Last week, I completed a new vocal and created an instrumental version of one of my favorite songs, “You Were There.”
It’s no coincidence that as both my parents decline; this song is very close to my heart. On the audio excerpt “He Was There and She Was There” I became very emotional. Therefore, since I haven’t had time to write new posts, I would love to share my audio story and new versions of my song. All of my stories have instrumentals in the background as I recite lyrics at the beginning of each story. I am planning to eventually market a CD of only instrumental song compositions.
YOU WERE THERE
All my life, every day you were there, when I’d need you
All the time, I just knew
You’d be there and you’d see me through
I’ve always known, I’m not alone . . .
You were so strong; you’d pick me up when I’d fall down
So I can see all your strength is in me
Everything that I did, you’d applaud; you were right there
Watching me as I grew, sharing joy and my heartache, too
I always knew, that I had you . . .
Now I’m so strong; I picked you up when you fell down
I learned to see just how strong I could be
Although I try, It’s hard to say goodbye
To someone who loved me all of my life
And when I’m sad, because you’re not there
I’ll still see your love everywhere
Now that you’re gone, I say a prayer
And I remember
how you were there
From the time I was born, I was bathed in love. I was the youngest in my family and was always known as “the baby,” and it’s interesting that my mother was “the baby” in her family, too. In my mind, I can easily picture an old home movie where my mother showed me off as an infant. She glowed with pure, radiant joy while she held me, and beams of love shot out of her face and eyes. Throughout my childhood, she always told me that I was “the little girl she dreamed of having.”
My favorite instrumental song, “Farewell” with its gorgeous melody, inspired me to write lyrics that became a tribute to both my parents. My new song “You Were There,” was also a farewell. It expressed my appreciation to them while at the same time acknowledging how hard it was for me to say goodbye. I’ve been told my song is quite spiritual, and reminiscent of someone expressing deep appreciation to God. Certainly, when I wrote “You Were There,” it helped to fill a tremendous void within me.
Because my mother was always my confidant, when she became seriously ill, I felt so empty. It was then that I discovered how I received solace from writing. Although my mother recovered from being on a respirator for two months, her mind was never the same after that. I was sad when she could no longer relate to me; there were so many things that I longed to share with her. But I definitely conveyed to her how I had healed. She was able to understand that I was happy and that mattered more than anything to me.
Unlike losing a child, I know it is expected and commonplace for parents to age and fade. Still, the process of seeing my parents deteriorate was painful as I tried to alleviate their suffering. I rose to that challenge because my parents were always there for me; it was their love and support that truly enabled me to cope after losing Jason.
My song lyrics for “You Were There” flowed out easily from me as though they were already written. The lines of my song that touch me most, are the two that describe how I went from being the child to becoming the parent. With the transition of words “me” and “you, I first say: “You picked me up when I fell down,” and then I say: “I picked you up when you fell down.”
There are many stories I could write about what I went through the many times where my mother fell down; I truly feel like I have picked her up. My writing journey began after she ended up on a respirator, and that was a result of a fall where she broke her shoulder and had resulting complications due to her immune disorder. She contracted pneumonia very easily. When she broke her hip later on, I refused to allow any surgery to repair it; I had not forgotten the ordeal of when she was on a respirator.
I learned “just how strong I could be” when I faced down so many doctors and medical personnel who attempted to convince me that no one ever refused surgery to repair a broken hip. I was told my mother would be bedridden and die rather quickly, and as a result she was put on hospice.
My mother was able to sit in a wheelchair within a few days. Because my mother was not in terrible pain, I continued to follow my instincts and refused to allow for surgery. I requested another opinion and although this orthopedic doctor also recommended surgery, he told me that my mother’s hip fracture could heal over time. I requested that hospice be discontinued. Eventually, my mother was allowed to have physical therapy and it was miraculous that she was able to stand and walk again. Unfortunately, my mother never regained much of her former strength and more than anything; I wished that something could have halted her rapidly progressing dementia.
When I first wrote lyrics for my song, there was one line that I wasn’t 100 percent sure of. It was: “And when you’re not there, I’ll look for your love everywhere.” That line felt needy and sad, even though it was honest. Through hypnotherapy, I learned that reframing thoughts by replacing one word with another could lift my mood. I decided to change the lyrics from “I’ll look for your love” to “I’ll still see your love everywhere.” I knew that no one on this planet loved me more than my parents did, and now my song was truly finished.
