Joni and I as young girls. We rarely could play together because she was always working at her parents' dry cleaning shop.

Joni and I as young girls. We rarely could play together because she was always working at her parents’ dry cleaning shop.

This post celebrates my joy during this Thanksgiving holiday. My appreciation is boundless. I am thankful for every aspect of my life.

Every year at this time, I am reminded of my “friend in grief” – Lori (Post #2). Her young son, Matthew, died a few days before Thanksgiving. The holiday was never the same for me since knowing Lori. She and Matthew are always in my heart.

Today, I feel the desire to write about memory and love. Maybe it was no coincidence that this theme has repeated for me.

“My Journey’s Insight” began with me picking up my guitar again after thirty years. It was completely due to my childhood friend, Joni’s encouragement and her offer to introduce me to a music producer.

I am fairly certain that I would not be playing my guitar at this moment otherwise.

Although we weren’t close for many years, Joni and I have “reconnected” again. She has come to see me perform at Kulak’s Woodshed many times. Her support has fueled me. Soon, we are planning to meet with that same producer again. I certainly have a lot of improvement to share!

Two weeks ago while I was going through my memorabilia box, I found a letter from Joni written in 1982. She gave me permission to share it, and I told her I would try and answer her letter on my blog.

For several weeks I was trying to find a way to write something to her.

As I read Joni’s letter, it led me to a perplexing dilemma. Did I have enough empathy required to answer her letter thoughtfully? Recently I was trying to answer a question on one of my grief posts about empathy. It would be impossible for Joni to completely empathize with my losing a child – as it is for most people.

Therefore, since I did not experience trauma while growing up – how could I truly know what she felt and went through? I was aware of her sadness as a child, but not of her abusive situation. Some of it was remedied by the support my family extended to her.

I might not understand what she went through, but I did understand about trauma. My trauma simply occurred later in my life.

Time was needed for me to process those traumatic events.

I will never tell anyone grieving that they can expect happiness and peace later in their life. Those words were certainly not helpful for me when I was suffering.

However, my realization was that over the years – holding onto my memories of trauma prevented happiness.

The theme of memory and love has been very important for me, because it is precisely what has replaced my traumatic memories.

(Clicking on these pages makes them larger)

Dear Joni,

Here we are – grownups! I still cannot believe that I’ve known you since we were toddlers!

We have watched each other grow up. We have both faced different trials in our lives. Both of us have always said, “Someday when we’re old, we’ll play Monopoly together like we used to!”

You wrote that letter in 1982, and you asked me if you would be able to fulfill your potential. How does anyone know what his or her potential is? At that time, I wonder if you could have imagined you would graduate from UCLA with an English degree (as you did last year).

We’ve joked before about the possibilities for me. With all those bugs, I could have been a biologist! With the advocacy I have accomplished for my children, I could have been lawyer.

However, those things are simply degrees and professions. I prefer to consider “human potential” as a measurement of how kind or loving we become, despite our circumstances. With trauma it is so much easier to become bitter!

You have raised four children with your husband, and your home has been permeated with strong, religious values. You are such a kind and loving human being! You have risen to great heights, therefore, after experiencing a childhood that was fearful and sad.

I know that my memories define me. With age, I have found I have so many to choose from!

While I was grieving, I did not have a choice about my thoughts. Sometimes still, my subconscious carries more than I want to remember. Perhaps that is why hypnotherapy has helped me so much.

The term, “thoughts equal feelings” allowed for me to hold positive thoughts, which in turn made me feel better. I have let go of the “opera of Jason’s death” and have instead chosen memories of his love.

When you remember your parents, perhaps it would be helpful for you to remember their love. I am certain they loved you, even with their flaws and those “scary moments.”

Remembering those memories of their love, and surrounding yourself with that leads to feeling uplifted, rather than despondent.

I love and appreciate you very much,

Friends forever,


Joni & Judy

Joni and I as young girls. We rarely could play together because she was always working at her parents’ dry cleaning shop.

Last February w. Joni

Joni and I as young girls. We rarely could play together because she was always working at her parents’ dry cleaning shop.

© 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. Sam says:


    Did you ever answer Joni’s letter in 1982? If so, do you remember what you wrote? Joni, would you write the same letter today? Or has your perspective changed over the last 30 years?


  2. Joni says:

    Jude, I appreciate your response very much and I agree being kind and a good person is just as important as anything we do. My question really centers on creativity and having that ability to create, it is easier to respond to other artists and other creations around us, but to create from our own raw emotions to me is real creativity. You do an amazing job songwriting and coming up with new lyrics (even though they were from many years ago.) My question centered on that ability, that talent, pulling brand new concepts and developing them, but as I am writing I realize that those songs you wrote were most probably in response to something….
    Jude, it is not just fulfilling potentials for me, but more basic…like what is the potential in regards to creativity. Your life is about fulfilling your potential because you have many potentials and have been working at fulfilling them, but I wonder if I have any and then realize they are something else and not what I thought they would be, or wanted them to be but something entirely different. I like what you have done with your potentials a lot, you should and do everyday or with every song fulfill your potential. I just thought mine got lost, but I think in 1982, I did not know what my strengths were and they are clearer now and they are good. I wrote of them earlier to you. I cannot believe you have that letter from 1982. Unbelievable! Thanks for sharing with me.
    Love, Joni


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