Memory of the heart

A memory of my heart for which I'll always be grateful. Jeff waves from our stateroom balcony, Mexico, January 2015.

A memory for which I’ll always be grateful.
Jeff waves from our stateroom balcony, Mexico, January 2015.

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart; therefore forget not to say often, I have all I ever enjoyed.”Lydia Child

It’s not good to live in the past or long for bygone times. Ecclesiastes 7:10 reminds us “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Still, as one grows older, and beloved friends and family members face illness or death, it can be all too easy to feel deep sorrow when we are reminded of how things once were.

Child gives us one secret of how to avoid this difficulty. If we are mindful of our blessings in the present, and enjoy life to the fullest, we will never really lose what we once had. All the beauty and humor and fun and joy that have gone before are now an abiding part of us, and will remain with us to fill our hearts with gratitude as our days continue to bring new reasons to rejoice.

When I was a teenager I once told Mama and Daddy that I would never lose them, because I would always know what they would be saying if they were still here. I felt certain I would be able to hear their voices in my mind and know the kinds of wisdom they used to share with me, so they would never really be gone. Daddy replied that everybody gets a little clue of eternity in this life, and he thought that particular idea must be my personal glimpse into infinity, and he hoped I would hang onto it.

Though I still believe the things I said so glibly in my youth, it turns out to be harder than I imagined to hold that confidence during sad or scary times. When change comes, whether through loss or retirement or other life transitions, we are never completely ready for it. There will always be at least a little sadness and fear for most of us when it’s time to move into uncharted territory. But gratitude is the surest protection I have found when I feel lost and alone in the face of a strange new situation.

If you should find yourself feeling a bit sad when you hear a song that reminds you of a loved one, or see a photo of your young family having fun on some long-ago vacation, or come across a special gift once given to you by someone you wish you could somehow see just one more time, remember that what you have cherished is yours forever. I wish you an enduring awareness that you still have all you ever enjoyed, a secure bank of memories stored deep in your heart.

To all my readers, and especially those who share with me via the comments section, I send my sincere apologies for not being able to answer comments lately. Because these posts are written in advance, the posts sometimes continue even when I am not available to respond immediately. If you have followed this blog for very long, you can guess why I’m not available right now. Many of you are in touch with me by email. For those who want personal updates, please send your email address to defeatdespair@verizon.net and I will include you on the personal updates I send, though these too have been rare lately. Please know that I do read and cherish your comments, emails, cards and other expressions of concern. I feel and deeply appreciate your caring support now more than ever. You are in my heart always. I will be back as soon as I can and will answer each and every comment when time allows.

 

44 Comments

  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    These words come at a time when I need this kind of encouragement. I’ve copied off your entire post and put it on my desktop so that I can easily read it whenever family and life stresses start to cause sadness and anxieties. Thank you, thank you.

    • Thank you, Judy. I feel honored that you would want to save the post. I’m so glad you are here!

  2. Good morning, Julia! I’ve been praying for you a lot lately. This post is so right-on, and the photo is terrific!
    Last night I got a message from a woman that I hadn’t heard from in several years (who now lives up near those redwoods that I might yet see). She said, “Hi Susan, I was just thinking about you a minute ago, reminiscing about The Celebration Service at HAUMC. Don’t you wish we could cross our arms and blink and be back in the chapel experiencing one of those incredible services again? It was definitely one of the best experiences I have had in my spiritual life.” (It was, and I do, and I know it can’t be re-created)
    Even so, the memory is mine to keep, for as long as I have memory, and even if my memory fades, I know that I’ll be delighted to see her again when we are all made whole and perfect, and there will be no end to our joy.
    That will really be a Celebration!

    • Susan, thanks so much for this timely reminder that the best is yet to come. Despite the vast ignorance of the details that we all carry around about what happens after death, I do believe that the mercies and joys of this life (such as the event you describe here) point us to future joy, mercy, rest, peace and yes, CELEBRATION! I’m so glad you are here.

  3. LB

    Ah Julia, your new posts come to me in the morning via Bloglovin, something that Alys set up for me. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been able to keep posting, and now understand that you’ve been scheduling ahead.
    Do not ever think you need to respond. Just know that we are with you in thought, spirit, and love. ❤

    • Thanks Laurie. I sense and appreciate the presence and support of so many wonderful people here. Your visit was a shining plus, but even from a distance I always find comfort in knowing that thoughts, prayers and warm wishes are lifting me up.

