Links to recordings:

Never Gone Away Acoustic 2019

Never Gone Away Guitar & Piano 2018

Never Gone Away Home Recording 2016


Never Gone Away “Magical Piano” Meditation:

Links to other stories about this song:










Copyright 2018 by Judy Unger

I know that soon you will leave me

how will I ever say goodbye?

there’s so much you’ve left me

I’ll try hard not to cry

when you’ve left you’ll still be with me

in all the songs I’ll long to play

every time I see a smile

you’ll 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’ll let go of now; how I long to hold on

you’ll touch so many others when you’re gone

I know that soon you will leave me

how will I ever say goodbye?

there’s so much you’ve left me

I’ll try hard not to cry

when you’ve left you’ll still be with me

in all the songs I’ll long to play

every time I see a smile

you’ll have never gone away

Sometimes I will stop and wonder

you’ll know what I am feeling

I’ll hear your laughter in my mind

I’ll remember all our special moments

They’ll run by with a tear

You’ll leave, but in my heart, you’re still here

I know that soon you will leave me

how will I ever say goodbye?

there’s so much you’ve left me

I’ll try hard not to cry

when you’ve left you’ll still be with me

in all the songs I’ll long to play

every time I see a smile

you’ll have never gone away

you’ll have never gone away

My song “Never Gone Away” was written in 1980. The original title was “You’ll Have Never Gone Away,” which I’m glad I shortened. My close friend, Marge, was leaving on an extended trip, and my song helped me say goodbye.

I had met her during a summer retreat and my original lyrics were personal with: “there’s so much you’ve left me since I met you one July.” She and I connected over the month long experience. Our memories include performing music in a choir. I loved dancing and my new friend helped to guide me with some of the more challenging steps. Those moments of dancing to lively music in dappled sunlight are unforgettable. I leapt into the air with complete abandon as my heart swelled with joy.

While Marge was away, I recorded a cassette to surprise her and mailed it across the world. On it, were messages from her parents and other friends. I also shared songs and played my guitar, which was incredibly precious for me.

For three decades “Never Gone Away” was dormant. When I began to play it again, I loved the chords and melody but I decided to rewrite a few lyric lines. I wanted my song to be more relatable to my present life. I made only a few changes, and my song was very close to how I originally wrote it.

Anticipating a departure is a theme for several of my songs. The catalyst that honestly inspired me to revise my lyrics to “Never Gone Away,” was a fellow blogger. Her daughter was dying and I was deeply moved and affected. She was so appreciative of my support and I even mentioned her when I performed my song.

“When you’ve left you’ll still be with me, in all the songs I’ll long to play” is a lyric line from 1980. I find it to be profound and prophetic. One of my most healing statements is that my son lives on in my music and songs. After he died, I was certain I’d never sing again. It seems that as a young woman, I had a sense of what the future might bring.

During the challenging time my parents were both declining, my revitalized song became a soothing balm as I faced their imminent loss.

My lyrics mentioned holding hands, which signified support. I often took pictures of my mother’s hand holding mine. And the last one I took was of us holding hands when she was on her deathbed.

Losing that support is part of the turmoil of parting from a loved one. The image is vivid with my words of: “Your fingers I’ll let go of now; how I long to hold on. You’ll touch so many others when you’re gone.”

With loss, it helps me to fill my emptiness with something positive. Although it’s not a replacement, my loved one continues to touch me. After our goodbye that sense of connection gives me strength to go on and helps to ease my pain.

The last line of “Never Gone Away” is: “Every time I see a smile, you’ll have never gone away.” There’s something about a smile that draws me to another person. A smile is a light and represents warmth. Smiling is very integral to my personality.

With loss, laughter and smiling can seem unimaginable. I explored the struggle to smile and find laughter after loss when I wrote my song “In Every Smile.” Hearing “laughter in mind” and “remembering our special moments” are lovely tributes that evoke sweet memories. When I’m gone, I want my loved ones to smile when they think of me.

Confronting an impending loss seems to require a stiff upper lip and denying tears is very common. I changed the line “Since I met you one July” into “I’ll try hard not to cry” and it became deeply honest and moving for me.

I remember when my 5-year-old son Jason saw me wiping my tears on his last day alive. He said, “Why are you crying, Mommy? I’m the one having the surgery!”

After he died, I released my stoicism and cried constantly when I was alone. I never wanted to make anyone else uncomfortable, so my usual places to sob were in the shower or while I was driving. I even wrote a poem named “My Tears Filled An Ocean.”

