Most authors introduce themselves and talk about all the accomplishments they’ve made. They have wonderful families and fabulous lives. I am not like them.
This is my true life story.
Many things have happened to me in my life that 'aren't so great'.
I am usually a very private person and do not talk a lot about myself. If you ask me something though, I will be honest with you and I’ll answer you.
It has been painfully hard for me to expose myself to you, yet somewhat of a relief too. I have been carrying around a lot of burden all my life.
It’s been a burden of my heart.
I’ve had it broken far too many times by the loss of a loved one.
And one thing is for sure about it. You can’t lose so many people in your life, and not be a lot more spiritual than you would have been, if you hadn’t had to live through all those times of sorrow.
It took a lot of guts and a lot of prayer for me to write about my life publicly.
So please bear with me and read this section with an open mind and know that there is purpose.
I was born in Durham, North Carolina in the late 50’s.
My father, Dr. Grover C. Hunter, Jr., a very educated man, was one of the Founding Fathers' of the School of Dentistry at UNC in Chapel Hill North Carolina. He was truly a genius: a very loving and wise man! My mother, Mrs. Betty Jean Hunter, was a Bacteriologist when she and dad met. They met at Emory University and fell in love. They were married in 1944.
My parents had three children in the 50’s. My brother, James Milton Hunter, was born in ’52. My sister, Jean Ann Hunter, was born in ’56, and I was born in ’59.
Over the years my father helped write many dental books along with a few of his fellow associates. He also published two books of poetry later in his life. He help found and head up the ‘Free Dental Clinic’ at the University of North Carolina at the Dental School for many years. He was a kind and giving man. I don’t think I remember him ever complaining about his work schedule.
He supported our family and never hesitated.
My mother became an experienced Botanist in her spare time over the years. She was very active in our church, St. Phillips Episcopal Church, in Durham, N.C. She also participated in Bridge Club, Garden Club, and the Girl Scouts.
Mom's passion was in gardening. She had such a love of growing things and was extremely gifted. She was the kind of person who could take a very sick plant and make it well. She knew every Latin word for all the wildflowers in the Eastern United States.
She helped out the Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, N.C., and donated tons of time to our local church.
I believe she was a bit of a genius herself!
We had a typical, normal, loving family and I had a wonderful, happy childhood for the most part. My parents were rather strict with us all but as I grew older, I knew that their strict rules had been an act of love.
Things changed quickly as I grew into my teens.
My brother James became increasingly depressed as I grew older. He seemed to be mentally tortured at times. He went in and out of the Psych Ward at Duke University but nothing seemed to help him. He was participating in therapy and taking antidepressents but he was still very depressed. They just didn’t have a lot of new drugs back in that day and none of the ones he tried worked for him. He slept a lot and kept locked in his dark room sometimes for days.
He committed suicide one month before I turned 13 years old.
James was 19 years old when he died.
James had tried two or three other times to commit suicide before he finally succeeded. This was information that was not indulged to me at the time, as my parents felt that I was just too young to understand. I just knew he had been acting weird. James had just graduated high school and was a straight A student in his first year at UNC Chapel Hill at the time of his death. He was a very handsome man and was loved by many. He had so much going for him, but he was very confused about life and suffered from Bipolar Disorder. Much later I was told that he feared the Vietnam draft and of becoming a POW.
My sister Jean was very close and attached to my brother and his death stifled her life. In the years that followed my sister suffered first from Anorexia which later developed into Bulimia.
I just couldn’t understand it at all. She was a beautiful person just the way she was! I truly envied her. She had an awesome “full figure” that reminded me a lot of Marilyn Monroe.
Twiggy was very popular at that time, so lean and lanky was the look that you saw on all the popular magazine covers.
('Thin' was definitely 'in'.)
But my sister hated her own body.
Oddly enough my sister learned “how to be Bulemic” from my brother. He was overweight throughout his puberty and was teased a lot in school.
His nickname was ‘Butter Ball', so as you can imagine, some of the things that were said about him.