  4. Debbie

    Praying for God to give you strength and comfort at this difficult time. This post was right on for me as I lost my mom a year and a half ago and her birthday was last week. The first one after her death did not impact me as much as the second. The memories are starting to come back as are the tears. Hugs!!! Grief is really a process.

    • Oh Debbie, I’m so sorry. I hope that you are finding islands of joy amid your sorrow. Thanks so much for your prayers. Yes, this is a process, and one that we all must endure sooner or later, usually many times over in fact, if we are fortunate enough to have many loved ones. I am happy to have you with us as we keep putting one foot in front of another and negotiate the ups and downs of emotional abundance.

      • Megan

        I found the above words in your comment so comforting. I’m feeling extra sad today and came here because…I don’t know…I guess I wanted to ‘be’ with others who were missing Jeff too. What a wonderful ‘support group’ that has gathered around this blog. *I’m* feeling so thankful for your readers today.

        • Megan, aren’t there some wonderful people here? I am glad you are thankful for them, too! I never knew when I started this blog, what an amazing source of blessings it would become for me. Whatever effort I put into it seems to come back to me multiplied. Thanks for being here. I’m glad it was a comfort to you. We have a lot of sad times ahead of us, but we’ll get through them one day or maybe one hour at a time…

  5. Sheila

    Julia, I send you my love and pray for your strength. How many Monday’s have we smiled and even laughed, across the miles, yet together? This Monday, I sit here with tears, as I read your words and look at your treasured photo of Jeff. You have allowed me to share some very special times in your life! I hope that Jeff knows that the stories he has allowed you to share have helped so many all these years. You’re in every prayer! Love, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila. Our Verandah is a bit more silent lately but the birds are still singing, the days are sunny and mild, and just sharing the silence with you is an immense comfort. Thanks for being here with us. Your presence in my life has become so important. Love and gratitude to you!

  6. Raynard

    Julia I posted one of the pictures we took last summer. No I didn’t make any funny faces and I’m anti McDonald’s now. Don’t get me started on the pumpkin spice Cheerios. I digress. I made a photo album of the 100 plus pictures if Aunt Ella and working on a blog about her.She is a real trooper and a sweetheart and I’m glad you were able to meet her. Be blessed..

    • Raynard, please send me the link of your blog about Ms. Ella. I am so happy we all got to visit together. None of us knew what was ahead just over a year later, but that day is a lovely memory and Ms. Ella brighted the day with her sweet spirit. BTW the post I wrote about that day still holds the record for this site for the post with all time most views on one day (627) which I’m sure must mostly be your Upper Room fan club! I am thinking of y’all. Thanks for being here.

  7. My dear Julia,
    You are in my heart and prayers.

    • Thank you Merry. Your presence is a comfort.

  8. Lani Beagle

    Thinking of you and yours, Julia.

    • Thank you, Lani. I am so glad that we have been able to be back in touch after all these years. I believe it was your father’s death that helped us find each other (via the online posting about him). Sometimes wonderful things can come out of great sorrow. I’m holding that thought. Thanks for being here.

  9. MaryAnn

    I love you, Julia! Praying everyday for God’s Peace to be your daily companion. I pray for Drew & Matt, also.

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. You are an ever-present ray of sunshine in our lives, and your friendship is a blessing.

  10. Susan

    Julia, our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Thank you for all the wisdom and hope you share in the midst of the storms.

    • Thank you, Susan. I appreciate the encouragement and especially the prayers!

  11. HarryS

    I certainly don’t know what’s going on but I know my heart surely goes out to you.

    • Harry, I’m late getting to these comments, so by now you have probably figured it out. Thank you for caring!

  12. Ann

    What a beautifully written blog. Words fail me as I try to comfort you as you have comforted me over the years.

    • Thank you Ann. Your words are a comfort to me as well. Words can feel inadequate to the person speaking (or writing) them, but somehow they manage to connect us as we share our joys and sorrows. I appreciate your being here, and letting me know you are here!

