Tomorrow is my father's birthday. He died two years ago. My father was in a lot of pain and had difficulty smiling. In this picture, he made the effort to.

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. He died two years ago. My father was in a lot of pain and had difficulty smiling toward the end of his life. In this picture, he made the effort to smile.

If there is anything this world needs more of – in my mind it would be compassion. To begin with, I wish I even had more compassion for myself. I often hear an inner voice filled with judgment that berates me when I’m depressed.

I was talking with a new friend I made from my dry eye support group. After sharing her many challenges, she said, “I know I’m a loser.” I was so sad to hear her say that about herself.

Recently I was devastated when someone I work with told me, “Jude, your problem is your lack of appreciation.”

Nothing could have been more hurtful for me and I sucked it up.

It was so reminiscent of when I lost my child. It is horribly lonely to carry grief inside because nobody wants to hear about it. Having other people who aren’t in pain telling me to “get over it” is more infuriating than I can even find words for.

I don’t really spend a lot of energy imagining that I’ve been cursed with any form of loss in my life as punishment for something I’ve done – certainly not because I wasn’t grateful enough about my life.

But I do imagine that this time is an opportunity for me to become even more compassionate toward others. I’ve written comments to many bereaved parents of, “Your child wants you to feel better.” Now I realize that my remark really isn’t compassionate. It just compounds the pain of grief; it adds guilt because now the parent has disappointed a dead child on top of everything else.

My post title is a lyric line from one of my favorite songs “Clear.” Recently, I sang new vocals for both of my different arrangements of this song. “Clear” is truly an amazing song that helped to push me out the door to change my life. I trembled when singing it because there was tremendous irony with the words, “I opened my eyes – life became clear.”

I never stop dreaming that will happen again for me someday. Until then, even though my physical world is foggy and painful – I never stop relishing my freedom to explore my inner mind searching for insight.

Below are links to stories and audio for my song “Clear”

Story behind CLEAR-PART 1

Story behind CLEAR-PART 2

I do appreciate my life and wish the world held less misery for every creature.

i just can't see

I’m amazed at how quickly life races by me. In an instant, another week has passed – when it feels like last week was only yesterday. 
Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my editor, Carol Walkey on a Monday. Carol didn’t live close by, so we planned to meet at a restaurant somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t far from the large hospital where I went for my eye appointments. So it was a perfect opportunity for me to pick up two new medicines that were ordered for my dry eye condition.
But at the pharmacy, I was told that I couldn’t order my new eye medicines because my health insurance had been terminated. It was something I would have to deal with later on. Because of my divorce I knew I would be getting COBRA benefits, so I wasn’t too worried.
As I waited for Carol, my eyes didn’t hurt quite as much as usual; I was blanketed by melodies in my mind. After ten minutes when Carol didn’t show up, I called her and she profusely apologized. She had forgotten because of some family problems; her husband’s son had been severely injured in a car accident. We rescheduled our lunch for the following week.
I decided to order lunch and ate alone. I enjoyed myself and was relaxed and accepting about everything.
The week zipped by and it was Monday again. I had hoped my medical insurance problem was going to be resolved after a week, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t even allowed to make an appointment on the phone and wondered what would happen if I were sick.
I decided to be my own advocate by going into the medical center that was nearby to where I was meeting Carol.
I met with a health care representative at member services. She called my husband’s employer to find out what the problem was. She was placed on hold for a long time, just like I was. Finally her call went through and the person who could help was already out to lunch.
This representative seemed sympathetic when I told her that I needed to get those medications. She spoke with a supervisor to see if my prescriptions could be ordered, but to no avail. I could feel anger mounting when I was informed that I would be charged for medical insurance going back several weeks. I was going to have to pay for services I wasn’t getting and that didn’t seem fair at all. I told her I wanted to file a complaint.
Most of this problem had resulted because all of the correspondence had been mailed to my ex-husband, instead of me. I hadn’t received it in a timely fashion and how was I to know if he didn’t share the mail with me?
All the while as I sat there, my eyes were throbbing and tearing uncontrollably. After two hours, I left. I was told it was going to take a few more days, but I was glad I made the time to sort things out. I raced to my car and realized I was now fifteen minutes late to my lunch with Carol. I took a few deep breaths and drove there carefully. I wondered if I could change gears and enjoy my lunch.
Carol was waiting and told me I looked happy. That surprised me because I didn’t think I smiled much anymore.
It had been almost a year since I’d seen Carol. She was retired and had worked as a journalist and editor at a large newspaper. Editing was a nice side job for her, and she had helped edit the 34 stories I wrote for my first audio book.
Carol was such a lovely woman. One of the most interesting things about her was the fact that she had a wonderful marriage to a fascinating man who was a former Disney Imagineer. He was much older than she was. It wasn’t until she was 60 years old that Carol decided she was ready to consider getting married if the right person came along. And shortly thereafter, she met her future husband who was divorced after 48 years of marriage.
We finished our lunch and then I hesitantly asked her what she thought about the new material I had emailed. She handed me a large envelope and began to summarize some of her notes to me.
She began by saying, “Judy, do you realize how you say the same thing over and over? Too many words, short is sweeter. I listen to the way you speak; you’re clear and to the point. But when you write you go on and on with a lot of detachment.”
I already knew Carol would hate my Princess writings. Those were in third person and anytime I wrote “she” Carol felt I was distancing myself. I hadn’t given her any of that to read though.
Carol continued. “You don’t have to tell your readers everything – like a staircase, you want to climb up to the top without listing every step. And I hate it when you say things like – the amputation of my soul. You’ve said that too many times already! What I want to hear are real feelings. When you wrote Jason’s story, there were things in there of a personal nature and that is what moved me.”
I understood. I said, “You mean like when I spoke about the opera of Jason’s death.”
Carol nodded. She could see my eyes were big and was concerned she had hurt my feelings. With kindness she told me she knew she was being critical, but emphasized that it was constructive criticism.
I reassured her that I could handle it. What I had sent her was a rough piece that I wanted feedback on before developing it further. I liked her advice and thanked her for being so honest with me.
She said softly, “Have you considered that since you speak so well, perhaps instead you should just talk instead of typing? Record your heartfelt words and then transcribe that.”
Her advice was terrific and I would definitely give it a try.
Then she added, “Judy, you say that you are a passionate songwriter. Can you find a more interesting way to write about that?”
I began to describe to her how I see my songs as part of a garden. I am a song gardener, tending to all of them as they have grown from tiny seeds into wondrous blooms. As I talked about it, Carol enthusiastically nodded.
“You see – that is far more interesting! Also you mention how your father suffered and your mother had dementia. Many people have declining parents and could relate to that. But you just glossed over it and didn’t reveal much.”
I had not to gone into detail about that because my story was already so long. But it turned out that was the kind of material I needed.
I became thoughtful as I searched for an example of my father’s suffering to share with her. The few thoughts that entered my mind caused my throat to tighten. I tried to speak, but my voice quivered and I had to stop.
As we left the restaurant, Carol said, “Now you understand what you need to write and I can’t wait to read your revisions. We’ll meet again soon.”
I wasn’t sure what I was feeling while driving home. The doubt that constantly clouded my life was setting in. Was I making a mistake redoing my book? How long was this process going to take? The microphone tests I had done with Lon weren’t that great and a lot of audio editing was going to be required to remove sibilance on whatever I recorded.
Yet now I was very motivated to write something that would be far more touching. Sometimes I’ve noticed that my writing on my blog has been rambling and repetitive. I didn’t want any of that for my audio book – Carol was right.
I don't think I ever can remember seeing my father this happy - even when I was young.

