WITH ME

Recordings: (Acoustic Vocal, Guitar Mix, Piano & Guitar)

Links to other recordings:

With Me Arrangement 1-25-18 Copyright 2018 by Unger

With Me #2 Arrangement 7-7-15 Copyright 2015 by Unger

WITH ME INSTRUMENTAL-6/28/12 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

With Me Home Recording 2-9-16

Links to other stories about this song:

#284 AS I GROW OLD

#285 AS I MOURN

#287 WHERE I’M GOING

#288 I LOOK AT THE CLOUDS

#289 YOU’RE WITH ME – PART 1

#306 YOU HOLD ME UP SO I WON’T FALL

#347 WITH ME –  PART 2

#375 THROUGH THE DARKNESS

#461 WITH ME WHEN I WAS BORN

#581 LEMON TREE

WITH ME

Copyright 2018 by Judy Unger

 

I look at the clouds and see your face

You’re watching me; smiling from space

Not sure where I’m going or when I’ll get there

But you are with me; you’re everywhere

When I’m discouraged, sometimes I crawl

You hold me up so I won’t fall

Not sure of my life now or where I will go

But you are with me; that much I know

With me, when I was born

With me as I mourn

With me in every song

You’re with me to keep me strong

With me every day

With me in every way

With me and always near

You take away all of my fear

Though I can’t see you; you’re not in sight

Through the darkness you are my light

Not sure what will happen or how things will be

Yet I am certain, you are with me

With me, when I was born

With me as I mourn

With me in every song

You’re with me to keep me strong

With me every day

With me in every way

With me and always near

You take away my fear

With me when I cry

With me when I die

Watching my life unfold

You’re with me, as I grow old

You’re with me . . . as I grow old

Only a few weeks after my father’s death, I composed a new song, which I named “With Me.” In some ways, I wondered if “With Me” was another version of my song “Beside Me Always.”

Both songs were about finding comfort by feeling love without a physical presence. They even had the same line of “not sure where I’m going.” This helped me to face fear with courage. I just knew I wasn’t alone.

I wrote “With Me,” while mourning my father. I needed his support because I had decided to end my marriage of 31 years and live on my own for the first time in my life. At the age of 50, I was entering unfamiliar territory and it was terrifying.

My pain and loneliness was something I hadn’t shared with anyone, but my father witnessed it firsthand. One time, I found him crying by himself in the kitchen. He was living with me and had witnessed some very upsetting family dynamics at dinner that night.

A week before my father died, I told him that I couldn’t keep my marriage going anymore. He weakly nodded, squeezed my hand and gave me his blessing. It took great bravery for me to end my marriage, but my father’s endorsement gave me the push. A week after his death, I announced my decision.

The vastness of a beautiful sky always gives me a feeling of spiritual awe. I’ve expressed that with my songs “Angel in the Sky” and “My Shining Star.” Looking up and imagining my father “watching my life unfold,” continues to this day.

One of the most profound aspects of “With Me” is that within it, I explore my faith and spirituality. The chorus begins with the line, “With me when I was born.” I was amazed how I wrote a song remembering my father’s love that could also provide meaning and feelings of being with God. When my life began, God was also with me.

I grew up with religious rituals forced upon me and I didn’t feel any connection to God. So I could interpret the lines of being unsure as uncertainty about my beliefs. I now have come to believe that God has blessed me with my music; it has soothed and given me strength. What a contrast this was to how I used to feel. When my father took his last breath, I felt the presence of both God and Jason in the room at that moment.

My mother was always the strong one in our family. I wasn’t as close to my father; although I always knew he was proud of me. However, those family dynamics significantly changed when my mother declined with dementia.

Perhaps the piece that kept me in my marriage was having my mother as my confidant. She was always supportive, as I dealt with overwhelming stress related to my children and their problems. As she became more confused, I was lost. My father was, too, and he clung to me as he coped with losing his soul mate.

I’d like to share a story I wrote that illuminates my recollections from that time.

LEMON TREE

I live in my childhood home where I grew up. My parents moved here when I was one year old. I left when I got married at the age of 21. Shortly after my father died, I separated from my husband and decided to move back to my old digs. I worked out a deal with my two brothers and the place was mine.

My mother was in a nursing home. It had been several years since she’d seen the home she once proudly cared for. I brought her back to see it again, once of twice. Even with dementia, her eyes sparkled with long ago memories during those visits. I was certain that she was amazed to see how uncluttered my place was.

My parents have been gone for almost a decade and I can still feel them both with me in so many ways.