He lost a lot of weight really fast when his Bulemia first started but then was able to overcome it somehow. This was WAY BEFORE the doctors knew anything about the disorder. I certainly had never heard of it.
The sad news is that my sister saw the behavior long enough to learn it too.
My mother and father began drowning their grief in a bottle of Bourbon every night. Life in general became really hard for all of us.
It must have been especially hard on my mother though. James was her first born son and he didn’t want to live. I can only imagine how that makes a mother feel: that her only son wanted to die. My mom’s brother Jamie had enlisted in the Navy after high school, and he was killed in WWII the first week he was overseas.
He was also 19 when he died.
The similarities are truly unnerving.
My poor mom! I can only imagine how that made her feel.
A short week after my brothers’ death, my favorite grandad in the whole world, my mom’s father, died from a heart attack. Grandad had been in the hospital prior to my brothers’ death, and although we tried to keep the news of my brother’s death from him, we believe he must have seen it on the news. We believed that the news must’ve sent him into full cardiac arrest. He was very close to my brother James too.
Hell, we were all close to my brother James!
Our family was quickly falling apart.
After my brothers’ suicide I ran wild and quickly went out of control too.
I don’t know how I did it but I was still making mostly A’s in high school. My teenage years quickly became a blur of parties and skipping school. Those actions were all an attempted escape for me. Home offered no counsel. Home offered no safety. Home became a place I didn’t want to be. I could either watch my mom and dad getting drunk every night or listen to my sister regurgitating her food in the bathroom. It was all too much for me to handle.
I moved out of our home in my senior year, opting to work and go to school at the same time. I moved into an apartment in Chapel Hill, N.C with a girlfriend from high school. I worked every day after school at a local restaurant and just didn’t see my family much, although I missed them terribly.
After graduating school in ’77 I went off to college. I transferred around a bit and finally found my way to the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. I went to school briefly but worked more than I attended school.
I tried to get home most every holiday, especially at Christmas, to be with my family. My sister’s birthday was December 21st and my mom’s birthday was December 22nd. I liked to be home in time to celebrate their birthdays.
In ’79 upon returning home for Christmas, I spoke briefly to my sister Jean as she was exiting the house. I wished her a happy belated birthday and gave her a birthday present. She told me she would wait and open it after dinner, when we were having mom’s birthday cake and presents. (It was my mom’s birthday so she was going out to get some last minute items.)
She said she wouldn’t be gone long so when she asked me to go with her, I told her I preferred to take a nap instead. I had just driven back from the beach and I was somewhat tired from the drive.
That was the last time I saw her alive.
My father woke me up in the early evening to inform me that my sister was dead. My sister died late that afternoon on the way home in a car accident in front of the hospital where my son would later be born. We buried her body on Christmas Eve that year and nothing was ever the same for any of us again.
My mom’s mother, my grandma, died shortly after my sisters’ death from Colo-rectal Cancer.
My other grandparents, my fathers’ parents, both died soon after that too. Dad’s father died from internal hemorrhaging and his mother had a heart attack I think. My father had a sister, my Aunt Jane, who committed suicide about a year after my grandad’s death. She starved herself to death in an apartment in Atlanta Ga. My grandads death literally killed her. My aunt Jane was always a bit off I thought. My dad’s whole family was a bit strange. They actually wanted my father to marry my Aunt Jane…yeah, his sister.
According to what I was later told on the my mom and dad got married, dad’s family had worn black to their wedding. His family cursed my father for breaking the family unity.
How twisted is that?
Most all of these things happened in the 70’s.
Needless to say I didn’t go back home much after that. I opted to live and work at the beach, kinda drifting through my life, working odd jobs in restaurant’s mostly. I also went through a terrible, abusive marriage in the mid 80’s.
I was extremely vulnerable in those years and my first husband took advantage of that fact. We partied all the time. I finally broke free from him after a few years and started trying to put all the pieces of my life back together.
In’87 I drove to Raleigh to meet my parents for lunch one afternoon. I will never forget seeing my parents and being so shocked.
