SUSAN’S MEMORIAL – PART 2

Performing for Susan

This link is to an obituary for Susan:

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/01/12/remembering-susan-rasky/

 

My trip to attend my good friend Susan’s memorial was three days. Even though my eyes bothered me a lot, I felt very inspired that I made this trip.

 

On my return flight to Los Angeles, I sat next to a woman whom I had conversed with earlier while waiting to board the airplane. The plane ride was only an hour and ten minutes, but the two of us shared a lot in that time. This woman was a nurse who travelled frequently. She showed me her paintings and we talked about music. I told her why I was on my trip and about my amazing journey.

 

Shortly before the plane landed, I asked her if she wanted to hear one of my songs on my iPod – it was the one I played for Susan’s memorial.

 

I closed my eyes and imagined I could hear my song while it played for her. When it was over, she reached over and squeezed my hand. Her eyes were moist as she said, “That was beautiful!”

This picture is the backyard of Liz’s house where I stayed for two nights.

This picture is the backyard of Liz’s house where I stayed for two nights. It was such a beautiful town – Sebastopol.

Up until a short time before my performance, I still wasn’t sure which song I would play. I had a few ideas and all of them required some minor lyric adjustments in order to work for Susan’s memorial service.

 

I had a time slot of five minutes. That meant I would play one song. I decided not to prepare a speech – I’d just say a few words and then allow my feelings to be expressed by singing.

 

So many times Susan had watched me perform on a live Webcast. Monday night was the night I would send her a text message letting her know my time slot so she could see my live performance of one song at Kulak’s Woodshed’s Open Mic night. It was fantastic that I could sing in Los Angeles and she would watch me where she lived in Northern California 400 miles away!

 

I remembered how much I looked forward to her messages after my performances. At the end of this post, I share a few from her.

 

As I prepared myself to sing at the memorial, I hoped Susan could hear me.

This very old photo is probably one where I last saw Liz at a family event.

This very old photo is probably one where I last saw Liz at a family event.

It was heavy carrying my guitar through the airport. As I waited for Liz to pick me up, I was glad she had sent me a recent photo because I had no recollection of what she looked like. She was right on schedule, waiting for my phone call in a nearby lot. I told her she would be able to find me if she looked for a lady holding a huge guitar case.

 

Liz was lovely and warm and I felt comfortable right away as I got into her car. I noticed we had something in common; we both disliked using a GPS for navigation. Liz handed me a stack of papers she printed out with a map of the campus where we were heading. Our challenge was to find parking close to the building where the memorial was being held.

 

Once we were parked and were situated we had several hours to hang out together. The weather was beautiful as we walked around the UC Berkeley campus. I imagined how much Susan must have loved being a faculty member there.

 

Lunch was perfect at an outdoor café a few blocks away. My eyes were sensitive to the bright sunlight, but the pain was not intense and I was grateful for that.

Judy & Liz and Susan's Memorial

It was nice getting to know Liz. Together we shared memories about our mothers. One thing that I remembered well was when Liz’s brother died about ten years ago.

 

It was a horrible thing that I only understood too well. Her mother and I shared many things related to grief and I mentioned it to Liz. She was surprised that I was aware of the details. Her brother had died of a drug overdose and it bothered her terribly that her mother often lied about it.

 

It hadn’t been easy for Liz. Her brother had many problems throughout his life, so she was relegated to the back burner. She left home and moved far away as soon as she was able to. And ironically, she took it upon herself to bring her mother, Sophia to where she lived in order to care for her. Sophia was reluctant and angry, but Liz was actually saving her life.

 

Sophia lived in squalor and with the onset of dementia she could not be reasoned with. After being moved to Liz’s area, Sophia was permanently separated from her partner, Stan, a man whom she did not live with. They had been together for decades and had never married. It would have been different if they had, because now both of them lived far apart and were immobile. Occasionally there were phone calls, but it was very sad situation indeed.

 

Despite her anguish and bitter feelings toward her mother, Liz was a devoted caregiver. She placed her mother in a nearby board and care home; and clearly her life deeply revolved around her mother.

 

I would be seeing Sophia the following day. Liz prepared me for many things; mostly, her mother had a short fuse and could easily become angry. I was impressed at how much Liz worried about her and dealt with the dementia so matter-of-factly.

 

It wasn’t too long ago when that was my life. I made a mental note to appreciate the fact that I had exited my former existence, which revolved around unending stressful phone calls from my parents and their nursing facility.

A picture of the campus where we walked around.

A picture of the campus where we walked around.

It was time to get my guitar from her car and go back to the journalism building where the memorial would be held.

 

But first, I wanted to warm my voice up in Liz’s car. I had a CD with karaoke recordings of several songs. Now was the time to decide on the exact one I would play for Susan.

