. Our children were of similar ages and at that time I was living in a huge home. I showed her my artwork and we talked about our lives since college. We took some really nice family pictures on that day.

Years later when I told Cindy that I was getting divorced, she said, “Judy, I noticed that something was really off when I visited you ten years ago. I even told my husband Barry that something was wrong.” I asked her to explain – what was off?

She told me she sensed my unhappy marriage. Her clue was that my husband and I had barely spoken to or about each other. And what had really surprised her was when she asked me if I ever sang and played my guitar anymore.

I gave her my standard answer. The music that had given me joy and intimacy with my friends was gone. I stopped playing after I was married because I was too busy focusing on my career. Cindy was very surprised by my answer because music was my identity all the time she knew me. When my music ended, I lost the connection and expression of my heart.

My detachment from music and joy was clear to her. I just didn’t know.

This post is named for my song “Peaceful and Inspired,” which I composed in 2014 while on a trip in Oregon.

Link to Part 1 of this story: Story behind PEACEFUL AND INSPIRED-PART 1

I have added new guitar tracks to my older arrangement and share my updated version in different ways below:

Peaceful and Inspired Acoustic-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

Peaceful and Inspired Guitars-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

Peaceful and Inspired Arrangement-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

Peaceful and Inspired Vocal-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

Driving with my son turned out to be very special and his company was precious. Even though he lived with me, he was making plans to move away – possibly early next year.

I was fine doing most of the driving through boring stretches of farmland. We stopped for lunch at a famous Pea Soup restaurant and took pictures of each other.

I was curious how it would be seeing my son’s uncle, my former brother-in-law. It was probably about ten years since we had seen each other. I knew my divorce probably came as a shock to him; I remembered how I felt after both my brothers’ divorces.

In the early evening we arrived at the forest town of Paradise, which was our destination. I enjoyed seeing my former brother-in-law and his lovely wife. They were warm and excited to see my son. There was nothing awkward about our time together and I felt comfortable.

We went out for dinner and afterwards we all took a walk at a nearby park. I especially appreciated the cooler air since the hot weather had been stifling when we left earlier that morning. The park was connected to a pine forest and deer walked within view.

I said good night to everyone and checked into a motel nearby. The feeling of freedom was indescribable. I was alone in this beautiful setting and filled with gratitude.

Before I rediscovered my love for music, I was not peaceful. I was “stressed out and uninspired.”

When I started to play my guitar again, I found inspiration but I was still fairly stressed out. I had to manage with both my parents’ declining health. I was an advocate for all of my children. Separating after a long marriage and suffering with dry eyes took a huge toll upon my psyche.

Yet during that time, I experienced an amazing renaissance of writing and composing. I am truly in awe about how I did those things while struggling, but consider it a spiritual gift that saved me.

Now that I am in a place of peacefulness, I haven’t felt the need to write like I used to. My time and energy is spent creating new recordings and arrangements of my songs.

When I reflect upon my life and my amazing journey, I seldom imagine what is ahead for me. I feel like where I am it is an absolutely perfect and beautiful place to be.

I am able to devote myself to my passion of creating music. I am close to all three of my children. What more could I want?

I arrived at Cindy and Barry’s home in the late afternoon. I was tired and I felt relieved to have made it safely there. Cindy warmly welcomed me in and Barry helped carry my suitcase and guitar into their daughter’s bedroom.

It worked out well that their daughter was going away that very day to see a solar eclipse that was a few hundred miles away. I would sleep in her room.

Over the next few days, I felt very relaxed with Cindy and Barry. I enjoyed making scrambled eggs for everyone and we went out for wonderful meals in great restaurants. In her daughter’s bedroom was a tank with a large snake inside. Cindy encouraged me to hold it. I owned reptiles when I was a young girl and that was such a long time ago. It was crazy when she took some pictures for me – the snake began wrapping around my neck!

Several times, I pulled out my guitar and shared my songs with her. She sat nearby in an old rocking chair to listen. At one point, we both sang songs together and the memories from the past were so touching.

During one of our long talks, I felt sad that I couldn’t remember why we had lost touch. Cindy opened up to share many of her feelings with me. I became emotional hearing about the awful things she had endured. I wasn’t truly a good friend back then because I had chosen to withdraw from her. When Cindy summed it up by saying, “Judy, you just wanted to stay in a happy place,” my heart ached.

I felt teary and told her I was sorry. I was sincere. I felt badly to have hurt her and for distancing myself from such a dear friend.

My time with Cindy and Barry was special beyond words. Cindy often gave me credit for meeting her husband. I kept pushing her to go to a dancing event and she finally went. It was there that she met Barry. Watching them together sweet – they truly adored each other.

