The strength

Lights glow amid the darkened branches of a real live Christmas tree. Colonial Williamsburg, December 2008

Lights glow amid the darkened branches of a real live Christmas tree.
Colonial Williamsburg, December 2008

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”
Helen Keller

I’m not exactly sure how we’ve gotten through the past three weeks, but somehow we have. Some days are much worse than others, but all of them bring small reasons to be grateful. I can acknowledge that in my mind without feeling it in my heart, and that’s often what I end up doing.  There are days when it’s all I can do to get out of bed, but it must be faith that enables me to keep going.

It’s not just my own faith that gives me strength, of course. That would, no doubt, be inadequate. There’s also the faith of so many who believe in us, pray for us and remember us with countless small kindnesses. There’s the faith by which Jeff lived his entire life, an enduring legacy that gives me something to strive for, and to cherish in memory. There’s the faith that eventually, somehow, the sorrow will be eased and the happy memories will eclipse the pain and anger and exhaustion and grief.

One of the many things I’m grateful for is the amazing community that has come together on this blog over the past four years. I see all of you out there, shining like points of light in the tangled darkness that so often surrounds me. As Misifusa says, Shine On! And thank you, so much, for being here.


  1. Cherie

    Julia, dear sister, I feel your pain. I want you to know I pray for you and your family every day. I pray the happy memories will overcome the grief more and more as you say. I love you!

    • Thank you, Cherie. So far your prayers are being answered, gradually but reassuringly. I love you too!

  2. Dear Julia,
    Be strong and courageous during this time of despair…you will over come.

    • Thank you Merry. You help me to keep on believing. ❤

  3. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ “Point of Light” was evident at my sweet Mom’s funeral, (almost 5 years ago), as we chose to use her well worn Bible and a beautiful glowing candle. It so described her! It wouldn’t have been complete though without the Randy Travis song, “Point Of Light” playing as the immediate family entered the chapel. 💛 My tears have turned to smiles, most of the time. I can laugh now thinking about crying in the cereal aisle when I spotted the Honey Nut Cheerios, Mom’s favorite. My prayers continue for you and for your family. 🙏 There have been so many beautiful condolences conveyed here. I know you must feel the caring that has been created at Defeat Despair. 🌅 Much love always, Sheila

    • Hello Sheila, thanks for sharing about you Mom’s funeral. It does sound lovely. Believe it or not I have never heard that song. I’ll have to look it up. I can totally identify with the tears over the Honey Nut Cheerios. Yesterday we were at the commissary and so many things in those aisles reminded me of Jeff. Not to mention I was having to figure out where certain things were, because Jeff did so much of the grocery shopping over the past 10 years. Yes, there is a beautiful community here and it has been a real solace to me. Major cyber hugs to everybody here and especially to you!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

  4. Renee West

    Faith, love (God is love), friendship family & the gift of sharing especially through this powerful venue will all be stepping stones to the inner and outer healing that awaits you dear friend! Until then “One day at a time, sweet Jesus.” Still my mantra to this day. I am amazed by the strength & courage that is deeply rooted in you so that the automatic pilot kicks in when it needs to. Love you beyond words!!!

    • Thank you Renee. It might look like autopilot but there have been plenty of times when you and others re-lit that pilot light for me. I will always be grateful for your friendship and I’m so thankful you have helped me keep on keeping on. ❤

  5. Ann

    Dear Julia, I wish I had profound words of comfort for you but …
    I’m imagining you with a host of angels surrounding you, protecting you and keeping you safe.
    May each day find you a little stronger.


    • Thank you Ann. Your words are perfect. I can’t say that I see any light at the end of a tunnel yet, but it’s more like a dense fog that is gradually clearing. Those tiny lights are glimmering a bit more brightly. I am so glad you are here! ❤

  6. Sending you love, healing hugs, strength and a cocoon of prayers to help you through your day to SHINE your special light in our world. Love you xo

    • Thank you, M! As my post would suggest, your shining light has been a great example and help for me. Shine on! ❤

      • Shine on dearest Julia! Know that Jeff is shining his heartlight to you all now and forevermore. xo

  7. MaryEllen Davis

    Julia, may I recommend a book? “Healing After Loss, Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief” by Martha Whitmore Hickman. ISBN 978-0-380-77338-1. The daily meditations and quotes are thought provoking and have been a source of strength and hope for me following the death of my 19 year old son in January (motorcycle accident). He was my only child. Also, it was very comforting to re-read the Gospel of John. Of course you too have helped me Defeat Despair! 😉 God Bless you!