My parents had gotten old on me. How could this be? They were my parents!~ I was only 28 at the time and they looked more like my grandparents.
I knew right then, that if they died, I would be left alone. So I decided to have a baby! Two years later, I was pregnant.
A few months before my son’s birth, I decided to move back home to my parent’s farm. I wanted my son to know his grandparents and knew that we could be a big support for both of them. They had moved from Durham to a small town in the country called Rougemont, N.C. It was so serene and beautiful there! I called it "God’s country". This would surely be a good place to raise my son and to feel the peace that was intended for our time on this earth. I finally felt like I had a chance to live my life again and thrive!
My son was born in ’90, healthy and happy! He scored a "10" on the Apgars test and was the epitamy of health. I named him Lars, as I had always loved that name. I wanted him to have a really cool name.
Lars didn’t attempt to talk that much in his early years, but I guess it didn’t alarm me much at the time. I had nothing to compare it to, as I had never been a mother before.
My mom didn’t seem to notice either, so all that being said, time just slipped by. By the age of four Lars was still not talking much so I decided to have him tested on his apparent "slow" abilities.
I took him to Duke University for a prescreening and they quickly but informally diagnosed Lars with Autism.
I had previously worked with Autistic children for a short time and told them they were wrong. (Lars was very loving and very sociable. The Autistic children I had been around were not like that at all.) But Duke insisted and referred us to UNC at Chapel Hill to the Center for Autism for a full diagnosis of my child.
Two years later UNC reversed Duke’s informal diagnosis and told me that my son instead was considered "Mentally Retarded".
Talk about devastating.
It’s so true that we fear what we don’t understand. I remember how scared I became when I finally heard those words! I remember secretly wishing that Lars could stay young and cute all his life.. In essence that he would never grow up.
You really gotta BE CAREFUL WHAT YA WISH FOR!
Lars’ natural father never participated in his upbringing.
He left when Lars was just two years old and we have never heard from him since. I have never received a dime of child support for Lars. Lars and I lived on Food Stamps and Medicaid. We received other support from the state for a few years too, while I went back to school.
I put myself through Cosmetology School in those years.
After I graduated I worked 6 out of 7 days a week. Mom and dad were able to help me care for Lars after school and on weekends so that I could work to pay the bills. We had a lot of hardships in those years but those toddler years were truly the best years!
What had seemed to be a curse turned out to be a blessing.
I cannot tell you how dear and precious my son is to me, and how much I treasure every minute I get to spend with him. He is loving, well mannered, kind, helpful and courageous. I call him my ‘Lucky Lars’ because he has made my life magical and I feel so lucky to be his mom!
The next few years were full.
Those were ‘good days’.
But then came the day that my father started coughing up blood.
I knew then that things were quickly changing again.
My father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in ’95.
My mom had been showing a few signs of Demensia but after my dad’s diagnosis, I think she just mentally overloaded. Everything exacerbated and her Demensia got worse and quickly turned into Alzheimers.
Dad went through about 9 months of aggressive Chemotherapy while mom just continued to decline mentally. She was still driving at this time and that part was very scary too. The people at our church did not see mom’s daily activity as dad and I did. We felt as though they did not believe us when we told them that we suspected Alzheimers.
When Alzheimers patients begin realizing that there is something wrong, they will skillfully and jokingly do just about anything to mask the problem to outsiders. Only the people closest to that person are privy to knowing the truth that goes on behind closed doors.
In these years I had been living with a man for a short while and we got married the year after my dad finished his Chemotherapy. Our marriage quickly turned into an abusive relationship. What is it with these guys?
But this time I was smart. I ended it just about as soon as it started.
I think I got married so quickly out of fear of losing my mom and dad and being ‘alone’. That scared the hell out of me.
But once again I found myself being afraid for different reasons!
I took care of my mom and dad the best I could by myself. I believe that their love for Lars helped get them through those tough years. In a way I had given them back their son. Lars and James favored a lot and I think that my mom and dad were finally able to reminisce about my brother in a different, gentler way.
