Our heart is not always able

Full hearts, few words: Grady and Daddy communicate. This is their last photo together; Daddy died nine days later. August 26, 2015

Full hearts, few words: Grady and Daddy communicate.
This is their last photo together. Daddy died nine days later.
August 26, 2015

“…our heart is not always able to say what it wants to say, and frequently has to content itself with less.”Alexander McCall Smith

In spite of my ceaseless flow of words, McCall Smith’s statement quoted above (as expressed in the thoughts of the winsome Mma. Ramotswe) is more true for me now than ever.  As I write this, over a week has passed since my Daddy left behind his earthly existence, and my heart is overflowing with emotions it is unable to express.

There is sorrow, certainly, and a wistful longing for the ability to talk with Daddy, or get an email from him, or see one of his comments here at this blog, or be able, just one more time, to visit him and Mama together in their home. There are worries about how Mama will cope without him, as he was her constant caregiver during the past decade, and her husband, through good times and bad, for over 66 years.

But beyond the sorrow and worry, eclipsing all the painful feelings, is a deep sense of gratitude and wonder.  Alongside my appreciation of the long and meaningful life Daddy lived, there is abundant joy and thankfulness for the love and support of friends and extended family.  I am humbled and amazed at how the readers of this blog have become a living demonstration of one of Daddy’s greatest lessons to me: that the comforting presence of loved ones does not depend on geographic proximity, and friendship transcends earthly barriers.

Last night I read through some of the many cards that have been sent to me by readers of this blog.  Each was unique and so full of the sender’s generous soul that it was almost like a quick visit with a dear friend who gave me a hug of reassurance that said “we are here for you, and we care.”  Likewise, the many comments and emails, public and private, have been a constant source of support since Daddy died.  In a very real sense, I was sustained by your prayers and warm wishes and expressions of consolation, and I am grateful to you all, more grateful than words can say.

Thus, as Mma. Ramotswe realized, my heart holds more than this post can possibly contain, so I will have to content myself with less.  But I hope, especially in this case, that less will be enough.  I’ve said it so many times that it may sound trite, but I tell you again from my heart: Thanks for being here.



  1. blseibel

    What a wonderful picture and memory. I find I am a say less and sometimes es have trouble conveying what is in my heart. I don’t know why but it is so.
    It is such a gift to have friends who share and help us through trials and most times their saying less is all we need.

    • Sometimes (maybe often?) simply being there is enough. Thank you so much for being here sharing with us. I think the world needs more “say less” people. I am trying to move closer to that position myself. The photo is indeed a wonderful memory and I hope Grady will cherish it when he is old enough to hear the many stories about his great-grandfather that are sure to be passed down for generations.

  2. Carolyn

    Oh Julia, what a great picture. You all have been in my thoughts and prayers during this sad time, so hard when a parent leaves.,but what a wonderful home he has now. How is Jeff doing? I have started therapy , three days a week, not sure for how long. My first day was a lot of pain so I’M not looking forward for it today. Take care and remember we love you all, sending hugs. Carolyn

    • Hi Carolyn, it is great to hear from you. So sorry for what you are going through. I know those first few therapy sessions can be terribly painful, though I have never experienced it myself. Matt is pretty good at tolerating pain, but we could tell from his expressions how much it hurt when he had to go through PT after breaking his arm in 2013. We will send up some prayers and warm wishes that your subsequent PT sessions get easier. Jeff is doing OK, hanging in there with incredible strength for me right now. He is amazing and is a continual source of stability and security for us. We love you too and send you our hugs and thanks for being here with us.

  3. Julia, you always find the right words to convey what you know, think and feel. That’s what drew me first to your Blog. Little did I know we share many family commonalities. I will forever be amazed at how a number of diverse women from different corners of the globe came to find each other and love and care about each other. It’s like, just when I needed a friend, a ‘Happy Bus’ was going by and I jumped on at the right moment.
    My heart aches for you to read para. 2. “If only” might be something I’ve said myself more than a few times. If only we could chat one more time. If only I’d made that last hug goodbye tighter. It still comes to mind now for me, 15 years later. Not having the pleasure of meeting your dear dad, it’s safe to say, without a doubt, you were a sweet peach in your daddy’s day, like sunshine on the weekend when you called and someone he bragged to his friends about. Being lucky enough to have dads like this means there’s a lot to be thankful for and celebrate. It’s just so hard to say goodbye. Wishing you some calm reflection along with the tears. Sending love, K

    • Oh, thank you so much K. I know you understand! That was one of the first things I learned we had in common, our love for our Daddies. So glad we met on the Happy Bus! May it continue to take us all on many more joyful journeys. Thanks so much for being here for me. ❤

  4. Jack

    When I was a young man, I made a blunder in my professional life that seemed irreparable. My dad, gone now for 15 years, wrote me a simple, hand-written note that was so plain-spoken on the one hand, so encouraging on the other, that it became one of my most treasured possessions, a constant source of clarity and elegance in simplicity. The letter stayed in the original envelope, tucked safely (or so I thought) away in my briefcase, periodically read but almost always in the recesses of my thinking. A pickpocket in the Amsterdam train station took the letter, along with some other important travel documents in 2002. While I wish I had the letter back, I found what I treasured was his labor over the words, the loving kindness of a father that knew how to mix grace and candor. Your reflection made me remember again…many thanks for that.