    • Thank you, Mary Ellen. I love to get book recommendations. I put a request in for that book through my paperback swap. I either did not know, or maybe had forgotten, that you had lost your only child. My heart goes out to you; that is the type of loss (such as mine) that would be life-changing and, I imagine, a years-long process of learning to heal and move forward. Life is so fragile and time so short, even for those of us who live a relatively long life. It sounds trite, but we really need to live each moment fully in that realization. I am happy if anything I have written has been a help to you. I am so happy you are here with us!

    • Arms around you MaryEllen. My heart goes out to you. Alys

  8. Thinking of you and your family in my prayers….

    • Thank you, Bindu. I am so happy we connected in cyberspace. Your presence is a joy and a solace. ❤

  9. Linda Blackford

    I’m proud of you, Julia, for moving ahead in spite of the grief. There is no time constraint. You can be gentle with yourself and make this journey in your own time. It always helped me to realize how blessed I was to have even had my husband Nicky in my life, even though we were married only four years when I Iost him. That was worth any second of grief I experienced. As time has gone by, it has also helped me to realize that he would want me to embrace life twice as hard, because I am doing it for both of us now. Isn’t it comforting that our heads can reason with our hearts, helping us through? God has even gifted us with coping mechanisms, if we choose to be aware of them. I can see that you have made this choice, and that gives me a lot of hope. God bless you, Julia

    • Linda, thank you so much. I am so sorry you had to lose Nicky after such a short time, but yes, it does help to remind myself how very blessed we were to have him in our lives for the time that we did. My sweet Mama (who has stage IV cancer herself) was helping me to see that as I was crying to her over the phone the night before Jeff was taken off life support, when we knew what lay ahead. I think you are right they would want us to keep on living and not get mired in grief. I realize now that was why Jeff urged me so strongly to go back to school. Of course neither of us knew he would not live to see my finish even the second semester of my program, but I’m going to stay in it as long as I can, for Jeff (and Mama) as well as for myself. Thanks for your understanding and encouragement. I am so happy you are here! ❤

  10. Peggy Ashburner


    • Thank you Peggy. You are wonderful! I still have the photos of Owen with those gorgeous flowers. I will get them to you as soon as I make the time to get them off of Jeff’s cell phone. Thanks for being with us! You understand!!! Love you.

  11. That says it all. Shine on. Hugs.

    • Giant shining hugs to you, M!

  12. Dorothy Walker

    Dear Julia, My thoughts are with you often. I think it is as if you’ve lost half of yourself and then even though you care for Matt you all of a sudden find you don’t have Jeff to care for. Someone asked me only the other day if after 9 months after Neil dying was it any easier. I replied that I continue to miss him every day but you have to keep moving forward, we have no choice, others need us, children and grandchildren, (a new little grandson born on 21st October). I managed the early days by being busy. Neil had not been well for such a long time and there was so much to sort and organise, I think that helped me from falling in a heap. I love the garden so spend time there as Spring is here, well sort of, still having some very cold and windy days. My heart goes out to you in the difficult days ahead, but with support of your many friends and family you’ll make it. Keeping you in my prayers. Psalm 121. Love,

    • Dorothy, I have thought of you in the days and weeks since Jeff died. I feel an instant kinship with all the women (and men) who are in this “club” with me, people who have lost a beloved spouse. We would never wish this experience on anyone, but somehow we manage to keep going and it does help to see that others have been able to survive. You’re right, all the “busy work” does help immensely, as does the fact that we really have no choice but to keep putting one foot in front of another.

      I am happy you have the springtime coming up to cheer you. I love being in touch with people in the southern hemisphere, as they can send me a breath of warm (or cool) weather to relieve whatever extremes we may be facing in our half of the world. Thank you for reminding me of the beautiful words of Psalm 121. I just went back and read them again, and what a solace they are. I so appreciate your presence here, and your prayers! Love and light and laughter to you in the coming months. ❤

  13. Amy

    “Hope is the only thing that will keep you from despair” CS Lewis. I hope you find each minute, each hour, each day a little less hard than the last.

    • Thank you Amy. You are making these days and hours and weeks much more bearable, by being here and being you. See you tomorrow for a festive fun time feeding the trick-or-treaters! The neighbor kids will be thrilled to see you and Stephen in costume — and so will we!

  14. Good morning, Julia!
    Sometimes it takes a lot of tiny lights to give us enough light to read, or to see to walk without stumbling. Thank you for being a light for so many people. I hope that we are all lights to help you, too.
    Prayers filled with light for you, Matt, Drew and his family, and all of your extended families.