On my third day, we went on an outing to see the coastal forest near their home. The trail through the majestic redwoods was simply gorgeous. After our hike, Barry took some pictures of me playing my guitar in the forest. In my song “Peaceful and Inspired” the last line is, “I’ll take you home with me.”

I definitely took so much home from my forest trip.

I drove back home to Los Angeles with my son and it was on the day of a rare solar eclipse. Even though we weren’t in the range to see a total eclipse, we put on special glasses to view a partial one. My son told me that it was very cool. He took a picture by putting the glasses over his cell phone.

Our time together and this memory was something we would carry with us for the rest of our lives.

And when I came home, I was ready to get right back where I left off – creating new musical arrangements and singing my heart out.

I share a recent performance of my song at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly.

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MY SHINING STAR-PART 2

Story behind MY SHINING STAR-PART 1

Part 1 of this story describes more about my feelings when I composed My Shining Star.

This song holds so many meanings for me. The most moving part of my song is the line about holding onto our dream forever. A long time ago, grief was a nightmare that destroyed my dream.

But one day, I found my dream again. Even though I have tears when I imagine the dream of how I wished my son had lived, I am grateful for my love for him. He fuels my heart with joy when I create the music that I love.

I am a passionate songwriter and picture myself as a “song gardener.” I continue to grow and develop my songs; they are blooming for me. My life is filled with inspiration. I freely share my music and love what comes back. Nothing feels better for me than knowing my music has helped other people.

A grown man wrote to me and said my meditation music caused him to cry for the first time in 25 years, which helped him release long suppressed feelings of loss. I was extremely moved by his message.

I’ve grown from every part of my journey and learned so much from my former arranger, George. Last December, I began working with a new arranger named Doug. Our relationship is completely different and I have been learning how to arrange songs myself on Protools, which has been very exciting for me. At the beginning of this post, I share my recent arrangement of “My Shining Star.”

My guitar is central to every arrangement and I enjoy creating multiple guitar parts. Despite creating lush arrangements, I prefer my voice to be only with guitar tracks. I plan to share my new arrangements as meditation tracks on Insight Timer soon.

My sessions with Doug usually last four hours and I’m very tired after. I look forward to coming home to edit my recordings.

A month ago, I stopped first to get some gas and saw a message on my phone that grabbed my heart. For five years, I had written to a bereaved mother named Sammi who was very special to me. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I read her heartfelt message.

I thought of Sammi whenever I sang any of my grief-related songs. Just that morning, I had recorded vocals for my song “My Shining Star.” The lyric line that stuck in my head was, “You whisper in my ear to heal.” I was certain that her son whispered those same words in her ear every night.

Five years ago, it was the desolate and hopeless nature of Sammi’s writing that drew me toward her. I felt compelled to counter any hopeless statement she made with gentle disagreement. I wondered sometimes if I annoyed her with my unrelenting positive replies.

But she knew I had been there. I once suffered from desolate grief and it was 18 years before I found true peace and joy again in my life.

I cannot speak for anyone else’s grief – only my own. I am not afraid to express that I have experienced healing. I want to offer proof that healing is possible, especially since I never believed it when I was grieving.

I share below an example of one of my dialogs with Sammi:

Sammi: The nights and early mornings are the worst. I am reminded every single day that my child is dead. The pain of awareness meets me every single morning when I awaken. I dread falling asleep, because I fear waking and facing the pain that I know is waiting. Every single day.

Judy: Sammi, you have accurately described the horrible anguish I remember so well. It was like living within a nightmare. One day, my pain left. Occasionally it knocks on my door, but it has left my room. I pray it will be that way for you someday.

Beliefs are powerful and every person chooses what they want to believe. Those words above that you posted might be true for some people. I’ve known people who died carrying heavy grief.

But for me, I’ve chosen another path. It wasn’t one that I searched for – it just came to me after many years of suffering. I wouldn’t ever say that “time heals.” But for me, healing came and I am thankful for that.

Click the blue link to hear audio:

My Shining Star Acoustic 7-15-17 – Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

 

MY SHINING STAR

Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

 

Shining star so bright

You wink to me every night

Moonlight glows upon my bed

I hear your voice inside my head

 

Shining star so bright

Surround me with your lovely light

I reach for you in my sleep

You comfort me while I weep

 

In my heart you will stay

I’ll hold on to our dream forever

The stars above, remind me of our love

Each and every day, wherever you are

You’re my shining star

 

Shining star so bright

Even though you’re not in sight

With my eyes closed, your breath I feel

You whisper in my ear to heal

 

Shining star so bright

I’ll dream of you tonight

 

In my heart you will stay

I’ll hold on to our dream forever

The stars above, remind me of our love

Each and every day, wherever you are

You’re my shining star

 Sammi’s message:

In the beginning, I used to feel lonely on this road. I couldn’t see the others that were traveling it with me. My pain was all-consuming. My heart and soul were ripped out of me and the wound was open and raw. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt to just be. I didn’t know what to do or how to deal with all the sensations that were bombarding me at once.