In 1998 after being a caregiver to my parents, maintaining their 60 acre farm, getting their prescription drugs filled, doing all of the food shopping and cooking, taking care of my son and his needs, and going through a most difficult divorce, I had hit overload too. (This is the short version.)
I reluctantly decided that I would have to move my parents into a nursing home back at the beach in North Carolina. I packed up two houses and all our belongings and hit the road. I moved us all to the beach where I thought we would all feel safe again. My X-husband had been “stalking” me, and my taking care of mom and dad had worn me to the bone.
I had endured all that I could handle.
Putting my parents into a nursing home was the worse day of my life. I have rarely been so depressed. I felt like I had no choice though. I was terribly afraid for their safety and it was getting increasingly harder to take care of both of them and take care of my son, the property and everything else.
I decided that I needed to go back to school. I looked into and enrolled in the curriculum of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork at the local college.
I think I needed the mental focus and massage was such a ‘holistic’ field to go into. I needed to wrap my brain around something greater than my own needs. I wanted to help heal other people.
I graduated Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork schooling in just a few years and opened a business in a sidewalk mall near our home. My business started off slowly but I had high hopes. In just a few months, my business was finally picking up. That’s when things got turned upside down again.
Dad suddenly got very sick and was not showing signs of recovery.
In the weeks he had been so sick, I had been informed that my mother had Breast Cancer.
On the morning of the day before dad died, I had been in to see him.
Dad was sitting up in bed, had just enjoyed a good breakfast and looked better than I had seen him in weeks. He was going to be OK I thought. (This is what they call the last “spurt of energy” that some people experience right before death.) Dad was worried about getting his dentures adjusted and I was thankful to "have him back".
And in the time that dad was so sick, I had prayed A LOT about whether to tell him about my mom’s Cancer. I knew he would be so gravely sad about it and that it might kill him. I prayed and God answered me. I should tell my dad. He deserved to know. Mom and dad had been married for almost 58 years and I truly believed that he needed to know the truth about his wife.
I told him about my mother’s cancer the day before he died.
My dad lost his battle with life on July 11, 2001.
The day after his death I truly wondered if I had killed him by telling him? Or if maybe he was just finally able to “let go” since he knew she would be gone soon too?
I don’t think I will never know the answer to that question.
I was very close to both of my parents in those years. If you have ever taken care of parents before, you understand what that’s like. They drive you nutso while they’re alive and sometimes you just wished it would end. Then when they are gone, you want them back so badly. It hurts deeper than any other pain I can or will ever imagine. Losing your folks is like breathing toxic air. It truly takes a piece of you away.
Taking care of your parents is mentally and physically draining, but it’s worth every second of every minute you are able to spend with them.
It’s much like having your own children again. Everything you do for them, every part of your being is focused on their survival. You become their parent.
It’s the ultimate "role reversal".
I loved my parents even more that I ever had before, having taken care of them for so many years.
After grieving over daddy’s death and fumbling to get back to work, things didn’t get much better.
I was getting ready to go birthday shopping for my son on the morning of 9-11. I watched the news as usual and right before I was about to leave the house, the first plane hit the first tower. Talk about grief! Just breathing air for the next month was terribly hard for EVERY AMERICAN IN THE WORLD, I’m sure.
Feeling helpless is one of the worst feelings you can have. And I had felt that way many times before. Mom was continually getting worse and I knew it would not be long. I knew I was quickly losing her too.
Because of my mother’s Alzheimers, I am unsure if she was aware of her Cancer but in all that was happening around us, I am sure she knew daddy was gone. She and daddy had shared a room and he was not there anymore. She may not have consciously known he was gone, but I’m sure she sensed it.
My mom finally surrendered her life to Breast Cancer in October of 2001.
She died laying on her bed beside me as I was holding her hand and reciting the Lords Prayer to her. I knew my brother and father were in the room with us that night. I felt their presence, clear as day.
They had come to "pick her up" and take her home to Heaven.
Up until that year, I had never been with someone when they died before. It is an experience that you will never forget and it will change you forever.