But as the years went by, the flow of tears ebbed away and my well of tears dried up. At the same time, I stopped expressing myself and ended up feeling nothing at all. Delving back into my grief after years of numbness was the beginning of finding my tears again. I even wrote a blog entry named: “The well of tears, makes me well.” I conjured up every detail of my son’s death and connected with my heart once again.

I appreciate my current life, because I can express my emotions after decades of a zombie-like existence. When my music and lyrics bring me to tears, I am grateful.

I grew up with plenty of denial of feelings. My own mother told me: “There are plenty of suffering people in the world; reaching out to them is unhealthy and will bring you down.” This was out of concern for me, because I became the leader of a grief group not long after Jason died. Her intention was caring, but I strongly disagreed.

I feel a kinship with bereaved people. Leading the grief group despite my own terrible pain was very helpful for me. That is why I often recommend that grieving people hold the hands of others grieving so they can crawl forward together. I was comforted so much more by fellow grievers than by any therapist.

Grief is random and can strike anyone. No one knows when he or she might join those awful ranks. For those who have not truly suffered, it is difficult to imagine the torture of trying to get through every second of your day while your mind screams out in pain. That is why people who haven’t experienced deep grief are afraid of other people in grief. They feel helpless.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone grieving is to express how their loved one touched your life. Mention their name and overcome your fear and avoidance.

I want to share a story about how “Never Gone Away” became an actual conversation with a close friend before her death.

I received a text message from Marilyn’s son. I had asked him if it would be okay for me to visit her at the hospital over the weekend. He wrote back that she wasn’t doing well that day and wasn’t sure how much longer she would be alive.

It was late afternoon and I came to the hospital that evening. I carried my guitar and put on gloves, a mask and a gown outside my friend’s room. As I entered, Marilyn’s sister was nearby her bed. She jumped up and enthusiastically greeted me.

It seemed unbelievable that my friend who had valiantly fought cancer for so many years was succumbing. We were told that Marilyn had been unresponsive for two days. She was contorted in pain and looked so pale amid all the wires and tubes. I reached out my gloved hand to touch her. I spoke softly, letting her know I was there and that I loved her.

I had brought my newest meditation track “Angel in the Sky” with me and began playing it next to her pillow. The room filled with breathy ethereal notes.

Suddenly, Marilyn opened her eyes and gazed into mine. Her sister gasped and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”

My friend and I made awkward conversation and I felt so helpless to see Marilyn suffering. I wondered if perhaps my guitar might soothe her. It seemed that my meditation music had brought her to awareness. I gently asked if she would like me to play and she nodded, yes.

First, I had to slide off my gloves. I lifted my guitar out of its case and sat close to her. “Never Gone Away” would be my first song because it expressed every feeling I had at that moment. The very first line was truly emotional. “I know that soon you will leave me, how will I ever say goodbye?” Marilyn watched me closely and I looked into her eyes as tears rolled down my neck.

When I finished, she whispered, “Keep playing.”

I did just that and it was one of the most spiritual moments I’d ever experienced with my songs.

After I put my guitar away, there was something I wanted to ask her. My heart was pounding and I brought my face closer to her. It felt courageous to mention her impending death. But I did. And then I asked her a question.

“Marilyn, would you like me to play a song at your service? If so, is there any song in particular?”

She whispered, “Judy, all your songs are beautiful – you choose whichever one you think best.”

Two days later, Marilyn died. I sang “Angel in the Sky” as she rested nearby in her coffin.

Anticipatory grief holds different challenges than sudden death, which rips a loved one’s world apart without warning. When my mother declined with dementia, I thought it was an opportunity for me to bypass some of the grief stages because I’d already grieved her before she died. In some ways, it was true for me.

But I learned from connecting with others in grief, that it wasn’t this way for everyone. I witnessed unspeakable grief from a widow who had anticipated her husband’s death for years. The void left for a caregiver is especially gaping and she was devastated after losing him.

What has helped me to navigate my grief is focusing on what is left. “There’s so much you’ve left me,” describes this. Certainly, loss gouged a hole in my heart. But remembering all the beautiful aspects that remain of my loved one, helps to fill the emptiness.

When I close my eyes, I can still see the image of my mother’s hand holding mine. I remember my gloved hand touching Marilyn’s. And I’m transported back to 1980 when my dear friend, Marge, was leaving for her extended trip abroad. In all of those instances, oh, how I longed to hold on!

But I had to let go of their fingers and remind myself of the many ways they touched me, despite their absence.

And Jason continues to fill my heart in all the songs I long to play.