Up and doing

One week before surgery, Jeff prunes away at the overgrowth in our wooded lot, May 2013.

One week before surgery, Jeff prunes away the overgrowth in our wooded lot, May 2013.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If a few short words could sum up the past 18 months of Jeff’s life, it would be hard to find any more appropriate than these.  The photo above was taken one week before he was hospitalized with the first of two major surgeries to resect metastatic tumors.  He had just finished months of gruelling chemotherapy, and despite being beset with the usual side effects of fatigue, nausea, and acute neuropathy, he continued to work full time (except on days when he was taking treatment) and at home, kept up with most of his many chores.

He always knew how to labor, but waiting does not come naturally to him.  However, he has probably spent more time waiting in these past 18 months than in the rest of his life combined.  How difficult to wait when one is tired, worried, and far behind on the responsibilities of the workplace and home.  How much more difficult when one is waiting on outcomes that will literally mean life or death!  Yet he has managed it beautifully, and his faith has not wavered despite enduring a level of physical trauma and suffering that probably would have killed me or almost anyone else I know.

One of the most essential character traits we could develop is the ability to have “a heart for any fate.”  I think Longfellow realized one key to this is to be “up and doing.”  I am not as good at this as Jeff is, but with his example, I may yet learn.

One year ago today:


  1. Ann

    Jeff is amazing and inspiring!

    • Thank you, Ann…I agree! 🙂

  2. raynard

    Julia Im going to give you a different take on this. People come, stay and go in your life for reasons that even we dont have all the answers but the answers are sometimes to our prayers. When I ( without getting preachy or wordy) tell a young people about being friendly and having friends most of the tile you get a”Oh Wow, I never thought about it like that “.. I thank God for you and Jeff and how you “shared real life ” and not some”made for TV movie or “Lifetime or Hallmark Channel Mini Series”..( Not that there’s anything wrong with Hallmark) I digress. So when you come out with either 1 your novel, or 2 Autobiography, I hope the first line doesnt start out like this…( Cough Cough) “It was a dark and stormy night. , Suddenly a shot rang out, the maid screamed, blah blah blah, yadie yadie yadie.. lol be blessed

    • Raynard, here is how my autobiography would start out (since I have no intention of ever writing one, I can be creative here): “It was a bright and sunny day. The daffodils were blooming. The birds were chirping. The cherry blossoms were at peak. The tea kettle on the stove began to whistle…” 🙂

      • smiling at that, Julia.

        • 🙂 Me too!

      • Sounds like a book I would enjoy. 🙂

        • Yes, I’ve heard it said that writers should write the books they would like to read themselves, and “leave out all the parts people skip.” 🙂 I’ll let you know if I get past the tea kettle part!

  3. God Bless all of you, for whatever your loved one go through you all help to carry the torch. I think Jeff has the ability to look ahead and make the most of his time. It reminds me of something my father once said to me as I was complaining about how I did not have as many things as my friends. His answer to me was “You complain about only having peanuts to eat, but if you look behind you, you will see someone eating the shells that you have discarded.” Courage, love and joy to your family.

    • Wow, what a powerful comment by your father. One to remember, for sure. Thanks so much for your presence here, your encouraging words and hopeful observations!

  4. Amazing to the point of making me speechless.

    • Thanks Eric, you saw a bit of what he went through in the months following that first surgery, so I know your insight on this post is especially keen. As I write this, Jeff is at work again after being in chemo yesterday following a half-day of work. Life goes on in a way that’s so close to normal, it’s easy to forget what he’s still going through. Just giving himself daily shots in the stomach is more than I could manage, and that is the least of what he deals with! He never complains.

  5. always thinking of you, though slow internet prevents most comments…z

    • Thanks so much z, I have had enough frustration with slow internet connections that I TOTALLY understand! I really appreciate you being here. Hope all is well in your world.

  6. JD and his sisters worked hard and excelled at anything they put their mind to. I admired the way, when he took a test and their was an answer he was unsure of, he would compose himself and almost meditate until the answer came to him. Me, I don’t know and I won’t remember it. Nope meditation was not my strongsuit. I love that he got the yard shipshape before surgery. That is so us! We both like to plan in advance. When I had my experience, I cleaned big. Then I had family that came over once a month and ran through the house for me. Luckily, sitting help me notice the baseboard needed washing. My sweet nieces and their husbands came over with homemade soup and scrubbed them and the around the windows. During a tough time, it helps to think about the kindnesses and the wins you get to experience. Love you guys, Alice

    • Thanks so much Alice, it’s fun to read your memories of Jeff. He was pretty amazing at school work all the way through college, dental school, post-doctoral comprehensive residency, AGD fellowship and mastership, and dual board certification exams, to say nothing of his professional military coursework. Way back during our Lipscomb years, it used to amuse me how he would come out of classes the first day of the quarter and immediately start reading the assigned texts. I’m like, “Is this guy for real?” I have never had that kind of discipline. When he was awarded his AGD Mastership in 2001, he said “No more school for me.” I said “Well, it’s about time!” Now Drew is following in Jeff’s footsteps, still being paid to go to graduate school (in his 8th year of GRAD school now) at the age of 30! Needless to say, THAT IS NOT ME!! 🙂

      You are right, it does help tremendously to think about all the kindness that has been and is being shown to us during the past 18 months – we appreciate you being among those loving friends!

