Written by Samantha Cutler -
My inspiring client Judy Hale introduces her story, “Following a blessed rural life spent around Maramarua in North Waikato, enriched with family love, animals and the land, in 1977 our lives were plunged into disarray at the death of my dear husband Barry at the age of 38. We missed his strength, his praise, his hands, his voice and his love. Our children were aged 13, 11 and 8. Tentatively I regained a reason to exist, motivated by love for our children, our farm Waikarakia and tremendous support from family and friends. Ten years and one day later I lost my sight, sense of smell and some sense of taste in an horrific equine accident. I’m grateful, I could have lost my life.”
Not so long ago, Judy was often seen walking around Cambridge with a guide dog at her side. Now trying to navigate a quieter life, she has packaged her story into a book. Judy feels she owes a great part of her confidence and positivity to The Blind Foundation and its Guide Dog Services and for this reason, she is donating proceeds from the sale of her book to these two organisations to contribute towards their assiduous support for others.
Bright Sunlight Dark Shadow is an 88-page testimony to Judy’s 78 years of joy and pain, tragedy and triumph … a life characterised by a determination to prevail against all odds. She is already known for her resilience from the years she campaigned for both the visually-impaired and their guide dogs. This book, she said, is her way of giving something back. “There has been plenty of sunshine in my life,” she explained, “but also lots of shadows. I wanted to write a book because none of my grandchildren ever met Grandad Barry. I wanted to tell them what Barry and I did. And I want to let people know that they can survive difficulties in life.”
At the heart of Judy’s story is her courageous reclamation of a life she had loved before the accident, but she needed help in telling it. That’s where I came in, Samantha Cutler, personal historian with Forget-Me-Not Life Stories. Our pairing has resulted in a book that not only documents Judy’s life, but its message is all the more inspirational because of the kind of life Judy was determined to reclaim.
Horses played a huge part in that life, from the time Judy rode to school and helped her dad shift cattle atop Smokey the pony, to the time when she and Barry bought horses for their kids, Judy gained certification in horsemastership and moved into more serious equine pursuits. It was a hobby that went on to become a successful business.
Horses helped in Judy’s post-accident recovery too, ably assisted by Ted, the country’s first guide dog trained specifically for a farm environment. With daughter Shelley advising her to pick up things she had always loved, she got back in the saddle after the accident then settled into a life of breeding award-winning horses, travelling and writing. She moved to Cambridge in 1994 and quickly found her feet, joining a walking group, taking on motivational speaking engagements and helping others through the Cambridge Blind and Vision Impaired Support Group. She also undertook fundraising for guide dogs and continued with her thoroughbred line.
The book, Bright Sunlight Dark Shadow, encapsulates Judy’s fortitude. She hopes it will inspire people to overcome their own difficulties and find a new path for their lives, just as she did.
Twelve special padded and bound copies are being set aside for family and friends, while 300 soft-backed copies are available for purchase and can be ordered through me (Samantha@yourlifestory.co.nz) or from our website www.forgetmenotlifestories.co.nz at $35 plus $5 for package and posting in New Zealand.