WHAT IS LEFT SINCE YOU DIED

“My gift”

The last two days, I had so written so much about grief! For several weeks I had been poring through my blog to excise segments for a possible book. Suddenly, I had all this “new material” – was that why I was suddenly connecting to grief again?

It was late afternoon. I hated to pull myself away from my computer and all the writing I was finishing up on. Like an addict sucking on a cigarette, I inhaled deeply as soon as I heard the music notes entering my ears with my iPod. It did feel good to stretch and be outside.

I ran an errand and then I decided to have my nails done. Having them nicely manicured was helpful in order not to bite them (after doing that for fifty years). Although my nails were short, for me they represented a huge, yardstick of self-improvement!

The Vietnamese woman in front of me was very kind. As she sat down to do my nails, I had the awareness that listening to my music might be rude. I pulled out my earbuds as she began to massage my hands.

She stared at my iPod, so I told her how much music had helped me. Then, she began to ask me a few questions. I was completely honest and within a few moments I had told her a lot about my life.

Suddenly, the manicurist lowered her head and tears coursed freely down her cheeks. She told me how much she missed her beloved, brother who had died a year ago. She said he used to play guitar with her and she was very sad.

I held her hand with one hand as she worked on my other hand. I told her that his death was still very raw and her tears were better “out than in.” She got up to get a tissue, and then she thanked me.

I asked her if she wanted to listen to one of my songs. Because I was embarrassed that my singing was too personal – I put on my instrumental song, Farewell. Within a moment, another manicurist came over and the two of them each had one earbud in their ears.

I squirmed a little as they listened. I allowed myself to hear the notes to my “theme song” in my head; I could always hear it playing through me at any given moment.

When the song was over, both women told me how beautiful it was.

I put on another song for her, “Beside Me Always.” I watched her close her eyes as she listened, and tears continued to course down her cheeks.

When she told me my music helped her feel better, I was relieved. I told her I was a writer and I wrote a lot about grief. Because she didn’t understand English too well, she asked me to write down that word for her. I did. She said, “Oh – grief! I see . . .”

I left the nail salon, and knew I’d be back soon to bring a CD over for my “new friend.” I thought about my music and wondered why I wasn’t selling anything yet.

Knowing my music comforted her made me feel alive. It felt so great to give of myself so freely.

Then I thought about her gift to me.

I suddenly gained a lot of confidence about where I was going.

You’ve got to hand it to me! (Boy am I running out of picture ideas)

“Squeezing pain of stress”

My blog, My Journey’s Insight, was started in February of this year.

For anyone first reading this page, the table of contents page has more about me on Post #1.

Currently, I am writing about grief. Sometimes, I write humorous things and I cover many other topics. I am passionate about songwriting and music, for sure.

Before I continue further, let me introduce those whose messages I will soon be sharing.

First off, there is Sam. I reconnected with Sam (who is a physician) this past October. He found my blog and saw his picture on I REMEMBER THE FUN. At that time, I hadn’t seen Sam for over thirty years and he was my boyfriend in high school.

There is also Lori. I wrote about Lori on RECONNECTING & REMEMBERING and I’VE LIVED AMIDST BROKEN HEARTS. We have a mutual relative that connected us after her son died.

I have endured considerable teasing and prodding by some of my tennis friends. Their message to me has been this, “Stop wasting your time emailing your former boyfriend and pay attention to your husband!”

Well, I love my husband, and “my former boyfriend” has been extremely compassionate and helpful in my present life. Our new, friendship has certainly provoked some insightful writing from me. His kindness has been unusual.

This week, I went into the same hospital where my mom was on a respirator last year around this time. A few days ago, I mentioned to all my friends how difficult it was for me to visit my good friend, Janis, whose mother has been extremely ill.

Sam sent me a message and said he could visit Janis and her mother at this hospital, which was nearby to his medical office. I asked Janis if that was okay and she was open to his visit.

Janis told me afterwards that he was extremely attentive and caring. He spent almost an hour of his time giving her advice regarding her mother’s care. She had never met Sam before and was very grateful that he had extended himself to her.

I felt glad, because Janis had always extended herself to me. I will never forget how when my son, Jason, died in 1992 – she was there for me.

On Dec 8, 2010, Sam wrote:

Hi Judy,

Just back from a long downtown meeting…a quick off-the-wall comment on your recent post…you wrote:

“Even when I smiled, I could feel the squeezing pain of stress.”

You wrote a similar line in one of the earlier posts that I read…I just wanted to make sure that you are not having chest pressure or anything like that…when we were 19 and 17 it didn’t matter, but now at 53 and 51…when I hear “squeezing pain of stress” in my peer group, I usually order a treadmill stress test (stress echo actually)

I just want to make sure that you’re not ignoring any of your own health issues while taking care of everyone else! If you have any “squeezing” or “tightness” or “chest burning”, let your doctor know as soon as possible! This is not to worry you, but don’t ignore any significant symptoms!!…Sam

Phew! Thanks, Sam.

I think I meant it more figurative. I’ve been feeling a lot healthier, so I’m actually very sensitive now to those feelings of stress. When my burden is “heavy,” I usually feel the squeezing in my stomach. I have found the effect of stress has been to cause my stomach to be upset, so it’s not really in my chest area.

I have kept up with those mammograms – especially, losing my friend Cheryl gave me the awareness for that.

However, it was so caring of you to write that to me – Thank you.

Judy

Jason and Judy

“Where am I going with my writing?”