I was lucky to find a grief site that was small and it was there that I met my friend Judy Unger. I call her my friend because I truly feel like she is. No, we have never met. No, we have never spoken to each other. Yes, we connected in a way that would be hard for others to understand. She knew what I was going through, she knew my pain, she understood. She lost her beautiful son Jason when he was 5-years-old. She knew.

Judy has been with me on the journey even though I hadn’t seen her on this road at times. Why she chose me I will never know but I know that I am truly thankful to have her at the extreme low points on this journey.

I look ahead at the road before me. It is straight and unforgiving. There are no twists or turns. There is only one way to go. Forward. I cannot see an end point. This road fades into the distance. I look behind and I see, off in the distance, black sky, roiling grey clouds, thunder and lightning. The road has deep dark holes that used to cover the entire surface but have lessened to show more road than holes. I can maneuver this part of the road easier. It still has its pitfalls. It will still be wrought with pain. How could it not be? I can, however, walk a bit easier.

I miss so much of what I used to have, but it is good to learn that light is out there. Judy was right.

Judy: I am speechless, Sammi. I read this as I was coming home from a music session. I was exhausted and getting gas for my car. I saw your post with my name there and my eyes welled up with tears.

What a beautiful tribute! I feel like I’ve learned so much about grief alongside of you. Even though I was farther ahead on my grief journey, taking your hand didn’t pull me back – it propelled me farther ahead.

I am honored and quite teary knowing I’ve made a difference for you. You’ve certainly made a difference for me and perhaps one day we will actually meet and hear each other’s physical voices. Until then, our writing connects us and it is a very solid chain. Much love to you.

Sammi: I’m not sure what I could have taught you Judy but if I did, and it helped then I’m glad. I haven’t connected with many who know this journey. I have kept to myself a lot. You are the one that was there from the start.

I always knew I would get a response from you when needed. When I go back to the beginning of this journey and read my first posts, it is so painful – so much heartache. Going through until now I can see where I have made progress and where I have not. I never believed it was possible but…here I am and….so are you.

Thank You.

Judy: I do hope that one day we will have a chance to meet.

Sammi inspired my song “It’s Not Forever” and I share a link to that story:

Story behind IT’S NOT FOREVER-PART 3

 

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INSIGHT TIMER RECORDING

On July 31, I was given the honor of choosing the meditations on Insight Timer (a free meditation app) for the upcoming week. I’ve excerpted part of my recording where I tell my story and I’m excited to share it here.

My speech will be broadcast to the people who signed up for the 365-Day Playlist (55,000 subscribers). It will also be available to those who aren’t signed up. It is a very large audience for me!

I am honest when I say that I felt a little inadequate to speak on the topic of meditation to cope with grief and loss. I did not meditate when I was in deep grief. I do believe deeply in music and healing, which saved me many years later. So to round out my speech, I sought out input from my friends at Insight Timer. I have made connections all over the world that I treasure. My friends were very helpful.

I learned that many people listen to meditation music while driving, walking and/or going to sleep. I do those things. My music gives me joy: it soothes and heals me of all my sorrow. So perhaps I do meditate after all!

I wrote a story recently about meeting the CEO of Insight Timer, Christopher, and his assistant Maddy. It was truly a thrill for me. #547 My Fairy Tale Life.

I’ve created a page that is linked to Insight Timer. I want people who come to my blog to be able to easily navigate stories related to the meditation music that is available on Insight Timer.

My Insight Timer page link is under the header, just above the post title.

Right next to that page is another one I’ve named “Recent Music.” On that page, I have links to hear my most recent music recordings. They are being compiled for my next CD and until then, I’m happy to freely share them.

 

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A LONG TIME AGO, I FELT HOPELESS

A long time ago, I thought it was hopeless that I could take an enjoyable vacation with my three children. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable most of the time!

I laughed when I noticed one of my ear buds was hanging out of my fanny pack in many pictures. I actually didn’t really listen to music much on my trip. This picture was taken during the time in Seattle before our cruise.

With my sons . . .

and with my daughter.

For some reason, I haven’t felt like writing much about my recent trip. Alaska was beautiful and I was able to spend a lot of time with all three of my children. I adore my kids, but to be honest – the dynamics of all three of them together are something else. I did my best to relax and enjoy my vacation, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my life at home is a vacation!

I treasure my current peaceful life because it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes I look back with awe that I managed to raise children with challenges, oversee my elderly parents’ care, shop for a large household and pay the bills. I did all of this while working as a commercial artist, too.

