Jason and the pole

I had two “anniversaries of the heart” this week. Monday was the day my father died and today is Jason’s birthday.

If Jason had lived, he would be 27 years old today. But he never grows any older and I picture him as an angel of five forever.

I can feel the seasonal change tugging at my heart and recently recorded a new vocal for a special song named “Every Season.” Every year, my sister-in-law, Jo (and brother, Norm) send me two beautiful cards remembering my anniversaries of the heart for Jason. I am so blessed that they do this; I appreciate it even more since my parents are gone. I have few people left to share memories of Jason with.

Jo mentioned a sweet memory of Jason on her card. Jason was the ring bearer when she and Norm got married. Reading that made me smile because I instantly pictured Jason beaming that day. He was very proud of his responsibility and died only a few months after their wedding.

While working on two recent song vocals for “More Than You Know” and “Alabaster Seashell” – it reminded me again how deeply memories and grief are intertwined. Post-traumatic stress affects me with the memories of horror, of seeing my father take his last breath and when I last held my son’s dead body.

Thankfully, a blanket of healing results from my sweet memories. I have plenty of those and perhaps that is why singing those two songs touch me deeply.

Especially, with my song “Alabaster Seashell,” a seashell is such a perfect metaphor for the beauty of what remains after death.

This is a close-up of an old watercolor painting of mine.

This is a close-up of an old watercolor painting of mine.

“AJ and Jason in heaven”

I have corresponded for over a year with a very special woman named Sammi. I’ve shared many of our exchanges on this blog but have not always mentioned her name. Sammi is no stranger to grief; she lost her mother when she was only 18 years old. She writes from her gut and I feel so much pain reading her words.

I met her on an Internet grief forum and her first post was only one day after her son, AJ died from meningitis. (Her words are in brown and mine in black)

My beautiful 34-year-old son Allen (we called him AJ) died yesterday. I am walking around in a fog. I can’t sit, I can’t stand, I can’t eat, and I can’t sleep. I sob uncontrollably at times and feel very bitter and angry. I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I can survive. My husband says we will get through it; we have to. I can’t see that happening. I need someone to tell me that this pain will go away, that the ache will subside. I just want to curl up in a ball and pull the covers over my head. Thank you for accepting me.

Three months later she wrote:

My son has been gone for almost three months. I have been having a horrible time lately. It hits me like a punch in the gut out of nowhere and I am devastated. That has been happening a lot lately. I cry at home, I cry going to work, I cry at work, I cry on the way home, I cry in the shower, I cry in bed. I have people who have gone through this themselves that I talk to but nothing is helping.

Meadow in Fog

It has been a year and a half since AJ died.

Last week Sammi wrote:

I have been slowly emptying out the boxes we packed up from AJ’s apartment. Yes, I still have his things in boxes but I have been slowly going through them all after a year and a half. The boxes today contained all of his DVD’s and CD’s. It made me laugh and cry, remembering his music and movie tastes. He had a wonderful sense of humor and going through all of his comedy DVD’s brought back memories of sitting with him and watching some of them. I could hear his laughter echoing in the room as I looked through them all. I remembered how much joy he got out of living and how he never wallowed in the muck and mire of life. He would always share his latest comedy discovery with me and we would laugh over all of it. How I miss his laughter. How I miss those times we had. How I miss him.

You will always miss him, Sammi. Sweet memories are far less traumatic than what you have been living with over the last year and a half. When I had memories that made me smile (despite the longing and heartache), I knew I was moving forward in my grief.

Those tender moments brought my beautiful son back to me. It’s been over 20 years since he died and I treasure them. They are still there and I can still hear his peals of laughter. In one week, it will be another birthday and he would have been 27 years old. But in my memories, he is a young boy who is an angel.

AJ sounds like such a beautiful man. I am so sorry, Sammi. Keep sharing about him – I like hearing it.

Judy, I like to think that AJ has met your son and they are now great friends. He loved children and would have made a great father. I choose to think that they know we speak like this and are happy that we found some peace with each other.

The cemetary

“The Hairdresser”

I plan to share more of my correspondence with Sammi because I asked her for advice about my most recent song. Our exchange was a spiritual experience for me. Knowing that I have brought her even a small measure of comfort means more to me than I can find words for.

I end this post with an exchange I had with her a month ago that illustrates how being compassionate doesn’t necessarily have to come from a place of experiencing the same kind of suffering.

Dear Sammi,

It truly is horrible to think of how much suffering there is in this world. I know it helped me to have others who really understood while I was going through it (I’m ahead of you and it is not the same). Keep looking as you have. It is your rope to survival (hanging on vs. hanging yourself.)

As always, I’m so sorry for this horror that connected you to me and hell on earth.

Judy, while the circumstances of our “meeting” are not what I would wish for anyone, I am glad to know you. All we can really hope for is to be of some comfort to each other in some way.

I not only struggle with this feeling of being gutted, but also with understanding the need for such pain and agony in this world. Your music is your solace and I’m glad you have it. I feel better sometimes when I just let myself rant on virtual paper.

Believe it or not, I have received more comfort and understanding from my hairdresser.

She always asks how I am, if I am getting out and she talks about AJ (she used to cut his hair when he was a little boy). I told her that I don’t talk much about things because I don’t feel that people really want to hear that. Her response was, “Those of us that ask you, really want to hear.”

I don’t have many that ask.

Rosebud - Yellow left

I love your hairdresser!

It’s so incredible when someone really “gets it” – and hasn’t gone through this to know it. What a connection to AJ she is! I have a tear imagining it. I wish more people could understand the difference it makes to freely ask and want to hear how we are doing. All the isolation from fear and ignorance would be alleviated.

I see a lot of progress that you’ve made on your grief journey, Sammi. You might not see it so clearly. There really isn’t a destination that I know of except to go farther and farther from the hell of where it all began. It’s tiring and discouraging, I know. But eventually, you will feel better even though you will never be the person you were before.

Oh, I’ve already said good-bye to the person I used to be. I am already missing her. She was so blissfully unaware of so many things. If given the choice, I’d choose blissfully unaware.

I don’t care what religion a person is. Religion, for me, does not define the person and I find solace in many places. I have found, since this happened, that I do not recognize one set of beliefs. I am Catholic and of course I feel comfortable with all things Catholic but I no longer think as a Catholic . . . I think as a human being.

I never thought of my hairdresser, Sharon, as having a connection to AJ. Funny how, out of all the people I know, she has been the one who consistently asks how I am and notices if things are off. I have been going to her for almost 30 years. We aren’t what I would call friends. We don’t hang out together. We don’t talk on the phone. She is my hairdresser and yet she was at the funeral and she made a safe haven for me when I returned to her shop – such compassion and empathy.

How do you thank a person for that? I have been pondering this and I will come up with something but I know she expects nothing.

Thank you again, Judy.

Happy Bday to Jason Hard to believe

Jason as ring bearer

© 2014 Judy Unger and 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!
This entry was posted in Grief Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s