After grieving over mama’s death, I begrudgingly got back to work on a full schedule. But the economy was getting worse and my Massage Therapy business was not doing so well. I did have one favorite client who came in on a regular basis.
He was very generous when he paid me for Massage Therapy, which helped sustain my business in those hard months.
David was a gentle kind soul and a good man who was genuinely in a lot of physical and mental pain. In Janurary of ’02 David came by my office for a massage. His usual pattern was that I would give him a Massage, place hydrocollator pads on his back after the session, and let him rest. Each time David would fall asleep on my table and I would have to wake him up to leave when I was getting ready to close for the night. This late afternoon in Januray, David got up and left on his own, which I thought was very peculiar. He had never done that before. I dismissed it but I still had a nagging, bad feeling about it.
(Ever felt that before?)
I didn’t find out until the next afternoon but apparently David went home, got drunk, said goodbye to all his children, and then shot himself.
I found out about David the following afternoon.
My mind started to shut down again.
How could things get any worse?
But they did!
After that happened I decided to close my business and try to move on. I finally got the office closed and decided to take a vacation. I hadn’t had a vacation in many years and my mind needed a respite of some kind. My best friends had always urged me to take a trip to Jamaica. They had been there several times and they told me I would love the food and the beaches. So I went.
I offered to take their daughter with Lars and me to Jamaica for a week of rest and relaxation. My friends’ daughter is like family to me so for the sake of this story, I will call her my "niece". We all had a really nice week in Jamaica for the most part. I had just started to feel a little bit "normal".
On the way back from Jamaica, we were going through customs in Montego Bay, when the police found a gun in my niece’s suitcase.
She was arrested pretty much on the spot. Then they took ALL of our plane tickets and paperwork and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen next.
The Constable in charge urged me to leave the country with my son. I felt like I had no choice in the matter, although I had offered them money and promised them that we had no prior knowledge of the gun.
We all cried and begged them to let her go.
But as the story goes, ultimately I had to leave an 18 year old child, whom I love like my own daughter, alone in a third world country by herself. I cried for three weeks, until her parents were able to get her out of jail.
And in those three weeks, I drank a LOT of liquor! (Which I never do anymore~)
It seems that the gun that was found in her suitcase had been there the whole time. She had borrowed a suitcase to take to Jamaica and the gun had been stashed in the suitcase years before and forgotten about. It had been put into an outside pocket of the suitcase and wasn't found until it was too late.
There is a lesson to be learned here.
Always buy a new suitcase to take to a foreign land and always check the pockets and inside of it carefully. This was merely a mistake, an oversight of great proportion. It had lasting and horrific consequences for my niece!
Of course there is another terrible part of the whole ordeal.
We had all been through TWO United States International Airports and neither of those Airports detected the gun.
We took a friggin gun into Jamaica and it was never found. This was not too long after 9-11!
(By the way, John Edwards, our Democratic N.C. State Senator at the time, was instrumental in getting her out of jail. I thank God for him and his staff. They worked non-stop to get my niece released!) (Love you John!)
We finally got her back from Jamaica three weeks later. The week after she returned from Jamaica was the week of her birthday. After only a few days of being back home, one of our good friends was killed instantly in a car accident.
I have left out a lot of the details in my life, but I wanted you to get a sense of what I have lived through.
By now, you may be wondering why have I told you about all these things?
Well, it’s because sometimes you can define what you do want in life, by first defining what you don’t want in life.
Having been through so many horrific things that I didn’t want to happen in my life, made it very clear to me about the things I do want in life.
The first and most foremost thing that I do want you to know is that I have not told you these things to make you pity me or feel sorry for me. I don’t want to provoke that response at all!
My message is simple and is just this:
If your life has been easier than mine has, then I want you to feel really good about it!
I want you to feel good about being alive! Feel good about the sun shining and the stars gleaming! Feel good about what you have been able to do with your life and if you haven’t done anything worth feeling good about it, then try to figure out what is stopping you. I have stopped "living" several times in my life and it wasn’t a good thing. Surround yourself with good things and good people.
