For some reason, I haven’t felt like writing much about my recent trip. Alaska was beautiful and I was able to spend a lot of time with all three of my children. I adore my kids, but to be honest – the dynamics of all three of them together are something else. I did my best to relax and enjoy my vacation, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my life at home is a vacation!
I treasure my current peaceful life because it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes I look back with awe that I managed to raise children with challenges, oversee my elderly parents’ care, shop for a large household and pay the bills. I did all of this while working as a commercial artist, too.
When I began my blog, it was fabulous therapy for me. Now that I am peaceful, I find myself unsure of what I want to write for my blog. I wait for inspiration to come and spend most of my time pursuing my passion for music.
Even though I am peaceful, I’m still very much attached to the subject of grief and healing. Lately, it has been on the forefront of my mind because I will be sharing my story soon to a large audience on the meditation app named Insight Timer.
I will upload my Insight Timer audio recording on this blog when it’s done. But today I have a story I want to share. Past memories and present moments intersect; when I feel moved I find myself writing again.
I have a good friend – her name is Janis. Her son, David was a good friend of my son, Jason. I have pictures and stories related to their friendship. It has been many years now since Jason died and Janis told me that her son doesn’t remember him anymore. The important part is that my friend helped me through that difficult time and remained my friend. I hold onto that.
I took Janis out to lunch and for an inexpensive Thai massage on her birthday last year. After our massage, she said, “Judy, this is so wonderful! It’s reasonable and we should do this every month. We’ll put it on the calendar and treat ourselves to it!”
I smiled and agreed. Although we didn’t do it every single month, it became a new routine to add into my peaceful life. And it was always nice to see Janis and catch up with her. Now it would be more often than our usual once or twice a year birthday lunches.
At our most recent lunch/massage last week, we talked about how things were going for our children. I updated my friend on what was new with me. I was back from my Alaska cruise and excited about the new musical arrangements I was creating. But I had received a message a few days earlier. It wasn’t an ordinary message. It was extraordinary.
It came from a woman named Sammi whom I had corresponded with for almost five years. When her adult son died, she was inconsolable. I felt compelled to respond to almost every message she wrote related to her grief. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure that what I wrote was helpful at all. But her recent message thanked me in ways that were too beautiful to describe. It was so inspirational that it deserves another story, which I will write soon.
My post title is a line of lyrics from my song named “It’s Not Forever.” That song was inspired by my dialog with Sammi. I recently recorded a new vocal for my song.
IT’S NOT FOREVER 6/18/17 – Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger
With a few tears, I read aloud Sammi’s message to Janis and she agreed that it was indeed special. At the end the message, Sammi mentioned that I was right about grief becoming easier after five years.
“It’s interesting that she mentioned five years,” Janis said. “After my divorce, I remember hearing that number. Of course, divorce is quite different from the death of a child – so please know I’m not comparing it. But I read a book that talked about how it took about five years to adjust and come out of the tunnel.”
I looked at Janis and said, “I’ve got chills! I separated in July of 2012. Do you realize that next month it will be five years for me? It is so true.”
I added, “I’m thankful my dry eyes are better and I’ve lost weight – I feel healthy again. Oh, and last month, it was also the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.”
I didn’t remember telling my friend, Sammi that her grief would ease in five years. A memory of mine that was buried deeply began to form.
A long time ago, I was given hope that I’d feel better when another bereaved mother told me that it would take seven years. Perhaps I hadn’t had the courage to tell Sammi seven years, I said five years instead.
I could not find any respite during my deep grief. It was horrible and indescribable. There are few words I can find to describe the suffering.
It was like living in a fog, except it was not really living.
During that time period, I remember I had a friend who wanted me to have a pedicure. She spoke very highly of her pedicurist. I never had one before in my life and she gave me a gift certificate to get one for my birthday.
It was the last thing I wanted to do. In my desolate state I somehow followed through and made an appointment with her pedicurist to redeem my gift.
The pedicurist’s name was Maddy. I told her my friend spoke very highly of her and that this was my first time having a pedicure. I think I cried during the entire process and Maddy spoke gently to me. She told me about her son that died from leukemia many years before.
When she mentioned her surviving son, I shared with her my inability to comfort my own surviving son. He screamed nonstop and we watched videos of Jason to help us cope with our grief.
Maddy’s surviving son’s name was Mitch and then a light bulb went off. Her last name rang a bell because I went to middle school with her son! I never knew he had a brother that died and it made me feel very sad for him.
When my pedicure was done, I tearfully hugged and thanked her. She had given me so many words of wisdom to help me with my grief. I was still in a fog, but I felt lighter.
I never saw Maddy again and it was twenty years before I had another pedicure. In my peaceful life, it is something I enjoy having on a regular basis.
But I couldn’t forget Maddy’s words to me.
“It will take seven years for the agony to subside. In seven years you will definitely start to feel better.”
Not long ago, I attended my 40th high school reunion. I even connected with people who didn’t attend the reunion. This was due to a lovely Facebook group/page dedicated to my high school graduating class.
After the reunion, I decided to post something about myself on that Facebook page. Many of the people I met who hadn’t seen me in decades, remembered me as a maze artist. It was a big achievement for me to have published a book of mazes while in junior high.
Link to my story about my mazes: #2 MY AMAZING JOURNEY
I enjoyed the lovely comments people made who remembered me. And then I saw his name. It was Maddy’s son, Mitch!
I couldn’t believe Mitch still had one of the mazes I drew for him in Junior High! He mentioned how he turned his life around and I decided to ask him about his mother.
With an open heart, I shared my feelings about his mom with him. There was no reason to sidestep mentioning my memories. I wanted to counter the part where he called himself a “stoner.” After experiencing the kind of loss he went through, it explained how he coped with his pain.
I believe everyone has his or her own lonely path to follow with grief. I consider it to be a lifelong journey that led me somewhere else; never back to the place I was in before it happened. I used to mourn that, but now I accept it.
After seven years, my agony did subside. But true healing and joy did not return for me until the rediscovery of music 18 years after my son’s death.
Every day, I am thankful for the miracle of healing in my life.
Grief is a lifelong journey. One that takes many twists and turns. You always share such poetic insight into that difficult journey and how to being healing.
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Thank you so much, Allyson! I am so glad if my words offer insight – I like to think that I am shining a light in the darkness of grief.
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I have a feeling that those who go on to their Eternal Rest and leave us behind, they leave us with a strength that we can use to sustain ourselves a little more each day. It seems to surface when needed and give strength and comfort according to our needs, we all have a different time element.
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So nice to hear from you, Leland! I agree with you and appreciate your words very much. You said it beautifully!
What a beautiful story, full of twists and turns — like your amazing mazes!! I’m stunned!! You did those in junior high? So you have always had artistic talent. More importantly, your story about Mitch grabbed my heart. How funny how little we realized about the lives our classmates. One of my closest friends lost her mother the summer between 6th and 7th grade. I remember thinking she seemed fine. What I didn’t remember was recognizing she was probably in a lot of pain, but I didn’t know what to say or do. I discovered that when I found an old diary recently. Memories don’t usually tell the whole story, do they?
Thank you so much, Belinda. I thought perhaps it was too long a story because I didn’t get much feedback from it. Yes – my mazes were a special part of my life. I was an artist when I was in preschool. But it’s interesting that I wasn’t certain it would be my profession. Now that I’m a professional artist, I wonder why I was so uncertain. I feel so lucky because I get to do both music and art now. That was touching what you shared about your classmate. i had a similar experience and it was one of my first introductions to grief. My friend that lost her mother shared about it – I was terrified imagining it happening to me. Yes, memories don’t usually tell the whole story.
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