I don’t think I ever can remember seeing my father this happy. This is a picture of him as a young man.

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. His urinary issues and painful infections wore him out and he told me that he looked forward to dying.
He went into a coma on his 88th birthday two years ago and died five days later. His death was more a result of dehydration than anything else. He was fairly aware of his death and it was horrible to watch.
I had started to describe to Carol how a simple trip in the car with my father was a major stressor for both of us. I would be picking him up from the nursing home and bringing him for a visit to my home. It was the highlight of his week. First, I would fold up his wheelchair and put it in my trunk. He would admonish me to be careful lifting it, so as not to hurt my back.
Then I would gently give him a boost into my minivan. As he sat down, he would tightly grip his catheter bag and let out howling moan.
I would always drive as carefully as I could when he was in my car. I made sure that I slowed down for every bump in road.
But sometimes I didn’t see one. As the car bounced, my father would curse and let out a horrific scream. Then he would dissolve into sobs and yell at me to be a better driver. A few moments later, he would apologize for yelling at me. He would sniffle and cry softly for the remainder of our trip.
Dad in his wheelchair 2
I have my father's cap in my closet where I can see it.

I have my father’s cap in my closet where I can see it.

Yes, this was something I could write about.
Thinking of his absence over the last two years, is a mixed bag. I miss his caring and concern for me. His last phone message was to see how my eyes were because at that time I had started having problems seeing; I didn’t know I had cataracts.
I miss the feeling of him loving me so much; I also know he would be overwhelmed worrying about me at this time in my life.
So the truth is, I do not miss my suffering father.
It was too hard to watch.
This is the last picture taken of my father two days before his final birthday and subsequent coma.

This is the last picture taken of my father two days before his final birthday and subsequent coma.

© Judy Unger and 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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  1. tersiaburger says:

    My friend I agree with Carol. You have so many stories in you and have been blessed with an amazing voice. Three years ago, today, my Dad forgot how to breathe. It is a story that needs to be told. As is your story about your Dad… I love you and treasure our friendship.


  2. I also agree with Carol (and Tersiaburger too)! You have a wonderful gift of being able to reach people especially those in need of support and encouragement through their losses. I too have experienced a life-time of various losses and it’s so easy to get depressed and give up on dreams and passions. It is through our own pains and sufferings where we can be at our best (especially as artists); so, instead of being afraid of them…use them.

    As always, you’re an inspiration to me!


  3. Carol Walkey says:

    judy: dunno why i typed in your name on google today. but it was nice to read about your efforts with your parents and your book and my never-ending criticism. how are you doing? new books on the horizin? keep in touch… carol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Hi Carol,
      You are so wonderful and I am honored that you looked me up.
      I have never thought of what I learned from you as criticism – you were always so helpful. To this day, I won’t write the word “however” – I use “but” instead.
      I think you might have read some older posts. My parents both have passed – it was four years ago this week for my father and soon it will be three years since my mom died. I have struggled with my dry eyes a lot, but continue to focus on the music I love.
      I’ve had a lot of disappointment with producing the audiobook. But I haven’t given up on it at all. Would love to see you to share where things are at with that.
      I hope you are well, Carol! Love, Judy


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