“It’s hard to let go”

Sometimes I ask myself, “What does my journey’s insight really mean?” Of course, that brings the memory of my father telling me how my blog’s title was grammatically incorrect. My father told me that only people can have insight, and journeys are not people. I like that memory; because I know it is the beginning of the many ways I will remember my father.


For me, it is about sharing every bit of insight I find as I navigate my life’s journey. I believe it was the process of opening up that ultimately healed me. Containing feelings is very unhealthy; but I do acknowledge that sometimes it has felt necessary for me personnally.


In order to help myself cope better, I am opening up to intimately share how it felt to watch my father die. I am not alone with this process, because it is universal. All of us are going to die some day. Much of our culture’s approach to death baffles me. We are kinder to our pets than to our elderly.


A few days before my father’s birthday, I asked him what he wished for. He said to me clearly, “You’re not going to like my answer, but I wish I were dead.” I let him know that although I indeed did not like it, I understood.

And so it was on my father’s birthday, that he received his wish when he was unable to be awakened. It was even a little mysterious that so many of the staff at my father’s nursing home found his demise baffling. He did not behave differently the days before his final birthday. On that morning, he simply snored and could not be roused.


I was asked (despite my father’s no hospitalization order) if I wanted a 911 call to be made. Without an invasive approach, I would not know what had actually happened. I preferred for my father to die peacefully; whether he had a stroke or sepsis was unimportant.


My father’s wish might have come true, but because he had a strong heart, his body continued to breathe and fight to stay alive.


Late last night, I rambled on to him in the darkness. I thought about his last message on my answering machine. He said simply, “I’m saying goodnight and wondering how your eye is.” He always worried about me. Oh, how I would miss having him there to care about me that way. The day before, I wondered if he might just awaken and this would all be a mistake. I wanted to think his snoring was just that, instead of the death rattle I knew it was.


I was certain he could hear me. Every time I brought up things that he wanted to respond to, his rasping snore became louder. When I ran out of things to say, I decided to sing to him. I was singing when one of his favorite nurses, Veronika, entered the room. She was crying and told me that she would never forget him. From the beginning of the death march, many caregivers approached me to share how they felt my father was wonderful man; all the beautiful words and hugs buoyed me. There were many, many people who loved my father. The last few months when I would drop him off at his facility, he would cry with joy when he had any of his favorite ones. His life revolved around who would be his caregiver for the night.


The process of watching him going from being an independent man to a helpless man, often filled me with despair. But eventually, he accepted it and so did I. It was harder with my mother because I hadn’t gone through seeing deterioration before. But my father remained my vestige of strength; I could always look to him for support. Eventually, that changed, especially during the times when he was continuously moaning.


The kind nurses in the room lifted my mood. We chatted about my father and the conversation became light. An older nurse said to the other, “Do you remember the lady who lived almost twenty days this way – no food or water?”


I didn’t like hearing that. I thought it would be five days, at most.


Then I heard Veronika interject how she knew my father hated drinking water. It made me laugh, because she was right. At every restaurant I had ever dined at with my dad, he insisted on not being given a glass of water. He did not want it to be wasted on him since he would not drink it. Veronika really knew my father!


I came home and it was peaceful and quiet. As I tried to sleep, I wondered if I would receive the dreaded phone call. In the afternoon, I received a call from the facility, and my heart was pounding. But the voice on the other end said she needed to inform me that my mother’s blood pressure medication would be raised.


I could not sleep. I listened to music and took in the magical elixir that allowed me to relax. But my heart kept pounding. I knew I was feeling that extra heart beat. I had never noticed it before, but now I did. My doctor told me it wasn’t dangerous, but I didn’t like it at all.


I prayed for the moment when my father’s heart would stop, because somehow I knew that after that my heart would be calm again. It would be my signpost that he was free.


Most of the time I was with him, I coached and begged him to let go. I wasn’t sure if he was able to voluntarily do that. But I told him it was okay and that he could be free from the prison of his body.

My original illustration of a fantasy butterfly which I changed coloration for to use for my song/story cover “Set You Free.”

The Death March

I wondered why I searched for an image to represent courage at my last hypnotherapy session. Had I known this was so imminent?


My image of a gray piece of granite blocking my vision held a lot of layers of meaning for me. Initially, it represented transformation by being a metamorphic rock. I certainly found the concept of allowing challenge to shape me into something stronger to be compelling.


Other thoughts began flowing into me. Perhaps the grayness of the rock represented other things, such as the reason my vision was obscured.


And then came another revelation. Gray was often a metaphor I used for grief. I have said that when I was grieving I did not see any color in the world.


I decided my rock was the image of impending grief for which I needed courage to face.


It was now the third day of the death march. I heard that my mother had babbled something about my father being dead to one of her grandchildren who visited. Perhaps she knew?


I wasn’t yet ready to face seeing my father on this third day of the death march. For the past three days, I had also been avoiding my mother. I brought in lunch to eat outside with my mother’s caregiver, Miriam, my mother and myself.


