Open to the day, 2016

I took this photo just 48 hours before Jeff told me he needed to go to the hospital. From our Alexandria patio, September 21, 2016

I took this photo just 48 hours before Jeff told me he needed to go to the hospital.
From our Alexandria patio, September 21, 2016

Hello friends, I’m still treading water, but thinking of you. Please keep those thoughts, prayers and comments coming. They truly brighten my day, and I look forward to responding to each of you when I get a bit of a break – hopefully soon, as fall semester ends a couple of weeks before Christmas. Meanwhile, for now, another re-blog from what now seems a lifetime ago.

That’s Mama in the photo below. As most of you know, she became a widow just a little over a year before I did. The past year without Daddy has been especially tough for her. Knowing how hard it is to be without Jeff after “only” 38 years together, I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a husband after 66 years of marriage.

Mama, who has survived much medical trauma during her 86 years, now has stage IV cancer (lung, metastasized to the spine) and has moved to long term care. I hope to be seeing her again soon. Meanwhile, I wanted to re-blog this post that features her photo. It’s another of my favorites, mostly because I so love the last two lines in the poem excerpt quoted below. I can’t say I feel the meaning as deeply as I did when I first published this post nearly four years ago, but I still love it, and it’s something to strive for. Thanks for being here, and for caring.

Originally posted on 11-26-2012:

My mother on my parents’ 50th anniversary, in Banff

That more and more a Providence
Of love is understood,
Making the springs of time and sense
Sweet with eternal good;

That death seems but a covered way
Which opens into light,
Wherein no blinded child can stray
Beyond the Father’s sight…

That all the jarring notes of life
Seem blending in a psalm,
And all the angles of its strife
Slow rounding into calm.

And so the shadows fall apart,
And so the west-winds play;
And all the windows of my heart
I open to the day.

— John Greenleaf Whittier, from “My Psalm


  1. What a lovely picture of your mum. I hope that she is comfortable in her long-term care. My dad went to live in a fabulous place for the last few months of his life and it was lovely to know that he was happy and safe. When he finally passed away it was very peaceful and we knew that he had been in the right place.
    The poem is lovely, but now I’m crying… remember all your friends around the world are thinking of you x

    • Thank you — I hope they were happy-sad tears. I do agree that there is something about the ending of that poem that touches the heart. Mama is doing pretty well in her new home. She has been able to move into a private room now, and they are in the midst of a very exciting renovation – I just got to see the new library and dining hall and it is amazing how much lovelier and more inviting it is. My brother takes her home for a short while almost every day. He knows all the other residents and staff and calls them by name and visits with them whenever he is there. I think that Mama (and all the rest of us) know that this is the right place for her now.

      Thanks for being here, and for caring! It means a lot. ❤

  2. Julia, I can only imagine what you are going through. I continue to think of you and your family and pray for you. I have no eloquent comments but I truly pray and hope that you will find peace and comfort through all of the various blessings we have here on this earth and from above, the peace that passes our understanding. Grief changes us but I think that God gives us comfort through the connections we have with each other and from unexpected gentle reminders in nature.

    • Thank you for your warm thoughts and prayers. I really do find great solace in hearing from all of you here at the blog. There is really no eloquence required for situations such as ours. Presence alone (real or virtual) speaks eloquently all on its own. I do find great comfort in nature. You describe it quite well — “unexpected gentle reminders;” they are precisely that. I hope you and your loved ones will have a wonderful holiday! I am grateful that you are here.

  3. Dear Julia, I love this blog. I love the photos, too. The flower photo especially seems meaningful to me. Even as the flowers open to meet the day, there is darkness beyond them … and yet there is a dimly lit branch, hinting that there is something more, beyond the darkness. We can’t see all of it, just the hint. Perhaps it is that way with meeting the day today (and each day). Some days the darkness seems nearly complete, and other days there is greater evidence supporting our hopes.
    One day, the entirety of “beyond” with be bathed in dazzling sunlight.
    Perhaps we’ll barely notice the small, sweet flowers that strove to hope in light.
    I imagine it would be quite dismal if they had elected to not meet the day, but meet it, they did. I can learn from these flowers.
    Love to you!

