Pictures from my foray to the mountains last week remind me of the fresh air I long for.

Pictures from my foray to the mountains last week remind me of the fresh air I long for.

It was an ordinary Wednesday. But then something extraordinary happened – I heard beautiful chords on my guitar. For days, weeks and months I was searching for a new song, but hadn’t heard anything that moved me.

What would my new song be about? I didn’t feel ready to write lyrics, so I decided to just allow the music to form. I recorded my song in progress and it can be heard with the blue link below:

Guitar Instrumental New Song in Progress – 9/1/16

Composing my new song was very uplifting and came at a perfect time. I was down because I wasn’t feeling well. That evening when my daughter visited, I coughed with almost every sentence I spoke and my coughs caused me to have a headache.

At night, I had trouble sleeping and tried to quiet my racing thoughts. Not only couldn’t I sing, now I had a funny feeling in my ears.

A week earlier, I emailed my doctor and told him my cough was still bothering me even though I had finished the antibiotics he prescribed weeks earlier.

He replied saying it would be best to wait for my endoscopy results, but my procedure wasn’t scheduled for another two weeks. He told me I also might consider contacting the allergy clinic.

I wanted to be patient. I had ordered an air purifier, but it hadn’t arrived yet. And my air ducts that possibly had rats in them were due to be inspected the following week.

I decided to see if I could get a sooner appointment for the endoscopy. Joni planned to drive me in two weeks and she was out-of-town. I didn’t want to ask anyone so I planned to use Uber to get to and from the hospital if I was able to get in.

I called and I was lucky; someone had cancelled so there was an opening!

The following morning I would have the endoscopy and it would be a relief to get it over with. I hung up the phone to answer my doorbell.

This is a picture of Miriam and I in 2011.

This is a picture of Miriam and I in 2011.

Miriam had come to take me out to breakfast.

When she called me the day before to see if I was free on Thursday – it was a lovely surprise. I told her I’d be delighted to spend time with her. It had been a few months since I’d seen her.

How would I describe Miriam? She was a dear friend, but she also was a connection to my parents; she had been a caregiver to both of them.

Mostly, she was a companion to my mother in a nursing home. As my mother declined with dementia, Miriam comforted her and alleviated my worries.

When my mother died, Miriam gave such a moving eulogy at the funeral. I could never find enough words to describe her love, attention and kindness to my parents.

I answered the door and Miriam and I hugged. I drove us to a nearby coffee shop where we would have breakfast together. It was lovely catching up about our lives. Talking about our children was always a high priority.

Miriam was worried about my cough. I suddenly made a connection as to another reason why my respiratory condition was upsetting me. It was a trigger.

My mother had respiratory issues and remembering her deathbed where she struggled to breathe was a horror for me.

Big Bear Forest 1

When Miriam talked about her different caregiving jobs, it was obvious how stressful her line of work was. Being a caregiver was challenging enough, but when the person being cared for died there was an immediate void – not just with feelings, but also with employment.

Miriam explained that working with the elderly person wasn’t as stressful as dealing with family members. The last time I saw her; there was a family member who was especially mean to Miriam. This woman ended up being given a restraining order to stay out of her elderly father-in-law’s life.

It upset me when I heard these stories. How could anyone not appreciate her care and devotion?

Miriam said she was tired because yesterday she had held the hand of a dementia patient all night long in the hospital. The woman kept trying to tear off her tubes and I.V. and Miriam had to physically prevent her from standing up the entire night.

In the morning when her daughter briefly stopped by, Miriam was shocked when her daughter asked her, “Have you ever gone through my mother’s purse?”

Miriam was very offended. She told me she defended herself and said, “I won’t quit taking care of her mother because of this. She can fire me if she doesn’t trust me.” I listened and was amazed that someone as gentle and kind could be treated so poorly.

But Miriam also shared beautiful things – such as the elderly man who called her to say how much he missed her in between their scheduled days together.

That reminded me of how much my father loved her. Even though she was mostly a companion to my mother, she also looked after my father. For four years, she helped me with both my parents in any way she could.

My father wasn’t like the elderly gentlemen she was currently working with. He was cantankerous and grouchy – not at all easy to be around. He was in constant pain and not  demonstrative or complimentary.

But Miriam didn’t judge him. She said, “Mr. Lee, was so smart and he would often say he didn’t like people.” But then she added, “Of course, he would say that he loved his family, including me.”

I smiled remembering how I had argued with my father about hiring a companion for my mother. He was absolutely against it. Despite that, I found my strength to move forward to hire someone and that was when I found Miriam.

Shirley & Miriam

As I ate my scrambled eggs, Miriam said softly, “I’ll never forget when I gave Mr. Lee his first shower. He had never had someone help him in the shower before.” I noticed her eyes were glistening with tears and she was very emotional.

The memories from those years began to flood back into my mind.

I remembered how hard it was to see my father struggling. He desperately wanted to continue living independently but was getting weaker. When he asked me if Miriam could take some time to help him once a week with a few things, she was very agreeable and happy to do it.

I didn’t realize what that meant until Miriam told me what happened when she helped him with that first shower.

She said, “Judy, your dad began crying when I went to wash him; he was sobbing.”

I cried picturing it. My father was a proud man and had never needed help to wash himself before. But he had painful urinary tract issues and was unable to reach down to clean himself.

Miriam said, “I told him it was my honor to help him – that I cared about him and wanted him to feel my love. I hugged him and I was soaking wet. He finally stopped crying and thanked me.”

She added, “It’s so special to really feel a person’s thank you. He didn’t have to say it because I knew he’d taken my words to heart. After that, he never cried again when I helped him in the shower.”

Her recounting of that memory moved me deeply. We held hands across the table and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.

We finished our breakfast and although I protested, Miriam insisted on treating me.

Judy in the Forest

She said, “I’ll see you early tomorrow morning to drive you to your procedure. I’ll wait for you until you’re done and then I’ll take you home.”

I choked back a few tears and thanked her profusely.

She hugged me and said, “It is my pleasure to be there for you, Judy. Nothing is more important to me. I am off tomorrow, so it is fine!”

My tears kept falling and I imagined my parents shining down on both of us from above.

Judy, Shirley & Miriam

This picture of me with my mom was taken five years ago. I miss her very much.

This picture of me with my mom was taken five years ago. I miss her very much.

Link to Part 1 of this Story: #192 DON’T KNOW HOW I LIVED WITHOUT YOU-PART 1

© 2016 by 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!
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  1. jmgoyder says:

    What a gift Miriam is! An amazing post, Judy – I so love your honesty and openness – you are living proof that there is hope in sorrow xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you for your sweet words, Julie. Every person is different – but I’m glad to offer hope of healing through sorrow. Perhaps my honestly and openness is what has helped me so much. You are also that way. I appreciate you very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Norm Goodman says:

    I got chills and tears from reading this one Jude. Miriam was such a big part of our lives back then. I miss her and of course mom and dad. It already seems so long ago.
    Love Norm

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Norm. Time keeps flying by – it is amazing. I’m back from my endoscopy and Miriam took 4 hours from her day to help me; what an angel she is. They saw a lot of burns from acid reflux and gave me a bunch of meds. I won’t get biopsy results for a week. I’m a bit woozy, but glad it’s over. Love you lots!


  3. Belinda O says:

    God bless the Miriams of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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