Not so long ago, Judy Hale 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 that is being sold to raise funds for two organisations dear to her – The Blind Foundation and its Guide Dog Services.
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. Locals already know 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.”
Judy’s husband Barry died in a 1977 stock truck accident. She was 37 and was left with three young children to raise – Shelley, Dennis (Denny) and Amanda (Mandy) – and a farm to run.
Ten years after losing Barry, Judy received devastating injuries when her face was trampled and she was dragged across a paddock by a panicked mare. She sustained a fractured skull, smashed cheekbone, broken jaw, a shattered nose, the loss of her right eye and part of her memory; she was put into an induced coma. Meningitis set in eight days after entering Auckland Hospital, and for two and a half months she wore a metal frame with screws holding her skull together. “I lost my sight, my sense of smell and some ability to distinguish between different tastes.”
At the heart of Judy’s story is her courageous reclaiming of a life she had loved before the accident, but she needed help in telling it. That’s where Samantha (Sam) Cutler comes in.
Sam is a personal historian with Forget-Me-Not Life Stories. Judy moved into her Bupa St Kilda home three years ago, and it was there that she heard about personal histories when Sam and Forget-Me-Not Life Stories founder Christine Norton spoke at the retirement village’s community centre.
“Judy and I got chatting and it took off from there … it’s taken two and a half years to get the book to the printers, and I now know Judy’s cupboards really well,” Sam smiled. “Because of Judy’s blindness, I needed to help find the old photographs and documents we needed. Many hours were spent going through those cupboards!”
Judy chimed in: “I immediately felt comfortable with Sam and was quite happy for her to dig around.”
The pairing has resulted in a book that not only documents Judy’s life, but makes its message particularly inspirational because of the kind of life she 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 she 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. Encouraged by daughter Shelley to pick up things she had always loved, Judy got back in the saddle 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, doing motivational speaking engagements and helping others through the Cambridge Blind and Vision Impaired Support Group. She also raised funds 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 at $35 through PaperPlus. They can also be ordered through Sam, Samantha.email@example.com.
Proceeds will go to The Blind Foundation and Guide Dog Services.