When I began my blog, it was fabulous therapy for me. Now that I am peaceful, I find myself unsure of what I want to write for my blog. I wait for inspiration to come and spend most of my time pursuing my passion for music.

Even though I am peaceful, I’m still very much attached to the subject of grief and healing. Lately, it has been on the forefront of my mind because I will be sharing my story soon to a large audience on the meditation app named Insight Timer.

I will upload my Insight Timer audio recording on this blog when it’s done. But today I have a story I want to share. Past memories and present moments intersect; when I feel moved I find myself writing again.

I have a good friend – her name is Janis. Her son, David was a good friend of my son, Jason. I have pictures and stories related to their friendship. It has been many years now since Jason died and Janis told me that her son doesn’t remember him anymore. The important part is that my friend helped me through that difficult time and remained my friend. I hold onto that.

Jason loved to sing. In this picture he is singing with his friend David, who is holding Jason’s guitar.

I took Janis out to lunch and for an inexpensive Thai massage on her birthday last year. After our massage, she said, “Judy, this is so wonderful! It’s reasonable and we should do this every month. We’ll put it on the calendar and treat ourselves to it!”

I smiled and agreed. Although we didn’t do it every single month, it became a new routine to add into my peaceful life. And it was always nice to see Janis and catch up with her. Now it would be more often than our usual once or twice a year birthday lunches.

I don’t consider my feet to be “pretty,” but with a pedicure it’s a definite improvement! And it’s another thing I enjoy regularly in my “peaceful life.”

At our most recent lunch/massage last week, we talked about how things were going for our children. I updated my friend on what was new with me. I was back from my Alaska cruise and excited about the new musical arrangements I was creating. But I had received a message a few days earlier. It wasn’t an ordinary message. It was extraordinary.

It came from a woman named Sammi whom I had corresponded with for almost five years. When her adult son died, she was inconsolable. I felt compelled to respond to almost every message she wrote related to her grief. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure that what I wrote was helpful at all. But her recent message thanked me in ways that were too beautiful to describe. It was so inspirational that it deserves another story, which I will write soon.

My post title is a line of lyrics from my song named “It’s Not Forever.” That song was inspired by my dialog with Sammi. I recently recorded a new vocal for my song.

IT’S NOT FOREVER 6/18/17 – Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

With a few tears, I read aloud Sammi’s message to Janis and she agreed that it was indeed special. At the end the message, Sammi mentioned that I was right about grief becoming easier after five years.

“It’s interesting that she mentioned five years,” Janis said. “After my divorce, I remember hearing that number. Of course, divorce is quite different from the death of a child – so please know I’m not comparing it. But I read a book that talked about how it took about five years to adjust and come out of the tunnel.”

I looked at Janis and said, “I’ve got chills! I separated in July of 2012. Do you realize that next month it will be five years for me? It is so true.”

I added, “I’m thankful my dry eyes are better and I’ve lost weight – I feel healthy again. Oh, and last month, it was also the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.”

I didn’t remember telling my friend, Sammi that her grief would ease in five years. A memory of mine that was buried deeply began to form.

A long time ago, I was given hope that I’d feel better when another bereaved mother told me that it would take seven years. Perhaps I hadn’t had the courage to tell Sammi seven years, I said five years instead.

I could not find any respite during my deep grief. It was horrible and indescribable. There are few words I can find to describe the suffering.

It was like living in a fog, except it was not really living.

During that time period, I remember I had a friend who wanted me to have a pedicure. She spoke very highly of her pedicurist. I never had one before in my life and she gave me a gift certificate to get one for my birthday.

It was the last thing I wanted to do. In my desolate state I somehow followed through and made an appointment with her pedicurist to redeem my gift.

The pedicurist’s name was Maddy. I told her my friend spoke very highly of her and that this was my first time having a pedicure. I think I cried during the entire process and Maddy spoke gently to me. She told me about her son that died from leukemia many years before.

When she mentioned her surviving son, I shared with her my inability to comfort my own surviving son. He screamed nonstop and we watched videos of Jason to help us cope with our grief.

Maddy’s surviving son’s name was Mitch and then a light bulb went off. Her last name rang a bell because I went to middle school with her son! I never knew he had a brother that died and it made me feel very sad for him.

When my pedicure was done, I tearfully hugged and thanked her. She had given me so many words of wisdom to help me with my grief. I was still in a fog, but I felt lighter.

I never saw Maddy again and it was twenty years before I had another pedicure. In my peaceful life, it is something I enjoy having on a regular basis.

But I couldn’t forget Maddy’s words to me.

“It will take seven years for the agony to subside. In seven years you will definitely start to feel better.”

Not long ago, I attended my 40th high school reunion. I even connected with people who didn’t attend the reunion. This was due to a lovely Facebook group/page dedicated to my high school graduating class.