 

I said to Liz, “Okay, I’m going to sing a few songs. Please tell me which one you think is the most touching.

 

Liz popped my CD into her car’s CD player. The arrangement filled the car with sweet notes and I sang very softly, just enough to warm up without pushing it.

 

I closed my eyes.

 

Whenever I sang, I felt so elevated; it was such a beautiful feeling. I was finished and looked over.

 

Liz was crying.

 

She said, “I wasn’t prepared – my walls weren’t up. Your song just hit me so hard. I thought about my mother when you were singing; I imagined how it would be when she was gone.”

 

I decided that I would perform that particular song, which had moved Liz so much. It was called “Never Gone Away.

This photo has a lot of meaning for me. My mother and her good friend, Sophia (Liz's mom) are in the same apartment where I live now. I see my wedding picture on the wall behind my mother.

This photo has a lot of meaning for me. My mother and her good friend, Sophia (Liz’s mom) are in the same apartment where I live now. I see my wedding picture on the wall behind my mother.

At the memorial, I was the second person scheduled to speak and sing. I felt relaxed and buoyed to be in a room with people who all felt what I was feeling. Susan was such a powerful woman – a tornado. She was honest; she was out-spoken – she was so many things to so many people. Susan had helped many of her students become important journalists. They were there.

 

Lydia, the organizer of the event began with these words:

“I want to welcome everyone – it’s such a great turnout, but I’m not at all surprised. We all just have wonderful, wonderful memories of Susan, her incredible intelligence – her no bullshit intelligence, her honesty and really just her kindness, too. She was very special.”

 

I thought the description of “no bullshit intelligence” was a perfect one for Susan. But now It was my turn.

I introduced myself and expressed how grateful I was that Susan had been my friend during what was one of the most challenging periods of my life.

 

The room was quiet as I began playing my guitar. I concentrated on singing the words clearly; it was difficult to detach but I needed to somewhat. If I became emotional (something that I often do while singing), I wouldn’t have been able to sing at all.

 

A lot of people heard me play my song for Susan. But the fact that Liz cried and was touched by my song was something I would always remember.

 

Whenever a person is moved by my music, I am ecstatic.

NEVER GONE AWAY–Dedicated to Susan Rasky

Performance by Judy Unger

 –

Link to more about my song:

 

Story behind NEVER GONE AWAY

The exquisite view outside my bedroom window while staying with Liz in Sebastopol.

The exquisite view outside my bedroom window while staying with Liz in Sebastopol.

 

NEVER GONE AWAY

(Lyrics revised to past tense to honor of Susan Rasky)

I know that you had to leave me

How can I ever say goodbye?

There’s so much you’ve left me

I’ve tried hard not to cry

And though you’re gone you’re still with me

In all the songs I long to play

Every time I see a smile

You have never gone away

 

It always seems to me, that whenever I was down

Your hand was the one holding mine

But your fingers I let go of; how I longed to hold on

You’ve touched so many others, though you’re gone

 

Sometimes I will stop and wonder

You know what I am feeling

I hear your laughter in my mind

I remember all our special moments

They run by with a tear

You’re gone, but in my heart you’re still here

 

I know that you had to leave me

How can I ever say goodbye?

There’s so much you’ve left me

I’ve tried hard not to cry

And though you’re gone you’re still with me

In all the songs I long to play

Every time I see a smile

You have never gone away

You have never gone away

Hang On 9-23 snap 10

 

I share a few old messages below from Susan after seeing me perform online at Kulak’s Woodshed’s open mic night:

 

June 7, 2010

Hi Judy,

I could tell nerves got you a bit at the beginning, but you shook them and were much stronger. Your voice just keeps getting better and better!

 

August 16, 2010

Kudos for doing a song that you are still actually learning. Now I want louder, a bit more guitar without voice for a piece of it. Also want: 1) Eye shadow and mascara 2) just a bit of rouge. You look wonderful, but wan (webcast not exactly perfect lighting, etc.) Skinny jeans very impressive! Your legs looked super long and skin looked lovely.

 

November 3, 2010

I think it’s great about your weekend performances. Pretty soon you’re gonna have roadies!

Love, Susan

 

January 16, 2011

Judy, the arranging and the voice lessons have definitely made you a much better singer and musician. The song you sent on the latest video is my favorite of all so far. It was a really beautiful melody and wonderful performance. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard “a smile” in your voice as you sang. It’s great!

Love, Susan

Performing for Susan's Memorial

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. 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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One Response to SUSAN’S MEMORIAL – PART 2

  1. jmgoyder says:

    Hi Judy – I am having a teensy meltdown at the moment so not keeping up very well with yours and others’ posts. Sorry and much love to you. Julie xxx

    Like

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