Try waking up

Jeff didn't see this sign over his head, but I did.  Bar Harbor, June 2012

Jeff didn’t see this sign over his head, but I did. Bar Harbor, June 2012

“Anyone can slay a dragon…but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” ― Brian Andreas

In June 2012, just three months before Jeff got the first of what would be several diagnoses of cancer, we were seated in a Bar Harbor restaurant looking forward to a nice meal after a day of exploring Acadia National Park.  I noticed the art hung on the wall above his head, and thought how appropriate it would be to have a photo of him sitting beneath it.  (He didn’t even realize the sign was there, or notice what it said.)

I had no way of knowing how prophetic that photo would be; how hard it would be for him simply to keep waking up every day over the next year and beyond, facing the grief, uncertainty, pain and physical trauma that go with cancer and its treatments.  What I did know already was that he was that kind of hero, one who would keep putting one foot in front of the other as long as he was able, not complaining or even saying much at all about his struggles and sorrow, just quietly keeping on.

Though most of us have difficulties that probably are not as obvious as his, all of us have to show that same heroic devotion.  Some days, it is far from easy to wake up and love the world all over again.  But somehow we do it, day after day, and in so doing, we unknowingly give each other the same strength we ourselves have drawn from heroic examples of perseverance.

I hope today is one of those days when it feels easy and happy and natural to love the world all over again.  But if it’s a difficult day for you, remember that being a hero seldom looks or feels thrilling and exciting.  That hidden, unnoticed sort of courage is all the more heroic, and the world depends on it.

One year ago today:

The quiet voice


  1. Larry

    At 5am CST, the Butterfly was surprised to see her son’s picture on the blog. He indeed is a hero in so many ways. As a son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, soldier and friend to all he meets. We all are proud to share life with him. Thanks Julia for putting this picture on,

    • You’re welcome, Larry! Since beginning this little project, I have had to overcome Jeff’s continual resistance to having my blog mention or picture him. As you can imagine, he is not fond of being featured here, being a very private person. And, as one who doesn’t particularly like to see myself in photos, I can understand. BUT I keep telling him that I cannot blog without mentioning him; he is inseparable from my life and thoughts, and is bound to pop up here now and then even if I try to keep him out! 🙂 Perhaps knowing that you enjoy seeing him will help him get past his aversion to having himself featured or discussed. As you may have guessed, he has no idea I did this particular post. He’s in chemo today so he won’t see it even if he goes to my blog, which he rarely does. So I’m safe for at least a day! 🙂

  2. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Two sets of beautiful qualities clearly shine through: the photo captures Jeff’s honesty and steadfast courage, and the writing shows your deep love and admiration for him. Touching and so sweet. It brought tears to my eyes. You have very special blessings in your marriage to one another.

    • Thank you Judy! I appreciate your kind words and your caring for us. Jeff and I have a strange and wonderful relationship – I’m strange and he’s wonderful. 🙂 In truth, we are both oddballs in our own ways, but it works for us. We do feel blessed, abundantly so, and are thankful for you and all the others who have joined us at this phase of our lives.

      • Bonnie Sanders

        I love your description of the two of you! I lost my husband July of 2012 and still miss him tremendously…and like the two of you we each had our own little ways but they worked together fabulously…..and in God’s will. God bless and thank you for sharing.

        • Hi Bonnie, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I am sorry to hear of your loss; I imagine it’s the sort of thing one never gets over, really. I keep hoping and praying I do not have to find out, while trying to accept the reality that medical odds say I will, much sooner than I want to. Still, as you say, God is in control of all and we have to trust that. I really appreciate your kind words and your taking the time to leave a comment. I hope you will continue to visit us here!

  3. This is a beautiful post Julia ~ big hugs to both our hero and heroine (you!) xoxo

    • Thank you Misifusa! We can all use more hugs, literal and virtual! Hugs to you too.

  4. Beautifully put Julia. I too have been down that road three times so far. It started when I was 38, I am now 70. I found the following poem that I keep on my desk. I read it every day and it has helped me get through some rough times.

    Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winked or cried aloud, under the bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

    • Thank you Patricia, I am so inspired by knowing that you are a three-time survivor. You have kept your courage and sense of humor, and that’s a great encouragement to me. Though you are older than I am, your spirit still seems young. I appreciate your being here and sharing your wisdom with us!

  5. Good morning, Julia… What a handsome hero you have living in your house! 🙂
    Brave to endure all the pain of the past year.
    blessing to you both…

    • Thank you Merry, I suppose I am biased but I have always thought him handsome too, never more so than now. We appreciate your kind thoughts and presence here!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, every day is a gift, although some days require more effort than others. Bill and I have already shared several laughs this morning (it’s only 8:20) and given thanks for this glorious day. I love your special blog today. Jeff is a quiet dragon slayer to so many of us. Even when your days are difficult, you project such hope. Blessings my friend, Sheila

    • Sheila, I hope you saw my note yesterday about the tea…YUM! Now I have a new reason to go to Kroger. Isn’t it wonderful to start the day with laughter? I’m sure you have heard the saying that goes something like “today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.” I went out to take the trash this morning and it was so (relatively) warm I didn’t even shiver without my coat! A glorious day indeed. Blessings to you, Bill and Walter, and as always, thanks for being with us!

  7. Mary Ellen

    Prayers today, Julia for you. and your family. Thank you for your beautiful pictures and thoughtful writings.

    • Mary Ellen, you’re welcome! I am so happy to have you visit us here. We deeply appreciate your prayers.

  8. sarvjit

    There lies a hero in each one of us. In harder times, this hero awakes and it changes our life. That hero is known as faith.

    • Yes, faith is the trait that is at play in every courageous deed, whether big or small. It is indeed a game-changer…and a life changer!

  9. Carolyn

    Yes, Jeff is a hero because he has so far won his battle. I know how hard it is but we keep fighting. 2012 was a hard year for both of us but we are still here fighting the big C. I am doing well and will go for my 3 month check in April. My first eye surgery went well and now I’m waiting for the other doctor to decide when I will have the other surgery. I could use some prayers, I have been a little down lately. Maybe this nice weather will help. Suppose to be in the low 70’s. I pray that you all are doing well. How about Matt, any news about his surgery yet? Take care and hugs and love to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn, you are a hero to us too! I was thinking of you just last night and wondering how you were doing, I was a bit worried because we had not heard from you in awhile. We are keeping you in our prayers and YES you will both win this battle! I hope that the weather will help you too; it seems to be lifting our spirits some. I heard from one of Matt’s cardiologists this weekend, and they expect the next open heart surgery to be in April. We meet with the surgeon next week for some preliminary tests. We will keep you posted. Love to you and Terry, extra prayers coming your way!

  10. Jack

    Julia, really brilliant. Prayers for healing and peace and joy and persevering.

    When I was a little boy, I dreamed of slaying the dragon and getting the girl, hitting the game winning homer against my nemesis the Yankees (Braves could have used me in 96 and 99), making the 10 footer to win the Masters. As a boy and now a man, I’m hard-wired to mythic thoughts, CS Lewis says its something God puts deep down in me, to becoming worthy, as Tolkien says, of the “praise of the praiseworthy”. The challenge isn’t suppressing the mythic, it’s finding the praiseworthy, the real Captain of my soul (I hope it ain’t me!).

    • Thanks for your kind words and prayers, Jack. It sounds as if you and our older son would get along well when it comes to the Yankees.

      I think we all long to do great things, and I agree that it’s “hard-wired” into us…but hopefully our ideas about what constitutes greatness will change over time and with maturity. I think being Captain of our soul involves the free will part; an earthly Captain can certainly choose to answer to a divine higher power and live in submission to God’s laws, and that makes the thought a bit less intimidating. You might be better at it than you think. 🙂

      • Jack

        Interestingly, Timothy McVeigh cited Invictus right before they pumped him full of a lethal cocktail of drugs. That poem was one of my dad’s favorites, mainly “it matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll…” part. My dad was a real stoic, a hero in my eyes then and now (gone since 2000), but he had a fatalistic view of things that was passed on to me as a reminder of how much help I need. Deep water those memories are indeed.