  7. MaryAnn

    Your words inspire so many, your love and admiration for your wonderful husband are so EVIDENT! God be praised!!!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann! I appreciate your kind and encouraging words. I do have so much to be thankful for, including YOU!

  8. sarvjit

    The motto is ‘Keep moving forward’. Inspiring and beautiful!

    • Thank you, Sarvjit! As my friend Ashleigh Brilliant has said, “Keep climbing upwards! You may never reach the top, but it’s definitely in that direction.”

  9. Sheila

    Julia, I feel that Jeff has a deep faith and walks so close with God. He seems to have a strength from within to face every day with renewed diligence. You mentioned months ago that Jeff reads his Bible everyday. I admire that he has chosen to work, stay busy, and be the WINNER he is! 🙂

    • Thank you, Sheila. Jeff’s faith and his discipline work hand in hand to keep him strong. The daily Bible reading is just one of many sound habits he has followed the entire time I’ve known him. Before his cancer diagnosis, he exercised an hour a day for 5-7 days per week, without fail. He is in bed by 10:30 each night. He has never touched tobacco or alcohol, or even caffeine, aside from the occasional iced tea (though I finally got him to start drinking a cup of green tea each day after he was diagnosed). He never even took anything stronger than a Motrin. When he first got sick, his doctors asked me to verify that his health record really was that clean; he had never even been under anesthesia though he was 54 years old! So I think all of these things have helped him to survive the rigors and toxicities that have been traumatizing him for the past 18 months. I wish I could be as diligent as he is about so many things, but even though I’m not nearly as strong as he is, I do think his lifestyle has been tremendously beneficial to me. Of course, all this makes it even more unthinkable to contemplate being without him. So please keep those prayers coming! And thanks for your kinds words and visits here!

  10. Carlyle

    Jeff displays almost super human qualities. It inspires admiration and envy

    • Thank you Daddy, he really is pretty amazing. Sometimes I think it’s hard for him to sympathize with us lesser mortals 🙂 but I am so thankful that he continues to be the strong one around here.

  11. Michael

    That yard looks a little intimidating. I hope Jeff has a riding mower. Very inspirational. I am much more the couch potato type. My yard is in fallow. Those look like Rhodies in bloom in the foreground. Our Daphne Odora is in bloom and also the Cornellian cherry–“Cornus Mas” which has a pretty little yellow flower.

    • Michael, Jeff has never wanted a riding mower, though I had always said I would buy him one in retirement. He claims to actually enjoy doing the yard work, and it’s not hard to believe him since he never, ever lets it go undone when he is able to do it. Those are azaleas in the foreground, though we do have a large rhododendron just to the right of where the photo ends. It didn’t bloom much this past year, though. I’m afraid it’s not getting enough sun even though it’s supposed to be a shade-loving plant. Those large shrubs along the fence at back right are camellias, and we have noticed that the one that gets the most sun is always the earliest and most profuse bloomer. Those Daphne Odora look beautiful; I wonder if we could grow them? I looked them up and apparently they do grow in this area, although they’re said to be difficult at times. I am looking for evergreen shrubs that flower but do not grow too tall or large. We need to replace some holly shrubs that are more like trees now.

  12. Good words. How is your husband faring at this time?

    • Thanks Cynthia, he is doing pretty well. Started back on chemotherapy for the metastatic lung tumors. So far the liver and colon are cancer-free following surgery, but the lung tumors increased during the months of the two surgeries and radiation, when he had to go without chemotherapy. He’s still working full time and also does a lot around the house – at his insistence — in fact, he is doing laundry as I write this!

  13. I could stand to take a lesson from Jeff. I am at heart lazy. God bless you all. Love, A

    • Amy, I’m lazy at heart and in action! 🙂 Maybe that’s why we get along; you never nag at me to get busy doing something worthwhile. I have been taking lessons from Jeff for 36 years now and I’m not nearly where he is, but I have gotten a bit better. I hope he’s learned a bit about how to laugh from living with me!

  14. Jeff is definitely a hero to me. Thank you for sharing his amazing strength and faith. Please let him know we love him and continue to pray for him.

    Love, Fran


    • Thank you, Fran! Love to you and all your family!

  15. I think you’re both remarkable. Truly remarkable. I’m also sorry from the bottom of my heart for what you are both going through.

    • Alys, thanks so much! We appreciate your kindness and support; it really does brighten up our world to have people to encourage us.

      • (((Julia)))

        • 🙂 (Still can’t figure out how to do those cute hearts.)

          • Try holding the Alt key. Then while holding it, press 3 on your numbers key bar. ♥♥♥♥♥

            • OK, here goes: Hmmm, strange…when I hold down the alt key and press 3, nothing happens at all! When I let go of the alt key, I get (not surprisingly) 3’s. I wonder if this is a DOS thing…do you use Mac?

