A picture from when I was in eleventh grade. I cannot believe I ever had hair that long!

Recently, I’ve decided to add pictures to my blog. I see how much more interesting my blog is with pictures and documents. Choosing which photos to use has been a sentimental journey.

Just looking at my youthful pictures has been startling for me. I can celebrate that I still feel beautiful even at my age. The beauty that I feel now is because writing has opened my eyes to how much I’ve achieved in my life.

I laugh away at how this all seems so “self-absorbed.” It doesn’t jive with me at all. I’ve never been about “myself,” because I’ve always been taking care of other people. I’m still doing that, and at the same time I’m trying to encourage my children’s’ independence.

The “writer inside of me” decided to take a break for a while. When the “writer inside of me” is gone, I sometimes wonder when “the writer” will return. The process is very interesting, as I can actually imagine I might never write again.

I can only write when the desire overtakes me. Trying to fight it has been hopeless; my anxiety becomes unbearable.

It doesn’t matter how many things there is for me to do. Everything becomes pushed aside when I have the desire to write. Usually, I’m forced to do it very early in the morning or very late at night. I don’t mind at all, though. Once I’ve written something, I’m calm and relaxed afterwards. It’s so therapeutic!

I have felt a lot of sadness since writing about Cheryl. The realization of how much I’ve missed her has finally hit me. I felt honored to share what I’ve written with her family. She was truly special.

When I was living a zombie like existence for the last fifteen years or so, my tears were very few. I didn’t feel much of anything. I’ve noticed lately, how I’m able to embrace my pain. When I’ve allowed myself to connect with those painful feelings, as well as the reasons behind them, I feel more connected with life. The joy I’m also feeling is the upside of this.

All of what I’ve written so far has been leading up to the story behind my post, which I’ve called “Reaching Out.”

I’ve decided that my purpose in writing is to share with other people some of the lessons that I’ve learned in my life. That is why I’ve chosen the theme, “journey of insight.”

Today’s lesson is about reaching out. It began last week. There was a special religious school teacher. I was concerned about her because her husband was very ill.

This woman, Sonia, had many stories to tell. I didn’t know how old she was, but she had amazing energy. She had been very loving to my younger son. She had a severely, disabled grandson and understood that love and attention made a difference to my son’s life.

Many times she came to our home to take my son to a movie or out for ice cream. She called it “their date.” My son loved her.

The last time I saw her, her eyes were sunken, tired, and very sad. Her husband was extremely ill. I knew he’d been on dialysis for a while. He had an infection that was considered “untreatable.” She was now in the trenches of trauma.

I hugged her several times, and tried to absorb her pain. She shared with me her day at the hospital. She was kept waiting and was treated with indifference. Her time was wasted, and her husband had unnecessary anxiety due to incompetence. Her suffering was so apparent that I wanted to cry. She knew how much I cared. She told me, “When I am not so exhausted and overwhelmed, I look forward to talking with you more.”

“Reaching Out”

What does reaching out really mean?

To me, it means that sometimes it involves doing something we might find uncomfortable.

Often, there is an excuse of not wanting to reach out because we might impose on someone.

Sometimes, it is difficult to do something because we’re afraid it might cause the other person to be sad.

Often the truth is that we don’t want to see their sadness!

It’s far easier to ignore it! When the sadness is hidden, we can assume it’s “going away.” That is simply not true. For many people, the sadness is so much easier to tolerate when it is shared.

However, my lesson is that even though every person is different – it is well worth the risk to reach out.

The worst that can happen, is a rebuff. That is hardly a risk!

As an example, reaching out might be mentioning a deceased loved one’s name to someone who is grieving. Often, everyone is so afraid that it will “upset” his or her friend or relative.

More often than not for someone grieving, it is of great comfort to hear a name they’ve been missing every minute of their day. The acknowledgment of that glaring absence alone can be more meaningful than anyone can imagine.

I am going to share what reaching out meant for me today.

Last week, Sonia had very dark circles under her eyes. Her husband had been very ill. She has been a caregiver for him. Being a caregiver is hard enough for anyone, however, Sonia is at least twenty-five years older than I am. I don’t know how she does it.