After the reunion, I decided to post something about myself on that Facebook page. Many of the people I met who hadn’t seen me in decades, remembered me as a maze artist. It was a big achievement for me to have published a book of mazes while in junior high.

Link to my story about my mazes:  #2 MY AMAZING JOURNEY

I enjoyed the lovely comments people made who remembered me. And then I saw his name. It was Maddy’s son, Mitch!

I couldn’t believe Mitch still had one of the mazes I drew for him in Junior High! He mentioned how he turned his life around and I decided to ask him about his mother.

With an open heart, I shared my feelings about his mom with him. There was no reason to sidestep mentioning my memories. I wanted to counter the part where he called himself a “stoner.” After experiencing the kind of loss he went through, it explained how he coped with his pain.

I believe everyone has his or her own lonely path to follow with grief. I consider it to be a lifelong journey that led me somewhere else; never back to the place I was in before it happened. I used to mourn that, but now I accept it.

After seven years, my agony did subside. But true healing and joy did not return for me until the rediscovery of music 18 years after my son’s death.

Every day, I am thankful for the miracle of healing in my life.

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EVERY SEASON – PART 3

Links to Part 1 & 2 of this story: 

EVERY SEASON-PART 1

EVERY SEASON-PART 2

Leaf 1

When I wrote my song “Every Season” in 2011, it helped me to release my sadness over the death of my son, Jason. With every passing season, I remembered his life and mourned that he would “never grow old.”

I originally wrote these lyrics: “and my sadness will always be, every season you come back to me.”

Sadness will always be

When I created a new arrangement for this song this past April, I decided to change that line slightly. I revised it to: “my love will always be, every season you return to me.”

I have many songs about holding onto love. I felt that line was a triumph over the grief that ruled my life for decades. How could I be healed and still sing that my sadness would always be?

But when I went to sing this change, it ended up not working out as well as I had hoped. I wasn’t satisfied with how it sounded vocally and decided to keep my older line.

I concluded that my sadness isn’t something I have to dismiss. Remembering sadness doesn’t negate the fact that I am peaceful now and able to find joy in life. I embrace honesty. I will always carry sadness over his death and the fact that he never had a chance to grow up.

A picture with my brother, Norm.

I just returned from a cruise to Alaska with my three adult children. It all came about because my brother, Norman and his wife, Jo were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and invited me to join them and their children.

It was hard for me to believe it had been 25 years since their wedding. And of course, Jason participated in it – he was so excited to be their ring bearer. He died five months after their wedding.

On the last day of our trip, I was fairly exhausted and ready to go home. I wished I had actually spent more time with Norm and Jo, but the trip flew by and we were all busy with our children and the many activities we had planned.

Thankfully, I did spend some time with Norm and Jo on an excursion in Skagway, Alaska.

It was on our last day when I ran into them, as we were getting ready to leave the ship to go to the airport. I put down my suitcase and hugged my brother. I reached over to hug my sister-in-law, Jo and she handed me an envelope.

She said, “I wasn’t sure whether you’d get this in time if I mailed it, so I carried it along so I could give it to you at the end of our trip.”

I glanced at the envelope. It meant so much to me that she had remembered my little boy. I was overcome with emotion and began sobbing aloud. 

My three adult children looked uncomfortable to see me crying. I wiped my tears away and they all said, “Sorry, mom. We hope you feel better.”

I couldn’t explain to them what my emotions were. I just had to cry.

After I released it, I felt better.

We took a family picture in Seattle where we spent two days before our cruise. Uh oh! My earbuds are hanging out of my fanny pack!

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YOUR SMILE, YOUR TOUCH

More about my butterfly illustrations can be found at this link: https://foodartist.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/31-winging-these-illustrations/

It was a beautiful spring day and I looked forward to going out to breakfast with my dear friend Miriam. I never wanted to let too much time go by without seeing her. She had been my late mother’s caregiver and she had also taken care of my father. Even though it was almost five years since my mother died, she and I would always remain connected.

Miriam knocked on my apartment door; we hugged tightly and began chatting away. I told her I was taking her to a new restaurant and treating her for her birthday.

We sat outside on the patio of a lovely cafe and appreciated the cool weather. We were enjoying our food and conversation when I noticed the woman at the next table was staring at me. I smiled at her and she said, “You are very beautiful.”

I blushed and thanked her. I wasn’t used to hearing that as a 57-year-old woman! Miriam bubbled words of agreement. I was embarrassed but thought, “What a nice day I’m having!”

The woman’s name was Teddy and she wanted to explain what she noticed about me. “You have a light that shines from you. It is very powerful,” she said.

We began to converse across our tables. It amazed me how easy it was to chat about personal things with a complete stranger. I even felt goose bumps on my arms when Teddy shared about her brother’s death. Miriam had a lot of experience with hospice and there were many deep things we talked about easily.