I shared my song “You Were There” with both my mother and my father. My mother told me she told me she didn’t like my song. Dementia reduced her to a very childlike state; all her fears were extremely heightened. She had a lot of fear around death, so I wasn’t surprised. I understood she wasn’t ready to leave me yet, and I was glad that I had the courage to share my special song with her.
Just imagining my father listening to my song on an IPod with headphones, gives me a big smile. Even though he was quite ill and always adamant about hating music and electronic devices, he eventually caved in and listened to my recordings. My father was very emotional when he complimented me on my lyric writing. It meant so much to me.
Before I wrote my song, I first channeled my feelings into poems called “He Was There” and “She Was There” and they became the inspiration for my song.
“HE WAS THERE”
I stood up to give a speech. The room was crowded. I was the winner of the west coast region’s Secretarial Award and it was a great honor. I remembered how in the summers I would drive with my father every day to work as a secretary at the Board of Education where he worked in downtown Los Angeles. My father had painstakingly helped me with the application process.
Everyone was clapping as I stood up, but it was my father’s face that I remembered most.
He was there.
The beach parking lot was full. There was one space left on the side of the highway. As I exited my car and started walking toward the beach with my friends, I asked a man if it would be OK to park there and he said, “yes.” At the end the day, my friends and I trudged across the sand to my car. My guitar felt heavy and I was sunburned and hungry. I looked everywhere for my car, but it was gone; it had been towed.
I walked a mile to find a pay phone to call my father to come get me. An hour later, his car drove up. He was very upset, but I remember how grateful I was to see him.
He was there.
It was time to say goodbye to my dead child. His body was being readied so he could be seen without all the tubes. I waited with my husband and my parents in silence; I was exhausted from my earlier screaming and wailing. A nurse summoned us to go in. My mother said she’d wait outside; she emphatically said she couldn’t do it. My father said he would come in with us. I asked him if he were sure, and he said he was.
Time stopped, as I walked in slow motion to face the worst part of my life. The horror of it would never leave me. I wanted it to end, but at the same time I knew I’d never see my child again. It was the only time I’d ever have to say goodbye. Finally it was enough. I left the room and my husband followed in silence. We waited and we waited. Eventually, I had to go back into that room to get my father and tell him it was time to go.
He was there.
It was just another evening following a day filled with grief. There was a lot of relief over surviving another day; perhaps it was another day that would be closer to healing and less pain. I thought I heard my father’s car pull up in the driveway half an hour earlier. I looked out and sure enough, his car was there. I wondered why he hadn’t come in yet. But I knew. He would sob in his car before coming into my home.
I opened the front door and tiptoed barefoot into the twilight. He didn’t see me. I was right. He had his head bent over the steering wheel. His sobs echoed into the night air. I knocked on the window to let him know I was there and it was time to come in.
He was there.
“SHE WAS THERE”
I was an adult in my early 20s. Suddenly, I felt like a baby again, with the flu. I was home alone and I could barely move. “I’ll be fine,” I told my mom on the phone. A moment later, I opened my eyes and there she was holding a cool washcloth. She wiped my forehead and patiently gave me a bowl of chicken soup.
She was there.
It was the kind of fatigue that was beyond being alleviated by sleep. I was full of an intense, restless anxiety while at the same time my eyelids were as heavy as bricks. The night was giving way to dawn. I had gone another night without a single moment of sleep. Jason wouldn’t stop crying; he was only a few weeks old. I wondered: Would I be able to continue this pace of trying to feed this impossibly sick child without any sleep?
The doorbell rang. Jason was still crying as I opened the front door.
She was there.
There was no reason to get up; I didn’t want to move. I was under the covers. I had no tears left and my body was completely spent from crying for days and days. It had been a few months since Jason died and my husband had gone back to work. No one was home. Even though I heard the doorbell, I ignored it. I wanted to die.
She let herself in with a key and my bedroom door opened. She pulled down the covers, curled up next to me. She held me and together we cried.
She was there.
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2012. 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.