Earlier today, when I was grocery shopping, it occurred to me that it would give me pleasure to do something to lift her spirits. I bought an orchid plant, and I asked my younger son to write something nice on a card.

When my children were very young, I had them writing cards. I learned that from my mother. It hasn’t always been easy getting them to write. When they were younger, I had them dictate to me.

I scanned what my son wrote on the card because I thought it was quite beautiful. I dug my son’s first attempt out of the trash and scanned it, too.

Soon, it was time to leave for Hebrew School. Together, we went upstairs to find the tutoring classroom where Sonia was. There were two other teachers there. I came in with my son holding the plant. I asked them where Sonia was. The other teachers had worried eyes.

They told me they didn’t know. “We haven’t heard from her all day. You might know more than we do.” I wondered why they thought that. I didn’t know her very well. Recently, I had offered to have my husband try to fix her computer. She has worked at our temple for at least 30 or 40 years!

I was told to check with the office. I was told the same thing; no one had heard from her all day. Things were definitely not going well for her husband; she was at the hospital yesterday.

However, I was told she would be coming to work tomorrow, so I left the orchid plant and the card for her.

My son became very worried. He said, “Mom, I don’t want to stay – we should just go to the hospital to see her.” I began to seriously think of doing that.

When I was with my mother everyday at the hospital, it was a different world. I felt so sorry for Sonia. However, I knew she had a son that lived nearby.

My presence might be awkward. I told my son that I didn’t know any details, and it wouldn’t make sense to go to the hospital. I would find out more while he was at Hebrew School.

I went to my car. Then I remembered something – I happened to have her cell phone number. That was because only a month ago Sonia had invited my son to a play, and gave me her cell number.

Should I call her cell phone?

If she was in a hospital room, my call could be intrusive. Perhaps she was with her sick husband and couldn’t talk. Who was I in her life to call?

I was only the mother of a boy that she had been very loving to. I’ve never really spent much time with her, other than appreciating her genuine warmth to my children.

So back to the lesson about reaching out . . .

The worst-case scenario would possibly be that she might tell me that she couldn’t at that moment. That would be it.

So many people might let this be the barrier for them.

I decided to call.

She answered the phone.

This is what she said:

She choked back her tears. I could feel them and hear them in her voice. She would have sobbed if she’d been able to. However, this was a time for stoicism. In times of crisis, our body is conditioned to deny tears. Tears are an admission of weakness when so much strength is required!

Her voice was shaking as she said, “Oh my god, I am so exhausted from this ordeal. I have been up since 5 a.m. There have been so many doctors and procedures. My husband refuses to let anyone near him unless I’m there. He doesn’t trust anyone! Tomorrow is a big day – so many decisions to make about his life! My daughter, Ruthie, is flying out tomorrow afternoon. Right now, I am taking a shower before going back to the hospital. I need to bring some underwear and a few things for my son since he is sleeping there.”

I asked her – could I drive her, or bring the items for her?

She told me she was okay with doing that. She told me she was going to “be strong,” to get through tomorrow.

I believed her. I’ve been there. In times like this, you just put one foot in front of the other.

Once again, I asked her what I could do to help her. I told her I could hold her hand if that would help. I meant it.

She said, “I would love to have the comfort of you and Reggie, but first I need to survive tomorrow. I will hang onto my hope.”

Then she added, “You are the only one who called me – the only one. You don’t know how much that means!”

But I did.

A card Sonia wrote to my son when he was Bar Mitzvahed.

“The next day”

I called Sonia. Her voice was barely audible; a whisper. I asked her if Sam was doing any better. She didn’t answer my question.

I had to ask again. “Sonia, what’s going on with Sam?”

She said, “I cannot think, I cannot make words, I cannot even discuss it anymore. We got news today. The news was very bad. I am in a state of exhaustion and shock.”

I said, “How much time?”

She said, “No one knows.”

I had a feeling. I told her, “I’m so, so sorry. Can I come to hold your hand?”

She said, “I will let you to hold my hand when the time comes. You will know. Now I have to go.”

© 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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1 Response to REACHING OUT

  1. Steve says:


    That was so nice that you called Sonia.

    Enjoying the added pictures.

    Take care,



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