    • Susan, I can learn from the flowers, too. Actually, when I was a little girl, I had an old, much-played (scratchy) LP of Peter Pan, and the flip side was Alice in Wonderland (the Disney versions). The flowers sang to Alice “you can learn a lot of things from the flowers” and they are right! Until you mentioned it, I don’t think I even saw that green branch photo-bombing the shot of the flowers. Now that I’m aware of it, it’s much more visible. Maybe there’s a lesson there, too. 😀 Sending you love and hugs and tons of gratitude for being with us during this difficult time.

  4. Ann

    Your mama looks so beautiful in this picture! These re-posts are a great way to stay in touch during these trying tines. I know this is an effort for you but I love hearing from you, dear friend.
    P.S. How about a Pasha re- post?!

    • Thanks Ann. A Pasha re-post is a great idea. I’ll try to choose one soon. I should have plenty of options. 😀 I am glad you are enjoying the re-blogs. I am REALLY looking forward to having a break from school, compared to which writing new posts will be so easy and fun! Til then, thanks for sitting through the re-runs! Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Cherie

    What a lovely poem for a lovlier lady! Julia, I think of you every day and keep you and Matt in my prayers! I love you! Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie. I am so grateful for your steadfast kindness and prayers for us.

  6. Thanks for the update, Julia. Glad to see you are hanging in there. 66 years is a long time. Almost my lifetime. And your heart is still married to Jeff. 38 years is a big deal. You are still in my thoughts and prayers. You’ve had a lot to deal with and it doesn’t sound like it’s getting easier. It’s good you have a strong support system.

    • Marlene, I hate to say it but you’re right; at this point it is NOT getting easier. Matt was so brave for so long, but now many of us who know him well are getting really concerned about him. We believe he is depressed — who wouldn’t be? but we are hoping that the supports we are putting in place to help him through it will be effective in time. I told Amy recently, I feel as if I’m grieving both Jeff and Matt right now; it’s so hard to see Matt’s sunny disposition vanish. Keep those prayers coming and we will hope for healing with time. Sending Giant appreciative hugs!

      • Boy do I understand that. When my son lost his father at 22, I thought we were going to lose him too. It changed who he was. Grief for someone so young is profound. My daughter is still processing unfinished business with her dad. She was 17 when he died. I had to get her professional help and medication. It’s a long process. I had been divorced from their dad for a number of years at the time of his death and I was grieving as well but mostly for my children. Keep taking care of yourself first. Hopefully, time will help. I’m always here if you want to talk.

        • Thank you, Marlene. Your presence and determination are a great help to me. ❤

  7. Carolyn

    Prayers for all. So sorry to hear about your mom. May God give you the comfort you need. Sending love and hugs to you.

    • Thank you Carolyn. Love and hugs right back to you, from both Matt and me! ❤

  8. hilzonsix

    Thanks for your encouragement. I lost my husband to Alzheimer’s Dec 24, 2013. Mama always told me to put one foot in front of the other and push really hard!

    • You know, I think that the one-foot-in-front-of-another approach is often the most helpful advice there is. I am so sorry you lost your husband, especially at this season which must surely bring so much back each year. We had friends who lost their beloved husband/father at this time and my heart broke for them as their festive plans were unexpectedly marred by great sadness. I hope the past three years have brought you some measure of comfort, healing and solace, and that this Thanksgiving will bring you many blessings. Thanks for being with us.

  9. Julia, losing the love of your life is hard at any age or stage, I imagine. Your loss is just as great as the loss of your dear mom. I’m sad for you both. I hope you are surrounded by family this Thanksgiving. I know your upcoming birthday will be another day to get through without Jeff at your side. Sending love and light and wishes for easier days. xo

    • Alys, yes, I am dreading our birthday. I never liked birthdays anyway, so I loved having someone to share one with. Thanks so much for all your kindnesses — the cards, gifts, and just staying in touch and being here. It’s terribly hard but you do make it easier. I’m forever grateful! Love, thanks and giant holiday hugs!