    • Susan, you all are definitely lights! And together you create amazing wattage (or now with the more energy-efficient bulbs, perhaps I should say “limitless lumens”). Thanks so much for your friendship and your prayers. They are being answered. ❤

  15. We do not know each other very well, but I do know your delight in Christmas trees has existed for over fifty years. Therefore I feel it is particularly fitting that the above photo accompany these words” . . .like points of light in the tangled darkness that so often surrounds me. ”
    Jeff was a Blessing to me.
    Julia, you Bless my life.

    • Thank you, Eric. I may not get around to putting up a Christmas tree this year, but there will be one glowing in my heart and mind, with many happy memories of “Christmas Past.” ❤

  16. MaryAnn

    Julia, I love you, pray for you & Matt everyday! Your faith is strong because you depend upon your Creator, Who is your Protector, Rescuer, Confidant, Savior, Lord, Soft place to fall, Father, Strength, Counselor, Provider, Guide! This list is in no particular order. I am gleaning from my prayers noted in a study our small group is doing: “Daring Faith” by Rick Warren.
    I call upon our God & Lord to give Your Peace to Julia, my dear sister! Please let her feel your Presence! Thank You for the avenue of prayer.Thank You for the everlasting friendship & BOND between Julia & me! Surround her with Guardian Angels to give her strength & catch her when she falls. In the Mighty Name of Jesus, Amen!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! Your faith and joy continue to brighten my path as they have from the very first time I met you. Your prayers are a support and a solace. I love you!

  17. Love you Julia!

    • I love you too Fran!! ❤

  18. Sheila

    Good Friday morning, Julia. Bill and I were at Topsail Beach, NC this week for a few days, invited to share some time with our Winston Salem friends. We spent time together on the beach, guys fishing while we shelled. I wanted you to know how often I thought of you. 🌊 These trips are to be cherished and I have never felt it more than these recent days. Bill laughed because I was picking up the burnished orange and brown shells like I couldn’t shell at home, in Garden City. 🐚 Somehow these seem different. These will be saved together with the memories. Sending warm thoughts to you and to your family!

    • Sheila, aren’t those wonderful times with friends each a rare and beautiful gift? I am so honored that you thought of me while shelling – it’s something I love to do myself, as you know. OF COURSE the shells are different there! I’ve been known to save tiny pine cones, smooth round pebbles, and other bits of nature to go along with my endless photographs and even more abundant memories. Thank you for your warm thoughts and for being here with us. Soon we shall be on a “new” Verandah, sipping tea and watching the leaves turn. Till then…

      • Sheila

        Julia, we will turn the Verandah page from October to November and it will seem a different month in so many ways. Jeff may not physically turn that calendar page for us but we will take him into these coming days in our hearts. 💛 Love, Sheila

        • Sheila, our Verandah is so beautiful at this time of year, and the quote for this month could not have been more appropriate. That silver tea tray is calling… 🙂 Thanks so much for being here and for understanding! ❤

    • You two shell too? 😀
      (It’s so fun!)
      Love and peace (like a walk on the beach) to you!

      • Thank you Susan! Whenever you are next able to come, we will have to plan a trip down to our York home where we can schedule some beach time. Not many shells in our neck of the woods, but plenty of sand and surf.

    • Sheila, it has been a while since “we” discussed the moon. Now the possible origin of the name, Topsail Beach captivates my imagination: Think of scanning the horizon for the very first sight of an expected tall ship. A shimmering white glimmer first seems to be a sea bird, just above the waves. Then, when the mainsail of the mizen mast becomes visible, the observer realizes his first view was of the topsail.

  19. I haven’t been here for a while, but whenever I stop by I find light here through the thoughts you share. Reading through the comments I am glad to find people lighting your candle of hope, faith, and love.

    • Thank you, Timi! I am always happy to see your smiling face here. I really miss being to travel the globe via WordPress to visit my blogging friends, but I hope to be able to return to that delightful pastime soon, or at least eventually. Til then, I hope all is well in your world. Thanks for being here!

