Memories are truly one of the greatest gifts in my life. I didn’t always feel that way, since I held onto many traumatic and sad memories.

As a memory in my life replays, it can be so clear for me sometimes. The smells, lighting, sounds; all of it is there as I am transported back to a certain moment in time.

Of course, not every moment of an ordinary day becomes a memory. Only extraordinary moments are “captured,” and I am not always aware that they are special while they are happening.

Recently, I had a moment while I was visiting my mother where I definitely felt I had a memory I would access later in my life.

It was on a rainy morning over this past weekend. I decided to stop by my mother’s nursing facility before going to an appointment with my hypnotherapist, Connie. As I walked into my mother’s room, I felt like a star walking onto a stage garnering tremendous applause. My mother’s face lit up like the sun and her caregiver, Miriam, clapped with joy to see me.

It was hard for me to know how much my mother was aware of. Certainly, she was often frustrated with her inability to find words. As usual, I simply smiled and told my mom how wonderful I was doing and how much I loved her. She babbled nonsensical statements, so I simply sidestepped and ignored her confusion.

My mother had attempted physical therapy last week. Because I am very aware of attitudes and outcomes, I found it very interesting to hear Miriam describe how it went to me.

My mother walked several steps, but then she collapsed in terror. She was not in pain, but she was panicked and fearful. Miriam said, “The physical therapist kept emphasizing to your mother that it might hurt – so she was very afraid.”

It turns out that my mother’s pain in her life is not her hip, her shoulder, or her back anymore. It is terror over her intense fear of the unknown.

I had brought with me some old, picture albums. It was suggested to me that with dementia it might be helpful for my mother to spend time looking at old pictures and explaining them to her caregiver.

Miriam shuffled through some of the albums I had brought while I was gently chatting with my mother. As Miriam looked at some of the pictures, she commented softly, “Look at your mother and how beautiful she looks! When was this picture taken?”

I turned to Miriam and said, “That one was four years ago.” I flipped through and pointed to one that was taken the day before my mother broke her shoulder and ended up on a respirator for two months. I glanced at the picture. My mother was dressed so nicely and her eyes were sharp. I said, “This picture is from only a little over a year ago.”

Miriam let out an almost inaudible gasp.

That gasp spoke endlessly to me. The unspoken words and story that spun from it was:

“Oh my goodness, how she has changed (deteriorated) from her image in that picture!”

My mother looked tired. I noticed how the skin on her arm was so different now. It looked like a paper that had been crunched into a small ball and then unrolled again. Tiny webs of lines crisscrossed her skin so that it looked almost like a piece of crumpled, tissue paper.

Miriam said, “I know I’m not allowed to do this, but sometimes we have to wait fifteen minutes for someone to come and put her in her bed. I am not going to wait – I will just do it now.”

I replied, “Miriam, I found out that as long as I am here you are allowed. So go ahead!”

Miriam gently lifted my mother from her wheelchair onto her bed. My mother would nap in her clothes and later on wake up to go to lunch. After lunch she might nap again. That was her life now. She woke up, ate breakfast, napped, ate lunch, napped, ate dinner, and went to sleep for the night at 6:30 p.m.

The room was dim. I leaned close to my mom and kissed her. “Have a nice nap, mom,” I told her.

Her dull eyes brightened for a moment. She was devouring my face with love. Then she became downcast and said, “I feel so bad for her. You know she got lost!”

As usual, I quickly jumped to redirect my mom from any bad feelings. So I said, “Mom, there’s no reason to feel bad for anyone else. You’re doing well and that’s what is important!”

As the words left my mouth, I realized how hollow and insincere they sounded. I decided to ask her, “Mom, whom do you feel bad for – who was lost?”

My mom said, “You know, you lost her – your friend. The one you used to go shopping with and whom you were so close to.”

My eyes filled with tears. My mom knew. She was speaking about herself.

Links to more about my song:




Original Song by Judy Unger, Copyright 2010

How can I tell you, I’m sad you’re leaving me?

I miss the way you used to be

I lost you somewhere

I’m lonely and I can’t share

I cannot tell you, so instead I just pretend

it’s easier, than to face the end

I’ve tried so hard to accept

as you fade away, I’ve slowly wept

I feel, I sense, there’s so much fear

I try to be brave, as you disappear from here

I cannot see you,

you’ve become transparent

I ache and wonder where you went

you can’t hear my cries

with deaf ears and vacant eyes

I pray, I wish, you were aware

but when I feel despair

the memory of love

is there

so even if you’re not aware

the memory of love is always there

“Instead of black and white, a palette of emotion”

The rain steadily pounded upon the guesthouse. I could hear the tapping sounds and splashes in the garden outside.

I told Connie that I was using my hypnotherapy tools and needed a lot of “self-talk” to help me deal with all the stress I had been facing the past week. Connie said it sounded as if I felt a lot of pressure.

As I was talking, I began to realize how frequently I used the statement, “I don’t know.” Here was a list from my memory of many of my statements with “I don’t know:”

“I don’t know if my teenage daughter and I will ever have a close relationship.”

“I don’t know if I’ve been patient enough with my youngest son.”

“I don’t know if my dreams are a distraction from the reality of all the overwhelming bills there are to pay.”

“I don’t know if my husband will continue to support my efforts. I haven’t paid much attention to him, lately.”

“I don’t know if I have a good enough title for my book.”

“I don’t know when I’ll finish the lyrics to my new song.”

One of the hypnotherapy concepts I learned was, “The more I looked for something, the more I’d find it.” With the statement of, “I don’t know,” I was simply leaving myself in a place of never knowing. The unknown was a place for me that seemed fearful.

I needed a replacement statement for, “I don’t know.”

Out came my favorite word. It was the word “wonder.” Replacing the doubt with “wonder” had the implication of “wonderment” and also far less doubt.

I loved wondering instead of doubting.

I had a tendency to also see things in “black and white.” I explained to Connie how that was probably “a habit” and a result of my childhood. My own mother and father still see things that way, and my awareness of it has helped me change a lot in that regard.

However, there is never an end to self-improvement!

The artist in me came alive when thinking of an alternative to viewing things in my life as “black and white.” Seeing things in “shades of gray” wasn’t even good enough for me.

I decided my “palette of emotion” would be far better displayed with infinite, colorful tones. It wasn’t about the pressure of failure or success anymore, because I began to wonder about all the colorful possibilities in between.

It dawned on me also that a lot of my energy was spent “wondering” about how to make all the other people in my life happy. I was very good at that, and had done it for a long time.

However, I celebrated the knowledge that my transformation was a result of my learning to make myself happy.

Nothing was going to deter me from appreciating that fact and continuing to find ways to improve my life and myself.

© Judy Unger and 2011. 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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