On Dec 6, 2010, Sam wrote:

Hi Judy,

You wrote:I’m actually thinking that perhaps instead of a book about grief I could make the book about releasing my grief through the music.”

You’re at this interesting juncture, and I think the main thing to decide is whether you want to write a book that is therapeutic for you in its writing, or whether you want to write a book that will sell as many copies as possible.  And they will probably not be the same book.

(Sam wrote a lot more; he was extremely helpful with a considerable amount of detail regarding his suggestion)

I think that you can find the proper tone that will be right for you and convey what you want to say…but it will have to be a careful and thoughtful road to get there.  I think you can do it and be very successful…go for it! Sam

A card from one of Jason’s 5-year-old preschool classmates. His death impacted some very young children. My good friend, Janis, says her son no longer remembers Jason now (He is 23).

From: Judy

To: Sam

Sent: Mon, December 6, 2010

Subject: Re: Grief book

I know you’re right about all of this!

I’m so tired from typing today it’s hard to process it. But thanks so much for the encouragement and thoughtfulness. I am thankful that I haven’t gotten any more carpal symptoms, but my wrists do ache a little from all my typing.

I’m going to have a great blog; too bad I can’t sell that!

It’s funny, but I feel like I always say the same things over and over in regards to grief. There are a few “truisms” for me, but generally those are not even my own ideas. They are truths that all the people grieving seem to know. It’s a “club” no one wants to belong to. And honestly, whoever buys the books will probably already know someone or be someone in it!

I read a lot of books back them. I did have one, special book and I remember being impressed that the mother wrote it ten years after her son died. I thought, “Wow, how did she remember all that?” Now I understand.

I guess I was thinking that although I thought I knew a lot of grief and “moving forward” – it was truly this year where I made so much improvement in my life. That’s why I thought it would be a more unusual book than all the other typical, grief books.

It sounds like an outline might actually be a very good idea for me. Thanks so much, Sam. I’m honored that you’ve shared my blog excerpts with med students, too.

Judy

On Dec 9, 2010, Lori wrote:

Hi Judy,

I think Sam has great ideas for you to ponder. I think what is so wonderful about your blog is that you fell deep into grief when Jason died, yet your experiences through that grief have made you who you are today.

A strong woman who can advocate for your children, caregiver for your parents, a singer songwriter, a writer etc…I think what would make your book different from other books is how you not only survived grief, but you came out the other end a very, happy person who rediscovered herself. As you and I both know, no parent wants their dead child to ever be forgotten.

Jason was only in your life for 5 short years, but look at the incredible impact he had on every aspect of your life!

That is exactly what your book would portray and that is what every grieving parent needs to know – that their child will never be forgotten and will always be involved in their life.

Love, Lori

Hi Lori,

Thank you for your touching message! You said exactly what I was thinking of doing. I love the songwriting stuff, although some of my songs are about friendship and stuff unrelated to grief (although Cheryl died).

I know a bio is too much. I thought I’d make it like a “journal of rediscovery” and use my blog excerpts – minus most of the stuff about my kids. I have plenty of material if I go that route.

Or I could just do stuff about grief, and make a smaller book.

Judy, I also love the humorous parts in your blog about your animals! I think everything including your songs should be included in the book somehow, or maybe a CD of your music can be included in the cover of the book.

Love, Lori

Below is a message from a fellow, bereaved mom in a grief forum to another mother named Joanne. Joanne was upset because she did not receive any messages on her child’s death anniversary and planned to “leave this group.” Shasta’s message echoes my sentiments exactly!

From: Shasta

Subject: RE: [Loss of a child] I think I am going to leave this group.

Date: December 10, 2010

Dear Joanne,

First I’m sorry for your loss (the death of your son). Second I’m sorry no one acknowledged it.

It is true that we understand your loss and wish to be there for each other everyday, but we can’t. As it has been said, many of us carry our own grief a burden so heavy that sometimes we stumble and fall beneath it (and often can’t get up). Some of us barely make it through our days, and many of us face other problems with our marriages, jobs, the economy, our living children (and their grief), other losses etc. Many of us will fall behind on many things including checking emails and these groups. I’m not making excuses, you are right there is no reason why anyone should face the anniversary of their child’s death alone! I’m sorry for the way the world is, it isn’t fair, it isn’t right and YOU should never have to face this horrible thing let alone feel like the world didn’t even care to acknowledge it. The truth is NO ONE should.

We were thinking of you on your hard day, I know you can’t read our minds and we need to express it out loud. For not doing so, I apologize.

Long Warm Love Filled hugs, Shasta

It might seem strange with so much sadness, but I’m going to end today’s writing with a short, humorous exchange. Sam and I both like puns:

Hi Sam,

I have a new, lower version of my latest song. Now it’s in a key that’s much better for my voice. Here comes The Alabaster Seashell in the key of C!

Judy

On Dec 6, 2010, Sam wrote:

Glad it’s not the Alabaster Beetle in the key of B…looking forward to hearing it…Sam

Hi Sam,

I had no idea there was so much to know about recording. I’m going to do a lazy vocal right now into my computer mic. Finally, blessedly it’s quiet around here.

I just know the lower key is going to help this song. I guess if this were a Beetle song it would “bug” me!

Judy

On Dec 6, 2010, Sam wrote:

Hey Jude,

I won’t leave you with no reply. That would get me nowhere, man. You’re getting better.  Do you want to know a secret?Just act naturally!

Hi Sam,

Oh god, not Beatles puns!!!!!

HELP!!!!!!

Judy

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 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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