It turned out that Teddy was a successful model from Tanzania, Africa.

Perhaps this was enough for me to write a story. But what happened next seemed almost surreal.

I was savoring my food in the fresh air and Miriam continued chatting with our new friend across our table. Suddenly, the restaurant door opened and a pretty blond woman with a young boy walked right over to me.

This woman touched my arm and said, “I was inside the restaurant watching you. You are a very special person. I couldn’t stop looking your way and had to come over to tell you.”

“I’m very honored,” I told her. I couldn’t believe it!

She said she was a hospice nurse. Miriam and I looked at each other. She talked about where she worked with Miriam and then she looked at me and said, “A very good friend of mine died last night.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

She continued, “My friend told me to look for a sign. She loved butterflies, especially blue ones. I noticed your earrings right away. I believe you are a sign to me that she’s alright.”

At first, I didn’t know what to say.  Then I said, “That’s amazing because I love butterflies – they represent transformation in many different ways. Butterflies are a great metaphor for grief and healing.”

After that, I shared how much I loved the music that healed me. More than anything, I was uplifted if I could comfort other people with my gentle songs.

We talked a few minutes longer about music. “I have a lot of music at my website that I’d love to share with you. Here’s my card,” I said.

I handed her my card and she gasped – my card had a blue butterfly.

Before she left she asked, “Would it be okay if I took a picture of you and your earrings?”

I posed and Miriam took a few pictures.

I hugged her and felt completely inspired.

Miriam and I were bubbling as we left the restaurant. There just weren’t enough words to describe what had happened.

I decided that the music from my heart was my light.

On this beautiful day, it certainly shined brightly.

Miriam had fun taking some selfies of us in her car afterwards.

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MY FAIRYTALE LIFE

Last month, I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was one of those rare occasions where I had my hair and makeup done.

I am so blessed to be a free-lance artist. After many months without any kind of artwork, I had two large projects come in on the same day. Even though my workload was a bit intense, I finished both my jobs a few days ago and I am definitely celebrating. I leave on a trip to Alaska next week with my three adult children and wanted to finish them before then.

Despite having 11 illustrations to paint in 3 weeks, I continued creating music that I love with my new arranger. Everything we worked on just got better and better. The new arrangements were magnificent – they were beautiful symphonies I enjoyed listening to while working on my paintings.

I recently finished arrangements for “Every Season” and “Alabaster Seashell.” I am going to share them, as well as the guitar tracks that will be the basis for a new arrangement of my song “Set You Free.” When my vocals are done, I’ll post them with stories about those songs.

SET YOU FREE – Two guitars – Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

ALABASTER SEASHELL ARRANGEMENT – Copyright 2017 by J Unger 

EVERY SEASON ARRANGEMENT – Copyright 2017 by J Unger

I named my post “My Fairytale Life” because it feels that way lately. On several occasions, I’ve had strangers come over to me and tell me I am shining and radiant with my big smile. Well – I love hearing that and have every reason to smile!

I share a link to a post I wrote four years ago where I also mention “my fairytale life.” It could be considered Part 1 of this story:  MY DREAM HAS ME BLESSED.

My fairytale is all about how rediscovering music in 2010 changed my life.

Memories of trauma seldom erupt from me anymore. I embrace my past because it has led me to where I am today. All of my heartbreak has eased because of music, which envelopes my heart with joy.

Now I am going to share some recent pictures!

I am posing with Delia at the Macy’s make-up counter. She was lovely and did a great job making me up!

After my makeup session, I put on my dress in the Macy’s restroom.

I could write an entire post about my 40th high school reunion, but will sum it up.

Even though I didn’t clearly remember many of the high school attendees at the reunion, it didn’t matter. We were all connected by our memories and life experiences since then. I suddenly found I had new friends and looked forward to future lunch dates filled with reminiscing and reconnecting.

Pretty funny how everyone would bend over to check out each other’s name tags!

I like my color picture better! Who is that girl?

I was very touched when a woman told me she enjoyed reading my blog. I almost felt naked because my blog is such an honest expression of my heart and soul.

I also caught up with a few good friends I never lost touch with. We spoke about very deep subjects and the time at flew by. Soon it was time for this Cinderella to get home and focus on finishing her many paintings!

On my last post, I wrote about the wonderful App named Insight Timer where I have a large audience for my instrumental music. Every day I receive messages from people all over the world telling me how comforting my music is for them. I even had a lovely Skype conversation with a new friend in Greece whom I met through Insight Timer.

https://www.insighttimer.com/judyunger

I was very excited about meeting the CEO, Christopher Plowman and his assistant, Maddy Gerard a few weeks ago. We met for tea at a restaurant in Santa Monica named Shutters by the Beach.