        • Yes, even Satan quoted scripture! Not to equate all poetry with sacred texts, but you get the idea. Almost anything can be twisted to mean what someone wants it to mean (see: irresponsible media sound bites) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that truth can’t come out of the mouths of fools (or worse). Here’s an interesting take on that from Lifehacker, the veracity of which I cannot confirm, but fun to read. I think “Invictus” most likely had a different meaning to those born before 1950 or so; younger folks probably cannot imagine how few choices were available to so many of their older family members just six decades ago. My dear husband is quite the stoic himself, and in some ways that has served him (and us) well. I am thankful that he seems much more aware of and/or comfortable with his own emotions in the past 18 months than he has been in years past. YES, memories are deep water – full of beauty but also danger. Caution definitely advised!

  11. Strength seems to be a strange and wonder thing. When needed, a person can and does find ways to live thru unbelievable challenges. It’s even hard to fathom how I would when you are sharing your story with us here. Do the bad times actually make you appreciate the good times more? I actually think so. Last summer, I felt tested to the core. Luckily we came out the other side (scars and all) to have a closer and stronger appreciation for our marriage, our family and friends and time we spend together. BTW, neither of you seem to have changed much over the years, such a cute couple. xoK

    • Thanks K, you are sweet as always! I definitely agree with you that bad times can open our eyes to all that is good in a way that nothing else can. I guess that’s one of the silver linings that come with dark clouds. When we are tested it really is like being put through a refining fire, as with gold. It clears out a lot of the dross. I have always enjoyed reading biographies, but lately I have really been more into them than ever. I’ve drawn great strength from reading about people who have faced amazingly challenging crises and have survived and thrived. Their stories are such an encouragement because they don’t gloss over the hard parts (scars and all, as you say). Thanks for being here and sharing with us! Your presence here is such a wonderful gift.

      • Thank you Julia, I feel really blessed to have found you. xoK

        • Back at you K, that is SO TRUE for me too! If someone asked me “has anything good come out of all the terrible things about the past 18 months?” you and several others I have met only here online would immediately spring to my mind!

    • (((Boomdee)))

  12. raynard

    Julia last night I purchased a audiobook. John Grishem. Got me on a different path and it was something I picked up while over in Iraq. I dont watch dvd’s anymore and still listen to Old Time Radio on my Ipod( WWW In my opinion bad times make you stronger and better. I was telling someone about my bad relationships brought out”the best in me”.. Now I’m having a Rocky 3 Moment( you aint so bad) lol Be blessed

    • I never saw Rocky 3 or any of the others but I want to someday – I loved the first two. WOW, what an amazing throwback website (Old Time Radio) – I had never heard of it. Not only can we find people we used to know, we can find all kinds of things from the past, right online. Now we don’t have to wonder “did I imagine that or what?” I hope you enjoy your audiobook as much as I enjoy all of mine. I started listening to them way back in 1989 and have been hooked ever since. It makes things such as weeding, walking and cleaning the kitchen into very fun activities!

  13. I think you’re both remarkable people. Julia. I really do believe the old saw that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. We survive and thrive beyond life’s difficult curve balls.

    I love that you took that photo with the sign overhead. Not only did you never imagine that year ahead, but you probably never thought you would be posting it on a blog! Life.

    • Alys, how true! I barely knew anything at all about blogging at that point, let alone imagined I’d be posting on one DAILY. Life is so unpredictable – a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing I think!

  14. Lovely portrait of your love. And such true words.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. I appreciate your visits here!

  15. MaryAnn

    Credit where credit is due: you noticed this very significant sign, that is a perfect tribute to Jeff; he notices the birds, etc. for you to photograph. What a team!!!

    • Thank you Mary Ann, you are generous as always!

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