    • Jack, I am so sorry you lost that precious letter, but so happy it will live forever in your heart, the words lighting your way with a glow that will never go away. I like to think that there was some providential reason that letter was taken; that somewhere, someone along the way who could read English might take some benefit from the words. I know that I, and others I know, have discovered such lost letters in various places, left behind by strangers, and have been greatly moved by the thoughts they contained. I appreciate your sharing this memory with us. Truly our fathers fill a role that no one else can fill. Thanks for being with us here to celebrate that bond!

  5. Sheila

    Julia, I went off on a tangent (no surprise there 🙍) to read several related posts. There are several that I hold near and dear. Yes, they’re at the kitchen table! I hope you’re doing ok and I certainly think of you about a zillion times everyday. Love to all, She 🙏😘

    • Thank you Sheila. It warms my heart to remember the beautiful flowers you sent to Mama, sitting on that very same kitchen table and bringing a warm glow to her heart, and mine, and really all who saw them. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to cover it – I shall have to content myself with less. Love and appreciation to you, my friend.

  6. Julia,
    When I was writing the autobiography of my life with polio, that my mom urged me to do before her passing, I often thought of the song by Gladys Knight: “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
    One of the lyrics was: “If anyone should ever write my life story, for whatever reason there might be, you’ll be there between each line of pain and glory, because you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
    My mom, as your dad to you, has played an important role in my life that one may not usually expect from a mom. In that writing I found times when I was encouraged, times when I was brought to tears and times when I laughed. Yet the comfort that it brought was priceless.
    Through it I came to understand that she lived still in that book and in me. And that through Christ’s death and resurrection God meant for us all to come home to Him and live forever. I know she and my dad and all my loved one’s who have passed from this world will be there to greet us as God has promised and when He has so determined.
    Our parents are with us always. We may be temporary orphans in this world but, Christ promised that He would be with us always. And in that we are never orphaned.

    • Alan, your beautiful words bring me such joy and comfort today. Thank you so much. I know I will read them over many times and will be encouraged each time I read them. Our amazing, generous, loving parents enabled us to “bear with unbearable sorrows” and “run where the brave dare not go.” How fortunate we are!

      • Extremely fortunate an blessed by God in giving us the parents we had through His immense and all-knowing love.

        • Yes, Alan! Those blessings are a crucial part — perhaps a foundation — of the faith that keeps us going.

  7. Cherie

    Julia, I love you! Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie! I love you too. ❤ You are often in my thoughts.

  8. Amy

    I was thinking of you today and wondered how you are doing. What a great photo of your dad, Drew and Grady. I love you very much.

    • Amy, I love you too. I can’t wait until we can be face to face again. I don’t know whether I’ll be laughing, crying or both, but no matter what, it will be a better day because you are in it. Thanks for everything. See you soon, I hope, with the kettle on and lots of time to spare.

  9. Carol hoyos

    Julia, oh how exquisitely you conveyed the feelings of those of us who have experienced the death of a parent. I felt like an orphan when my mom died (my father many years earlier) but was gently reminded we are all God’s children and he never abandons us. May time heal your aching heart. Thank you for your blog that bouys us each day. xo

    • Carol, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. It means so much to hear from those who have given me the gift of their time by reading my thoughts here. I appreciate your presence here! It comes at a time when it is greatly needed.

  10. Your Dad’s smile is in every picture I have ever seen of him. His legacy of grace, humor, intelligence, and Christianity shine through you all. God bless you all. Love Alice

    • Alice, thank you for this beautiful tribute to Daddy. It sounds almost as if you met him! 🙂 Around the time I was born, Daddy’s fellow pilots knew him by his nickname “Smiley,” and his lifelong best friend, my beloved “Uncle Tuffy” who is in several of the slide show photos with Daddy, called him “Smiley” until the day he died. Jeff and I so appreciate your kindness and presence here. It means more than we can say!

  11. HarryS

    I recently watched Jesus Christ Superstar(1973). And just as it was a mediocre attempt to tell this powerful tale, any commiseration of mine is destined to fall short.
    The only thing I know to say is I Feel Your Pain.
    I feel it because I have felt it.
    And I timidly add, God knows our pain because he has felt it.– Because he feels it.

    • Thank you, Harry. There’s an old saying I don’t really believe: “misery loves company.” That’s not true, at least not for me. But I do know that sorrow needs and wants understanding, and I will always be grateful to those of you who have shared my sorrows by being here with me in sympathy and understanding. Your words do not fall short at all. 🙂

  12. Julia, my heart simply isn’t able. Please accept the fumbling best I can do. Love and prayers for you and your family.

    • Susan, your words are more than welcome and as I told Harry, they don’t fall short at all. I know it takes a measure of courage to comment at all, so I am doubly appreciative of you who reach out to me with words, despite their inherent limitations. Much more comes through. ❤ I have so missed being here, and simply had to make some time before bed tonight to "check in" with all the wonderful company I've found here.

  13. So sorry Julia. There are no words that any one can say to make you feel better. We can be there for you if you need a shoulder, or want to talk and we are here for you. I lost both parents at a young age. I just think of them traveling in time together. Nothing is ever final. The love and good times will make you smile. I believe they are out there in the universe and I will see them again along with my brother and sister. Your heart will speak to you. You were loved and you always will be.

    • Patricia, I am sorry you had to lose your parents so early. I have consoled myself with knowing that Daddy lived 87 very full years. I think it would have been much harder to lose him at a younger age. I agree with you that our loved ones are not gone from us forever — and that their love blesses us for as long as we live, even when we outlive them. Thanks for being here, and for understanding and caring.

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