Christopher and Maddy were very warm and I brought some of my artwork to share with them. I told them my story, and Christopher shared how he bought Insight Timer two years ago and the progress he had made with it since then. Now Insight Timer is the most popular free meditation site available and has close to two million meditators.

I think these pictures once again show my big smile and joy.

I especially loved when Christopher shared the Insight Timer philosophy. He said, “We do not actively promote our site. Our belief is that by putting something special out there and being open to the universe, we are hopeful people will come to us.”

Well his motto is exactly what has happened for me.

I dislike promoting my music for money. I prefer to put all of my energy into creating music that moves me; music that I love. And with my willingness to freely share my music on Insight Timer, I have found a loving audience and made wonderful new friendships.

I also find it an amazing coincidence that my blog name carries the word insight!

A few weeks after our meeting, I received a message from Maddy. She asked me if I would like to be the host for a week of meditations related to grief and healing. I would choose 6 other meditations in addition to my own for every day of the week. And the best part was that I would also have an opportunity to share a brief recording about myself.

How beautiful that I have found an ideal platform to speak about how music healed me from my grief.

These are two of my recent illustrations which will be used on yogurt labels.

Below is my correspondence with a woman I went to high school with 40 years ago. She did not attend the reunion, but sent me a message after seeing the pictures I posted on our reunion’s Facebook page. I’m excited about my new friend! (Clicking on the image makes it larger).

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OPENING UP – PART 3

Guiding my thought processes through hypnotherapy has been “instrumental” in teaching me to live in a positive way. When my head spins with stories that aren’t helpful for me, I am constantly reframing those stories into new ones that feel better.

A few weeks ago, I felt very uninspired. I told myself that it was a long time since I had done anything creative. I hadn’t had an art assignment for months. I wished I could compose a new song or write a touching story for my blog. But instead, I was numb, closed up and kind of blah.

I was under hypnosis and searching for another way of thinking that would be more helpful. I said aloud to my therapist, Connie, “I want to be creative and inspired. I am open to it!”

And then a light bulb went off – that was it! Being open was my key.

After that session, I felt a creative rush and wrote OPENING UP- PART 2. But there was more that I saved for this Part 3.

There was a line from Don Maclean’s song “American Pie” that always hit me strongly: “The day the music died.” For me, my music died for almost 30 years. I never dreamed my songs would ever live again. But when they returned to me in 2010, I was reborn.

In 1980, I recorded 20 of my songs on a cassette tape. Thirty years later, that cassette helped me relearn my songs. I believe that explains my current passion for having my songs recorded. It is my way of keeping them alive, of having them live on.

Part 1 of this story (OPENING UP–PART 1) was written seven years ago and describes my first experience of having my music recorded and arranged by a man named George. George and I worked together on a weekly basis for five years and I amassed a large collection of arrangements.

The joy that came to me through the beautiful music George arranged helped me through the deaths of both my parents and my divorce. I was thankful for the comfort music gave me.

In some ways, the ending of my relationship with George was harder than my divorce. I didn’t believe I could ever find someone else that would understand my music the way he did.

For over a year, I recorded music at home. It was actually very beneficial to discover what it was like to be “on my own.” Although it didn’t carry the excitement I achieved while working with George, I did become much more intimately acquainted with my songs. I have 52 of them and my goal was to create a clean acoustic recording for each and every one. I have almost finished that goal.

My last project with George was a meditation album and we parted ways before the album was finished. I was very disappointed because I had only six songs, instead of the ten I planned on.

My meditation music made me sad because it reminded me of how my relationship with George ended.

Six months ago, a woman named Maddy contacted me and asked me if I’d be willing to upload my meditation music onto a site named Insight Timer. I was open to it and it was an excellent decision for me.

Suddenly, I had new friendships with people all over the world. Every day, I received touching messages and each one uplifted me. The appreciation became my fuel.

I used to bemoan all of my arrangements that lacked a good vocal. Now my unfinished arrangements found a new home on Insight Timer.

I wrote a blog story when I first joined Insight Timer and on it I shared some of the lovely messages I had received. (#538 MEMORY OF LOVE-PART 3)

A few days after that I received a message from Maddy. I couldn’t believe it – she had seen my blog story! She wrote:

“I came across your recent blog post and wanted to reach out to say how wonderful it was to read what a positive experience Insight Timer has been for you.  Our CEO, Christopher, read your blog post as well and felt such a sense of joy. It captured beautifully the authenticity and kindness of the community of Insight Timer.”

I am truly living my dream. When I connect with other people through my music, I feel indescribable joy. Last week, I released the full version of my six meditation songs. On only the first day, it was played over 4,000 times!

But I prefer not to focus on how many plays I’ve gotten. Reaching even one person in a big way is much more meaningful than anything else.

