Yesterday was Cheryl’s birthday; she would have been fifty.  I am so sad thinking that mine is approaching, and she is not here to share the occasion with me.  Another year has flown by without her, and I know that many things have changed.  With the sadness and grief, time has led to the acceptance that she is truly gone.  I know she would want everyone to remember her without pain and heartache.

I am so happy for Zev and his upcoming marriage tomorrow.  It is wonderful to see happiness again for the Kessler family.

Still, I will always miss Cheryl.  I have wonderful memories, and I often hear her voice in my heart.

With love, Judy


A diary page from March of 1979

Exact Message sent to Zev, Cheryl’s husband on 11/17/07

Dear Zev,

It is so clear in my mind that summer where you visited my home with Cheryl and your kids.  We were in the backyard around the table, and I can still picture the chair where you were sitting.  I mentioned to you that day how special it was seeing Cheryl, and your response was that reconnecting with friends had become a high priority.  Looking back, I realize then that you knew.  Before I lost my son, Jason, I knew – it allowed for many videos, pictures, and treasured moments I’m grateful for.  However, with that knowledge comes the awful price of facing suffering from the disease.

You are an amazing caregiver.  I am so far away from Cheryl and her “other life;” the twenty-five years after our youthful adventures.  However, I think about Cheryl more often than you can imagine.  It is difficult for me to even comprehend the challenges that you face daily and continue to face.  I only know from my experiences, that making your loved one comfortable in the face of suffering – is probably the greatest challenge of all.  On top of that you have to balance supporting your kids and not allowing them to worry about you.  I always felt that it was worse to watch my child suffer than it was losing him.  Right now you are in the throes of the unimaginable.

Please know that my heart goes out to you.  I am far away, and I wish I had the ability to let go of all my personal responsibilities to come and be with Cheryl.  I hope she knows that even though I am not there physically, that I care about her very much.  I have tortured myself daily, because I know that the time has run out for me to see her again.

It sounds like you have amazing community support in Cleveland.  So many wonderful friends surround you both, and I am grateful for that (as you are, too).  I’m sure you have been told how strong you are, yet no one ever expects to end up in the position of dealing with tragedy – what choices are there really?

There are no words that can truly ease your pain.  I just wanted you to know, that Cheryl will always be a part of me and she will never be forgotten.

The Kessler family – Cheryl, Zev, and their three children in 2003.

Exact Message sent to Cheryl on 11/17/07

Dear Cheryl,

This is such a difficult letter to write. I still remember when you called me (I can’t remember when it was exactly) – it was all so unreal; when you shared with me about the cancer spreading to your brain. Of course, we had that visit where you had recently experienced excruciating headaches and I still remember how difficult it was for you dealing with medication and the side effects. Our conversation that day was like out of a movie; words were completely inadequate to express the feelings. It still doesn’t seem real.

Here I am, so far away, and you are on my mind. I have tortured myself because I really had hoped I could come to Aliza’s Bat Mitzvah somehow – or even be at your bedside; spending time with you before time ran out. Saying that my life is complicated seems like such a lousy excuse. I wished so many times that I could clone myself, and just get on a plane and leave!  The only thing that allowed me some peace of mind, was knowing that you have so many unbelievable friends in Cleveland and that you were well taken care of. I also knew, deep down, that you understood my situation and despite the fact that I am not there, you know that you are always in my heart.

Working on our special book, helped me to feel that you were close by. And when you left a message on my answering machine (after you received the book), I saved it on a tape recorder – You can’t imagine how many times I played it over and over! I had hoped that over the months since we had our “farewell” conversation, we would be able to chat. I think it was just too painful to talk about anything mundane.  Plus, I was acutely aware that you had very little energy left due to your illness and the chemo. I never wanted to deplete you; I wanted you to save your energy for your family.

I think about you all through my day, Cheryl. And I probably will for a very, very long time. I always pray that you are not in pain. I worry a lot about your family, especially your mom. It is a blessing that your mom is not seeing you suffer. I want you to know, that I have not called her at all, because I know it would be very stressful for her now (and that you prefer it that way). Barry and Diane have been a great source of comfort for me. However, I want you to know that I will try my best to give your mom whatever comfort I can when you are gone. I know how important it is for your mom to know that you are living on and never forgotten.  These words are so difficult for me to write! But I wanted you to know this. I can speak to your mom as a bereaved parent and although there are so many differences in our situation, I will be there to listen.

You’ve created such beautiful children Cheryl, and it’s amazing to think that your oldest daughter is at the age when we met! I’m not sure that I know what more to write. I read your website daily and there are so many heartfelt tributes to you. All of them are true. You are the epitome of courage and grace.  Our time together was so much fun, because you always lived life with such enthusiasm and excitement. I wanted to share everything with you!  Hiking, dancing, and being with you were some of the best times of my life. Wherever I am, I feel you within me. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the words you once wrote for me, “A Place I’ve Never Been.” I will share them again with you.  When I read what you wrote, it gives me comfort. Thank you, Cheryl, for the honor of having that place inside your heart for me. You always have a place in mine.

Lyrics by Cheryl

Music composed in 1980

Copyright, 2010 Judy Unger

A PLACE I’VE NEVER BEEN – Cassette Recording from 1980, Original Song by Judy Unger, Copyright 2010

a place i’ve never been

how can i tell you of a place i’ve never been?

a place so dark and mysterious

that no one dares to walk

not even me

how can i tell you of a place that’s deep within me?

a place that is a part of me

as your music is

a part of you

i feel, i sense, i am aware

yet why, i cannot grasp

is far beyond my reach

how can i tell you of a place i’ve put aside for you?

a place where the sun never shone

and the flowers never sang

the place inside my heart

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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