  20. Sigh, words seems so inadequate J. No one can know your heart, the anguish you feel might be familiar to some but it’s a very personal thing. Because every life and every love is a unique gem. If we’re very lucky, and I think you and I are, we get to spend some of our life basking in the warm glow of another. Someone who brightens our days and warms our heart with their care and love. I know in the end, it will seem like there wasn’t enough time. But I hope that somehow, through the grief, that I’ll remember how lucky I was to have it at all. Imagine life, without these loves but also without the pain of letting go. I would quickly choose the former. In the end, wiill I be strong enough? Probably. Will I be able to go on? Most likely. Will it seem like I can’t? Certainly. Will the pain ever lessen? Only your heart knows when. Don’t feel rushed. Just feel loved, by all who know you and care xoK

    • Thank you, K. Everything you say here is true. I know that, no matter how alone I might feel, almost everyone can and will go through this same thing, or something very like it, and some endure it more than once. And yes, the joy far outweighs the grief. Thanks for being here with me in this strange new (and unwanted) phase of my life, when I have so much to learn, and re-learn.

  21. Julia,
    I’ve used the following in a recent comment.
    “I don’t know how anyone can bear the trials of life without faith in God.” For where everything else seems to fail, He never seems to. Even in our darkest moments.
    I, as you, and many have been where you are right now. The path you seem to be traveling alone has been traveled before. Take heart. We are just ahead of you.
    Keep the faith. For the love we have shared is with us always.

    • Thank you, Alan. It is a true consolation to have these and other encouraging reminders for me. Some days (and hours) are much harder than others, but even at the lowest points I know that God’s love always wins. I’m grateful for your presence here! Hope you are enjoying some beautiful fall foliage in “the quiet corner.” 🙂

  22. Julia, I’m happy to read all these supportive comments, knowing that so many of us hold you close in our thoughts. Sending a dose of love your way.

    • Thank you, Alys. I have a heart full of gratitude toward those whose care has helped me survive the past month. I also have many thank-you cards to write, which is something I look forward to doing. Meanwhile I hope you (and so many others) know how much it means to have you with us in spirit. ❤

      • Julia, you are forever gracious. Anyone who knows you, know what an amazing job you do showing appreciation and gratitude. Hugs to you, dear friend.

        • Alys, if everyone in this tired old world was as generous in word, thought and deed as you are, it would be an entirely different place. As it stands, thanks for brightening things up for so many of us. Love and hugs.

          • What lovely words, Julia. Thank you! We were raised with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. So simple, isn’t it. And yet…

            Love and hugs

            • Yes, simple is seldom easy, especially in our world today. But I find that the Golden Rule can cut through a lot of rationalization and copping out. It’s called “Golden” for a reason. Love you!

  23. HarryS

    Well do you think it’s time that we did away with this setting the clock forward and setting the clock back twice a year which really is sustained only by tradition it seems to me.
    Some like a one-way some like the other and I suspect that the split is probably about 50/50 so I suggest a long-term compromise which I hope will last something like forever.
    Just set the clock backward or as the vernacular says fall back one half hour or in the spring set it forward one half hour and then just leave the blessed thing alone.
    How about that?
    Wouldn’t everybody just be kind of happy and blissful about this solution?
    At least it would be one twice a year change that we wouldn’t have to contend with ever again.
    I kind of liked long-term solutions.
    I guess that’s the reason I like God as I understand him.

    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are NEW EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

    At 84 and since I was near 55, I have finally been able to trust God, because the years have revealed God’s faithfulness to me. I will never be abandoned. What was once a promise is now a relationship. It was one sided for years, but the relationship I have with God as I understand him is the longest one I’ve ever been in. He knit me together. He’s been with me every second since. All those days, all that solidity, reliability, empathy, presence and mercy. God is faithful. What was once an abstract claim has become my personal history. – Matt Fitsgerald (paraphrased by Harry Sims)

    I’m Harry, Georgia Boy

    • Hi there Harry, from this Georgia Girl old woman. I think your time change idea is quite original, but I’m afraid it would only give us all something else to get used to — thus, more confusion. I love turning the clock back but hate payback time in the spring when it has to roll forward. But at least there is a nice built-in bonus to either one; more daylight in the morning in the fall (easier to get up when the sunrise is coming) OR longer lovely warming days in the springtime. So, I’m content with things as they are now. But there are chronotherapy experts who tend to agree with you about it being an outmoded custom.

      I love the verse you quoted from Lamentations. During the very frightening days of Matt’s first manic episode, when none of the medications they were throwing at him seemed to help, I literally said this verse to myself over and over as a way of holding on; it became a sort of calming chant-meditation for me (I included the last few words- “the Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” Needless to say, it is a truth that has been a anchor for my soul through very rough waters. I guess my relationship with God (if it can be called that) has been going on since birth, though I’ve not always been totally mindful of it. But I have learned, as did Mr. Fitzgerald, that God remains faithful. Thanks for visiting us today!

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