Two weeks ago, Maddy contacted me. She would be in Los Angeles with Christopher and we are planning to meet in a few days. Saying I’m excited would be an understatement. I plan to take a lot of pictures and write a story afterwards.

https://www.insighttimer.com/judyunger

After moping for a year, being open is what led me to find a new arranger. I’m back in a magical place of loving the music we are creating. We’re working on our fifth song together and I plan to release an album once we’ve done ten songs. Each one is a gem and I am very involved in the arranging process. It turns out that my belief of “never finding someone else to understand my music” wasn’t true.

Did my openness after that hypnotherapy session lead to me writing a new song? It didn’t, but my longing to create new music led me to reframe my thinking.

Since I see my songs as babies, I don’t need to keep giving birth to feel fulfilled.

I get tremendous pleasure watching my songs grow and develop. My babies are growing up and I cherish each and every one!

Below is a guitar recording for my next arrangement of my song “Alabaster Seashell.” I am improving as a guitarist with my new “less is more” approach.

Alabaster Seashell Guitar arrangement in progress

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OPENING UP – PART 2

The aroma of jasmine has been intoxicating me this past week. Hannah, my vocal coach, took my picture in front of her home where there are many gorgeous star jasmine bushes in full bloom.

The springtime aroma and breezes inspire me. I’m going to open up this post by sharing a delicate “in progress” arrangement of my song “Every Season.” On my next post, I plan to open up more about my music and share this song as it progresses.

Click the blue links to play audio:

Every Season new arrangement in progress-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

EVERY SEASON – guitar and piano Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

I’m going to move away from the topic of online dating. It was a huge thing for me to be open to dating again. After 38 years, I went on my first date with a new man I met on an online dating site. We went out twice and I enjoyed my time with him. But I’ve grown tired of looking at profile pictures and receiving strange messages. I’ve decided not to renew my dating site subscription at this time.

What really inspired me was a message I received from a fellow blogger and friend, D.D. Wood.

D.D’s blog Daily Divorce Meditations really helped me when I was going through my separation and divorce. I often left D.D. comments that reflected my fear of ever considering a new relationship.

Well, a month ago I shared with D.D. the news that I was open to dating again. I loved her response so much.

Judy, WOW!!!! I am proud! You are doing it! Getting healthy and moving forward. My mentor told me a great piece of advice: she said to go out and do all the things I loved and that by living my authentic life I would meet someone out there who loved those same things I was doing and that is exactly what happened… I met my love while walking the dog! So keep doing everything you love…. being authentic… that love is coming!

My new job will consist of more yogurt flavors like this one.

I’ll be working on a new illustration assignment soon, so I am glad I was able to post on all three of my blogs this week.

It’s been 18 months since I’ve updated my art blog, ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE. My post BEING OPEN was truly a pleasure to write.

For four years, I suffered with dry eyes. Dry eyes are very individual and every person is different. I glad I was open to trying an alternative remedy by working with a naturopathic doctor. Because many remedies set me back and irritated my eyes, that took perseverance and courage. On my Dry Eye blog, Dry Eye Diaries, my post I WAS HEALED shares hopefulness and the technique that helped me. If my story inspires or helps even one person, then I am blessed.

From the time I was married at the age of 21, I closed up with every passing year. I denied my feelings and ignored my intuition.

Once I had children, I had no time to think about how I felt. I had children with extreme challenges and lived in survival mode. I became an “advocate warrior,” which only continued when I became a caregiver for my parents.

It was opening my heart and sharing that put me on my amazing journey of insight.

One of my first blog stories was named Up and Out. At that time, I hadn’t yet found the courage to write about the death of my son, Jason. But it was after I wrote my story that I truly began to heal.

Only last month, I arranged this song. I read the lyrics at Jason’s funeral in 1992.

After my separation, I gained a lot of weight as I struggled with my dry eye condition and the guilt I felt from my divorce. Food became my friend and companion and it wasn’t a healthy relationship. I struggled to find inspiration and am so glad I was open to signing up for a medical weight loss program. I have now lost almost 40 pounds and feel so much better.

This is a before and after picture to show my weight loss.

At the age of 57, I am now able to live freely and openly. I am happier and far more peaceful than I ever imagined I could be.

Watching my children grow has been one of my greatest joys. In May, I am taking all three of my adult children on an Alaskan cruise. I planned this trip over a year ago. My brother and sister-in-law are celebrating their 25th anniversary and we are joining them with their children. All of us are anticipating this vacation with unbelievable excitement.

My journey has taken me to such wonderful places. I smile because I hear such beautiful music wherever I am!

Click the blue link to hear a new arrangement for “Beside Me Always:”

Beside Me Always Arrangement-Copyright 2017 by Judy Unger

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