I haven’t moved and my home feels more like mine now. I have a small patio and in the back corner there’s a lemon tree. I haven’t done much to take care of it. The 60-year-old fence surrounding it is barely holding up; my lemon tree has weathered years of neglect. It remains in its original wooden planter. The roots eventually broke through the bottom and firmly took hold. Without being watered for over a decade, it has somehow survived.

It was handy to have a lemon at my disposal whenever a recipe called for one. Gradually, I began to appreciate the beauty of my lemon tree. I marveled at the change when the green fruit hinted slowly toward yellow. One day, I snapped pictures of pristine blossoms on my way to the laundry room

I decided it was a perfect subject for a new painting. I waited until the heavy branches were laden with fruit. I had many beautiful photos to work with and looked forward to rendering the delicate bark texture on the branches.

As I wet my brush and mixed colors on my palette, memories from long ago seeped into my mind.

My first memory was of my mother from about thirty years ago. She was excited because she had just brought home a tiny lemon tree as a gift to my father. “Now we’ll always have lemons,” she crowed. My father loved squeezed lemon in his hot tea. He easily found a place for it. Back then; it was still possible to walk through the patio.

Years later, It became impossible to reach the lemon tree because it meant navigating a maze of boxes covered with tarps. My father had a severe hoarding problem and the patio was like a trash dump. Gradually the back yard had filled up with countless boxes and trash. And as the years went on, his packrat condition worsened.

When I remember my parents’ disagreements, they’re always the same ones. My mother would be furious with my father for adding to his trash collection. He would beg for forgiveness and my mother would make him sign an “agreement” that he would take away one box every day. If he didn’t, my mother threatened she would do it.

Eventually, she’d realize that he was simply taking away a box and moving it somewhere else. With exasperation, she would hold it together until the next fight.

I accepted that I barely had any closet space growing up because of my father’s “junk collection.” The plus side was that he saved all my report cards, schoolwork and childhood artwork. I do remember that one time I was so upset by all of his junk in my car trunk that I pulled everything out and left it on the curb. He came running outside and was beside himself when I did that.

When I separated, I wasn’t able to move into my childhood abode until it was emptied of trash. My oldest son helped me by spending many hours emptying it; he filled up ten dumpsters. At that time, I wasn’t well enough to do much because I was recovering from cataract surgery.

As I painted the beautiful lemons, another memory about lemons brought me back to the time when my parents lived with me.

I’d never forget my father’s vulnerability, when he expressed to me that he wasn’t able to take care of mother anymore. Her frequent hospitalizations had worn him down and he was scared. Leaving their familiar home was heart breaking, but seemed to be the best solution.

Just remembering my father’s attachment to his tea, overwhelms me with emotion. It became my job to brew his favorite drink. I tried really hard to get it right.

One day, his lips trembled as he told me, “Sweetheart, it’s wonderful! – Just the right amount of lemon this time. Please, remember exactly what you did!”

I basked in his compliment. He was extremely critical and rarely did I get it right. I was happy and sad at the same time, because it wasn’t easy to replace my mother.

My parents lived with me until there would be an opening at an assisted living facility with a long waiting list. One day, we received a call that there was an opening for both of them.

And then my father asked me if he could stay and have my mother go there alone. His voice was practically begging when he said he would quietly live in his grandson’s bedroom. He insisted that I wouldn’t even notice him and he wouldn’t cause me any trouble. My heart breaks remembering our conversation.

Keeping him and my mother together despite their health issues engulfed my life for years. It was exhausting and crushing. I hated to see their suffering.

Being with each of my parents at their moment of death was traumatic.

But it helps me to remember that I am surrounded by their love. “With me, when I was born” and “with me, as I mourn.”

It was a sign for me when I came across something that eased my grief not long after he died. My father couldn’t throw anything away and saved all the cards I ever gave him. I came across one that brought tears to my eyes.

This is what I wrote on a very special card my father saved.

 Dear Dad,

 You always make me feel so loved and taken of – it’s like being a little girl again. There is no time in my life when I’ve needed that more. Our shared loss has brought us even closer. I hope with time I can realize that our broken hearts are healing. I know I can’t help you feel better until I’m less tormented myself. There could be no better father for me anywhere.

I love you so much that if it makes you happy to go through my trash – I’ll gladly allow it.

 I don’t want to ever imagine not having you, but I’ve learned from Jason’s death to be all the more grateful for having you – each and every precious moment.

 I love you so much, Judy

 Perhaps the greatest lesson from my song “With Me” is that I didn’t spare words of love with my parents. Up until their last breath, I was with them.

And now they are with me.