When there is nothing

A statue in Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, December 2005

A statue in Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, December 2005

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”    

lines from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Over 200 posts ago, on my second-ever post on this blog, I quoted a different part of the poem from which I drew the lines above.  Tonight as I write this, not quite two weeks from the day it will be published, this verse has been on my mind for days.

To many people, I suppose the lines suggest a physical or even athletic contest, or the grueling exhaustion that sometimes overtakes soldiers, sailors, laborers or others who are pressed beyond normal endurance.  But for some, including me, the will to hold on is most crucial when we are drowning in sorrow or overwhelmed by sadness; when we feel alone, isolated or afraid.  At such times, it seems hypocritical to wear a smiley face and laugh through tears.  There are times when acknowledging our broken spirits can help us to hold on when all other sources of support are absent or inadequate.

Thousands of years ago an inspired poet wrote, in lines that are still spoken and sung today,
“…there is…a time to weep and a time to laugh.”  As important as it is to choose optimism and good cheer, we must not deny or obscure the burdens of grief that each of us must bear, however unevenly the weight of such sorrow may be distributed among us.  One of the most beautiful and healing things a true friend can do for us is to cry with us, saying nothing profound or inspiring, simply sharing our sorrow.

If you are burdened with a heavy heart as you read this, I hope you will feel less alone to realize that so many of us have been, will be, or are now in places quite similar.  Even if there is nothing left in you except the will to hold on, I pray that you will be able to endure; to pass beyond the dark night of your soul and find joy in the morning.

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  1. This is so inspiring.

    • Thank you, I am glad you like it. I appreciate you visits to our blog!

  2. Eric

    no profundity — just tears

    • Ah, but tears are profound too. Thanks for being here!

  3. Now and then life turns really difficult when we almost wonder how we are going to live one more day with the stress. But a good night’s sleep (and yoga) can do wonders.
    Today was the last day at school and we parted for a two-month summer vacation. I almost felt like crying while all were cheerful. Something hurt me and it still hurts me. I am trying to forget and forgive. Only glad that I did not wrong anyone.
    Julia, hope you are fine. Take care.

    • I wish you a wonderful vacation, filled with enough time to do all that you want to do. When our sons were school age, I used to make the mistake of thinking I could pack so many things into the summer, but in reality the time would go by even more quickly than during the school year. I am so sorry that you have hurts from the year; these things can be so hard to forget. Over the years I have learned to give myself time to heal from such wounds. Forgiveness, it seems to me, is something that often happens a little at a time. Meanwhile you can find peace in knowing that you have nothing to regret in your own conduct. Thanks so much for visiting here, I always love to hear from you! I will be checking your blog in case you find time to post some more beautiful photos!

  4. That is such a moving work of art and your words express that work so well. I’ll be thinking of you and the strength you have thru your pain. Sending a heartfelt hug xK

    • Thank you! I really appreciated the kind email you sent me recently, and have been intending to respond for the longest time – but wanted to take time to answer. Meanwhile, please know how much I value your support and friendship!

  5. As Eric said, “just tears”. From what you said, this blog was written a couple of weeks ago. I am hearing that things are some better right now. We all certainly pray to that end. Tears are very cleansing. Many people seem to have taken my tears to be weakness, but I consider them a healthy release of my pent up burdens. Love you always.

    • Carla, I agree that your tears (and everyone’s) are a healthy response to sorrow. Things are OK right now with us, although Pasha appears to be about ready to leave us. He collapsed last night and again this morning after walking only a very short distance. We are hoping it’s just a low point, but realize he could go anytime. We feel very thankful that Jeff does appear to be healing, however slowly, and are hoping that the skin graft will be scheduled soon. We’ll keep you posted, and thanks for being here!

  6. Carlyle

    I can only echo the sentiments expressed by Eric and Carla

    • Thanks Daddy, we appreciate the love, concern and sympathy. I hope we will have some good news to send you soon, but we’ll keep you posted either way.

  7. I love you.

    • I love you too! You have been with me through so many dark times. Even so, we always seem to find ways to have fun. Looking forward to doing that again soon.

  8. Sheila

    Julia, I feel sometimes we really are reeling from one thing to another, with very little time to come up for air. In recent years and various issues, I have recalled a situation of evacuating our home for the upcoming Hurricane Hugo (1989), and Bill patted a column, and merely said, “Stand strong old house!”. And it did….. It’s the home we enjoy today. Life surely has storms, too. I went back and read the posts from months ago and thought of the many things that have happened. We have laughed and cried and weathered some storms! Love to you and your family, Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila! My friend Ellis, who lives on the Mississippi gulf coast, has weathered so many hurricanes (including Katrina); those of you who go through those disasters and survive are a real source of inspiration for me. It is rather stunning to contemplate how much has happened in the past few months. We have definitely managed to find the laughter amid the tears. Thanks for helping us do that!

      • Sheila

        Julia, please know that tonight there is a special prayer for Pasha, and for y’all. I’ve loved him from a distance, through the photos and comments, knowing how precious he is.

        • Thanks Sheila, he is resting peacefully tonight, still alert though obviously very tired. We appreciate your prayers so much!


  1. No way to say no | Defeat Despair
  2. The stormy present | Defeat Despair

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