              • I wonder if the operating system makes a difference? I don’t know why you aren’t getting the same results.

                I’m using a PC as well and running Firefox. Did my hearts show up in the previous comment?

                • Yes, your hearts always show up 🙂 but I can’t get anything but a smiley face to work. I am using Firefox too. Who knows how or why these computers do things? Even the most tech-savvy people I know are occasionally stumped. I think it must have to do with macros that substitute characters much like a spell checker.

                  • I just remembered that there is a setting in WordPress where you can allow emoticons to show up as text or as pictures. Let me see if I can find it.

                    • Thanks, I have tried to look it up before, but haven’t had much luck…I know people are getting tired of my smiley faces, but whenever I catch myself smiling as I type something, I can’t help but put a smiley face in!

                    • No reasonable person could possible get tired of your smiley faces. Keep them coming! 🙂

                    • 🙂 🙂 🙂

  16. Michael

    Yes try a Daphne- though they have a reputation for being finicky and some without reason just up and decline. What about tree peonies. I saw a huge one yesterday that was almost five by five feet .

    • Tree peonies! I have never heard of them. But I just looked them up, and they look gorgeous. I wonder if these are where Jeff’s niece got the fabulous peonies she used to decorate that little cabin for the rehearsal dinner we gave Drew and Megan at the Hermitage (near Nashville, not Russia). 🙂 My peonies are the small kind. The foliage does quite well every year, but I get one or two blooms at most from them, which I have to stake because they are so heavy. They are near the rhododendron that didn’t bloom much last year. I wonder if we need to go back to using Miracid, or if we need to trim some trees or do something else to let more sun in?

  17. Michael

    Is this a Mary- Martha relationship? Just kidding.

    • Actually, it really is. In fact, my novel’s protagonist is Martha, and I wrote it mostly because I tend to be a Martha type in many ways, but oddly enough, in my relationship with Jeff, he is definitely the Martha and I’m definitely the Mary. When he first read my manuscript he said “I am Martha.” 🙂

  18. Michael

    Tree peonies here are uncommon, expensive, gorgeous in spring ,but not that attractive in winter. I actually don’t have any in our yard, but have some nice smaller ones under three feet which are poking out of the ground now. Yesterday, I wandered out into the yard to rake some. Lasted about a half an hour. If you like scents, the Viburnum Dawn “Bodhatense” is a shrub with pretty pink flowers and wonderful scent right about now -February bloomer. They had some of these at the flower show. You can actually train to these to look like little trees.
    I am much more the Mary type? So does Jeff ever get a to do list-or is he always ahead of the list?

    • I looked up Virburnum and I think there are some horizontally-blooming versions of that shrub in our neighborhood (spring bloomers). In fact, I took a picture of them last year, intending to ask if you knew what they were. I’ll try to post them here sometime and you can see if you think that’s what they are. I do like scents; I even like our ligustrum, which a nursery owner told me was unpopular with lots of people because they find the scent disagreeably heavy. The other big problem is that they are invasive and grow out of control; ours have become a full-time pruning job, which is why we need to replace them with something that won’t be so high maintenance. Jeff never makes lists (except maybe in his head); he won’t even make them for me. For years he could not understand why I needed one. He would say “turn on the sprinklers at 4:00 pm” and could not understand for the life of him why I would forget. It’s like he has a built-in alarm clock in his brain. He gets up before the alarm goes off most mornings (5:30 am). Now that he’s getting older he once in awhile will forget something so he’s a bit more understanding of how scattered I have always been.

  19. We fall in love with our husbands for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they have a great sense of humour and we love spending time together. Or they have aspirations that align with your own and you know they’ll be a great dad (if that’s in the cards). But I can’t imagine anything that would make that love deeper than the year you’ve had together. Jeff’s tenacity is nothing short of amazing and you’ve been a good fighter to Julia. When you consider the options, fight and persevere or give up, many, with less faith would do the latter. I imagine Jeff has thanked his lucky stars many times that he choose you all those years ago. I’m really hoping that storm has past and you can get back to life as you knew it before the diagnosis of cancer. I’m really happy for you today. Has Matt’s next procedure been scheduled yet? Have a wonderful day. I’m battling the flu and plan to sit on the sofa (or sleep) all day xoK

    • I am so sorry to hear you have the flu! Hope you’ll be doing better in no time. Thanks so much for your kind words. Jeff and I are opposites in many ways but we do make a good team. I’m not afraid to pester the doctors with question after question, but he is the one who has to endure all the treatments and he’s much better at that than I would be. He is holding up well under this latest chemo and I’m just praying every day that the lung tumors are taking a hit and the liver and colon stay clear.

      We STILL haven’t heard from Matt’s cardiologists about when they want to schedule this next open heart surgery, and we are starting to get impatient. We are torn between anxiety (why is it taking them so long to decide what to do? Is it really THAT risky as they have been saying?) and relief (we didn’t want to put him through that anyway). I do wish it wasn’t hanging over our heads, though. It makes it impossible to plan for anything.

      Take care of yourself and GET WELL SOON!

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