  13. Amy

    I first saw this post at 5:30 yesterday (Oct 3) morning and for a minute my heart sank. I thought it was a photo of Jeff waving goodbye. Of course he is waving hello and it is a great photo. What a big ship you were on. You must have been on the dock to take it. I know looking at it will bring happy memories for you for years to come. I love the way your dads thought in regards to all of us getting a glimpse of eternity. I am sure that your are right about your comment to your parents. We hear and see them long after they are gone and it’s true that our memories will carry us on through the rest of our lives. It helps to have photos and of course videos are really great so we can hear again the voices we loved, After my dad died I would call the house just to hear his voice on the answering machine. My mom erased it by accident and it really upset me. I have other videos where he can be heard but that was so convenient. I also saw my dad everyday for a long time after his death. It would be out of the corner of my eye or early in the morning before I had opened my eyes. I knew he was in the room with me and if I could just open my eyes fast enough I could see him. I don’t see him all the time like that anymore but it was a great comfort to me for some time. I do believe those who go ahead of us look down on us. I believe they continue to pray for us and to intercede on our behalf when they see we need it. It is the memories in our hearts that sustain us the most. The moments we shared alone with those we love. A second kiss quickly given as they went out the door for the day. A shared confidence or a whispered prayer when we needed someone to help us sustain our faith. This is what helps the most. Keep close your memories friend. Guard your heart with all the love you had while those you loved were still with you on this earth and know that you will see them again. I love you.

    • Thank you for these beautiful words, Amy. You have captured much that I feel about dearly loved people who have left this earth but whose spirits and souls live on. I can say with absolute sincerity that I don’t think we could have survived these four years without you. You have helped to carry so much of our burden for so long. I love you.

  14. Julia, my heart is heavy as I hold you in my thoughts. I’m awestruck, today and always by your poise, your calmness in the face of this terrible storm, and your ability to craft such beauty when your heart must be achingly sad and filled with loss. You are a beautiful soul, a remarkable woman, a gift to all that call you friend and to your readers who draw from your inspiration.

    That “secured bank of memories” will sustain you throughout life, but we must allow ourselves to grieve great losses and to feel all that we feel. In the end, it’s what helps us continue moving forward, even on those days when we want to pull up the covers and stay in bed. I wish I could be with you in person to wrap my arms around you, to bring you a hot cup of tea, to sit with Matt while he worked a puzzle and to just be. Arms around you, with love. Alys

    • Alys, as always, your words are generous and kind, a true comfort. Even though you can’t be with me in person I can just imagine you here doing all the things you describe and more. As it is, I am surrounded by tokens of your love — little gifts chosen especially for me that brighten my every day. Thanks for blessing our lives in so many ways!

  15. I’m just catching up too and you have your hands full with life unfolding. No apologies necessary. No response necessary. I think we all know your heart. Mine is with you.

    • Thanks, Marlene. I’m slow in answering these comments but I read them daily and they do bring me much comfort. YES we do know each others’ hearts, and what a solace that is! Giant weepy hugs.

  16. Carol Hoyos

    Dear Julia, whatever you and your family are experiencing at the moment we pray for your comfort, peace and calm in the midst of the storm. xo ch

    • Thank you, Carol. I have felt that we were surviving on prayers for a long time now, but never more than at this moment. Your prayers and presence here are a great comfort.

  17. Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
    With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
    Leave to thy God to order and provide;
    In every change he faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heavenly Friend
    Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

    Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
    To guide the future as he has the past.
    Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
    All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
    His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

    Be still, my soul: The hour is hastening on
    When we shall be forever with the Lord,
    When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
    Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
    Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
    All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

    • This beautiful song remains a great blessing through everything.

      • Amazingly strong people continually count their blessings

        • I guess that’s how they stay strong…

  18. Amy

    Thinking of Jeff. ” This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Rev. 14:12-13. He has gone before us but I know we all be together again. Keeping your family in my prayers. I love you.

    • Thank you Amy. You have been with us for so many years now, in spirit and prayer, and so often (especially in recent years) with real, practical help in the daily struggles. We love you!

  19. Memories do sustain us and over time, even give deep comfort. I’m thinking of you, with love always. x Kelly

    • Thank you, K. You have added so much beauty to our lives, and the reminders of you are all around us! You are a great blessing to us.

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