My brother and I had talked about how much better it was that we not upset our mother. She was mostly incoherent and it wouldn’t be helpful to give her grief over my father. My parents had been married over 61 years. Recently, she had even called him her “ex-husband” much of the time. As we finished our lunch in the beautiful sunshine, I felt rather impulsive when I told Miriam, “I want to let my mom say goodbye.”


Miriam said, “I have been wanting to ask you about this. So many people have told me it would be a good thing – but I respected whatever you decided.”


I said quietly, “I think it’s something I want to do for both of them.”


Together all three of us entered my father’s room. My mother hardly noticed my father. Just as he had the night before, he was prone on his bed snoring loudly. But it was clear that he was dying. My mother seemed pleased to be in the room and did not appear sad. She seemed to appreciate the dignity of not being left out. I asked her to say something to him and she babbled incoherently. The moment became sad, as I whispered to my father that she was there. It was clear my mother did not truly understand the situation.


She looked tired, so I said, “Mom, I want you to say goodbye to dad.” I put her hand in his. His hand was warm and limp. She held onto it for a while; then she said loudly, “Goodbye, honey.” Her goodbye was so clear and familiar. It was as if she was saying goodbye to him, expecting he might answer or she’d see him later on.


The moment caused tears to well inside me. But there were no tears I could release yet. They were waiting.


My mother left with Miriam. I sat alone at my father’s bedside. His throat muscles were completely visible now. The base of his neck bulged with a ball the size of a small apple. Taut veins were popping out from his skin with gullies on either side.


Every year around this time, I used to be filled with grief and sadness over the upcoming birthday for my deceased child, Jason. Memorial Day weekend was a reminder of all the wonderful birthday parties I used to make for him. He only had five of them, but the memory was always there.


I was not sad about Jason anymore. Healing was another blessing for me to hold on to.


So often, my father had wept to me about how he looked forward to seeing Jason in heaven. With that thought, I began coaching him. Firmly and gently I said, “Dad, please do this. You can leave the prison of your body. You are not alone. Jason is waiting for you. You can give me a sign and a beautiful gift if you would just let yourself go. I watched as his breathing slowed; I held my breath. But he continued rattling.


Over and over, I continued to beg him to go. I wished I could put a pillow over his face. Why was it like this? Why couldn’t he have died in his sleep on Monday morning?


I left him with my heart pounding in that funny rhythm. I knew my heart would be calm when his stopped. Of that I was certain.

I came home to write and prepared myself to go back in the evening with my oldest son after he returned home from his camping trip.

My father was waiting.


My father has always been a hoarder. I have begun to clean his room and take things home with me.














You’re hanging on as night turns to dawn

I know you can’t stay and soon you’ll be gone

we both know it’s hard to let go;

wherever you are my love won’t be far


your smile, your touch, your voice, your face;

your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free


There is no fear and your leaving is clear

we’ll still have our love; it remains with each tear

 I cry as you leave, but I truly believe

as you leave my sight we’ll both be all right


your smile, your touch, your voice, your face;

your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free


though you have flown to somewhere unknown

we’re never apart ‘cause you’re here in my heart

your smile, your touch, your voice, your face;

your essence I will never replace

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free

though I long for you to hold me; I need to set you free


© 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.

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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8 Responses to I NEED TO SET YOU FREE

  1. Fawn Caplan says:

    Judy, May you be comforted in this difficult time. I feel that our loved ones never really leave us. So many times I have felt my parents. When you are loved, the love continues…


    • Judy says:

      That is why I named my book, “Beside Me Always.” I survived my overwhelming grief for Jason exactly as you said. Love never leaves and lifts you up. Thanks so much for your love and support, Fawn. You have been with me from the very beginning of my journey. You are the first one that subscribed to my blog. I will never forget that. Love, Judy


  2. Karyn @ kloppenmum says:

    This is a time of transition and they are sometimes deeply sad. So pleased your Mum got to say goodbye. x


  3. Jan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing…I am very touched, and it helps give me strength as my own Mom approaches the crossing…many blessings to you…


    • Judy says:

      Your message means so very much to me. I am completely honest as I share my experiences, and it comforts me to think that I could help others have strength. Thank you!


  4. tersiaburger says:

    What a beautiful post – poignant and yet so strong. Lots of love dear friend.


  5. celi says:

    my dear, i was looking for a Butterfly who showed me a friend who passed away when he was 14. These memorie is my most important i do have, so i started looking for a similar buttefly. i ended up on your page, i read your text and i dont think People we do love are really leaving us. just listen and maybe you can hear his thoughts 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much, Celi! I love butterflies because they represent transformation. I transformed when I discovered my love for music and was healed from my grief. I appreciate your comment very much. I hear from my departed loved ones in my mind when I listen closely – you are right. I’m glad you can remember your dear friend with that image. 🙂


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