      • Giant hugs to you too, Julia. Somehow I did not realize you and Jeff shared a birthday. Oh my goodness, Julia xo

        • Yes, it was very, very, very hard this year. But my good friends Renee and Mitzie were there to help me through.

          • I’m so happy to hear you were surrounded by dear friends, Julia. That makes all the difference.

            • Yes, Renee and Mitzie have been with me through many dark days– too many, I fear, to ask of any friend, but they are strong women and being with them lifts my soul. I joke about my “Vitamin R” and my “Vitamin M” but that’s really who they are, people who show up to do the thankless work of holding other people up during the storms, mostly in ways that nobody will ever know about, without ever seeming to mind it, showing by example how to keep smiling even when it hurts. A lot like you, really. ❤

  10. Just know I think of you and your family often and pray for you all.

    • Don, thanks so much. You will always be one of the family to us. We need and appreciate your prayers. Hope you and Marian and all your family have a wonderful holiday!

  11. LB

    We are here, Julia.

    • Thank you, Laurie! ❤ Hope you have a gorgeous Blue Ridge Thanksgiving!

  12. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ The photo of your Momma was taken in happier times, I’m sure. She is so lovely, and I’m sure her family is a reflection of that beauty and wonderful character. “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
    There are millions of “diamonds” glittering on the cold ocean waters this morning…. thinking of you! 💛

    • Sheila, that mental picture of the shimmering diamonds on the sea called up so many memories of watching in mesmerized wonder as the sparkling water reflected the sunshine as nothing on earth can. Thanks for giving me that little snapshot of joy today! I like the Spurgeon quote too. ❤ Meet me on the Verandah sometime this week as we take a break from the hustle and bustle for a nice hot cuppa…

  13. Is that Yarrow in your photo J? It’s beautiful. We’re lucky to not know the day we’ll pass away because it’s things like this that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy. You’re mom in Banff! Wow, too bad I didn’t know you then, we could have hooked up in the Canadian Rockies. Any time Julia, you know this right? I’m actually stunned by the beauty in the Rockies each and everytime we visit. Like the day you and I went to the falls near DC. I think of all the people who went before me, in the same spot, hundreds of years of visitors. Time seems fleeting, yet nature has a pace all it’s own. I wish we could be on that time and hang around like the old redwoods. Sharks live amazingly long lives too but I’d rater associate with a redwood xo K

    • No actually, it’s the almost-impossible-to-kill and always-available-free Sedum. All of the plants in the photo, plus more, are cuttings from my York plants, and a neighbor there gave me a bunch more from her own cuttings. It’s a succulent (or at least behaves like one) so it’s drought tolerant and so easy to grow that you can ignore it until it takes over.

      As regards Banff, what a great idea! We need to plan a meet-up there, preferably at the Banff Springs hotel or some other charming (maybe less expensive) B&B inn. I imagine one would never get accustomed to the breathtaking sights in that area. Redwoods live longer than sharks, I’m pretty sure, and are way more charming to associate with. All BARK and no BITE! Hee-hee. On second thought…do redwoods even have bark?

        According to ‘Trees of mystery’, they do have bark and it can be up to a foot thick…wow. Actually the entire link is interesting when you have time. LOL, all bark and no bite…you slay me. We can hang at the Banff springs for a couple of days and then check in somewhere’s else along the way too….Lake Louise? Both are too expensive but sharing makes it affordable. xo

        • Wow, what a cool site. I never heard of that place, but we did take a trip on the Coast Starlight that was interrupted in Klamath Falls, Oregon (in the middle of the night, yet, when we were roused from our family sleeping car) due to a de-railment on the tracks ahead of us. I would love to take the 101 up the coast north of SFO. So there IS bark on the redwood, and very thick too. Definitely Lake Louise! It’s beautiful there and I already have some funny memories from the one brief visit we were able to make. I’m already dreaming of going back…. 🙂

  14. Julia,
    Beautiful poem, my friend. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • Thank you, Alan. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of blessings!

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