I recently heard this and I want to repeat it. It is a real mind bender!
If you don’t understand anything else in life, please try and understand this:
Family is truly our anchor in this life.
When we lose them we are cut loose and we go adrift, like a boat at sea that has lost its direction.
To have memories of loved ones lost is sometimes worse than having no memories at all.
When there are few people left that remember going through those times of your life with you, sometimes it feels like you never really ever existed at all.
It’s very hard to go through life alone and never know why you’ve had to endure it all.
I have no family left except for Lars and a few distant relatives, of which I only hear regularly from one of them. (Bless you M.H.!)
If you have family that you can’t get along with or are separated from because of a trivial argument, then Shame On You! (There, I said it!)
Don’t you realize how truly lucky you are to have someone to argue with?
We get one chance at life. Too few of us get second chances. I don’t want my family’s deaths to stagnate me. I wanted to learn something from all of the tragedies that I have lived through.
I am so lucky to be alive! I am so lucky to have wonderful memories of the people I’ve loved and lost in my life. I am so lucky to have a wonderful son. God blesses us all in HIS way. We aren’t meant to understand all of it!
And having been through so many tremendously hard times, I have also learned a lot about taking care of myself, and the different conditions and diseases that have claimed the lives of my loved ones. I know the importance of knowing all that you can to help better yourself.
Learn about your family and all the diseases and conditions that you may be predisposed to by your family genetics. Guard your life! It is precious! Don’t throw it away! How quickly it can all be taken away from us! Live your life to the fullest!
I try and wake up every day with fervor and hope.
My heart didn’t grow hard and cold in dealing with all my grief, it got softer and larger. I love life and know how wonderful it can be!
There are thousand of disappointments that will happen to you in your life.
How you handle those disappointments is totally up to you.
Just as the way you choose to live your life is totally up to you. Decisions that you make today influence the person that you will be tomorrow. For example, after my brother died, my father drank a lot to numb the pain. As he grew used to ‘catching a buzz’, he began using my brother’s death as an excuse to drink more.
His pity party lasted far too many years and I saw it tear him down mentally and physically. He would still be alive today if he had not ‘given in’ to life.
Don’t make that same mistake for your life.
Make conscious choices about your life. Make the best of your circumstances whatever they are, and keep a positive attitude!
Do things that make you feel good about you and where you are in your life. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
And believe me, I am still alive and kicking!
Challenges are God’s way of making us stronger and more durable.
Life would be pretty dull if everything went right all the time.
There are lessons to be learned. Be sure to pay attention and learn them well. If you don’t get the message the first time, God will intervene and make the same thing happen to you again. Get the message the first time and God will not have to keep repeating himself to you.
I have had a hard life but it’s been full. I am grateful that I have many memories of my life and family in happier times.
I am also hopeful that one day I will see my family again.
I am thankful for all the hardships I’ve had and have learned to find joy in the smallest things. These are things that most people tend to overlook. I once read a poem about "The Smallest Things that Mean the Most".
I lost my copy of it, but I never forgot the message.
My son and I might not have much monetarily, but we have each other. We are warm and safe and I know that no matter what challenges face us we will survive and be all right.
The primary concern my dad had about leaving me behind was that he knew I had such a big heart that he feared I would easily be taken advantage of. But I think it’s truly the one thing that sets me apart from other people. I think dad was just like me. I think we’re gonna be OK!~
There is just one more thought.
Never ask "how much worse can it get"? It most certainly always can!
If you are losing someone close, or have recently lost someone dear to you, I suggest therapy through music. Music can heal your soul in troubled times. When daddy died I was listening to Pearl Jam. One song in particular helped me get through the days that followed. It’s called 'Light Years' and if you haven’t heard it, then get yourself a copy. (you can play it below:o) If you listen to the words of the song, you will see how powerful this song really can be!
Don't be mad or sad in your life. Learn how to change it. Learn how to improve yourself and you will be happy no matter what your circumstances. Smile every chance you get. Laugh often. Love with everything you have. Don't ever lose sight of the big picture.