Love at the board, 2016

Dear readers, this post from Thanksgiving last year still says it better than I could say it today. It’s a sort of visit from the Posts of Thanksgiving Past, to borrow a phrase from Dickens. At the time I wrote this, I honestly never expected that it would be our last Thanksgiving with Jeff. Despite the deep sorrow of missing him, I cannot look at this photo of three people I love dearly without feeling a heart full of gratitude and joy. For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving  Day today, may your holiday be blessed with awareness of riches no money could buy. I am very, very grateful for all of you, and for your presence here!

P.S. — Ann, Pasha stars in that third link!

Our last Thanksgiving BC (before cancer), Alexandria, November 2011.

With Carla on our last Thanksgiving BC (before cancer), Alexandria, November 2011.

For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace,
and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase;
for those who are grieving o’er life’s sordid plan;
for souls still believing in heaven and man;
for homes that are lowly with love at the board;
for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!

— Walt Mason

For many of us, this Thanksgiving will be a bittersweet time as we observe the holiday without loved ones.  This year, our family feels the absence of our Daddy who worked so hard for 87 years to ensure that we would celebrate this and all days with bounty, gratitude and reverence. We honor him today with the thankfulness he instilled in each one of us, bolstered by faith and renewed by deep joy in all that is beautiful and right in our world.

One year ago (2014), our family had experienced another sudden loss shortly before Thanksgiving.  Even so, we were able to come together as a family and reflect upon those blessings that remained, and encourage one another with hope for the future.

The year before that (2013), we had a most unconventional Thanksgiving day, exhausted yet filled with thankfulness and hope.

The year before that (2012), we were reeling in the shock of Jeff’s stage IV cancer diagnosis, having received bad news followed by worse news followed by even worse news. Yet even that year, there were reasons to be thankful.  Among them were the readers of the newly-begun Defeat Despair.

I didn’t know then that a blog I started as a personal effort to stay focused on blessings amid the trials was to introduce me to wonderful people all over the world.  Though I could not know it in those early days, I would find myself three years hence with dear friends whose existence was then unknown to me, and my dear husband, my rock and surest support, would still be with us, still working full time, still defying the odds.

Thus we face another Thanksgiving Day with full hearts and a deep sense of gratitude for mercies that truly are new every morning.  May each and every one who reads these words experience love, joy, peace and many reasons to be glad.  Happy Thanksgiving!



  1. Dear Julia,
    As we begin thisThanksgiving Day, 2016:
    Thanks to you, your readers’ comments, and your replies, I do experience love, joy, peace, and many reasons to be glad.
    I am sincerely grateful to you for giving me this.
    Eric Bond Hedden

    • I’m very happy you feel that way! ❤

  2. Cherie

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! Julia, I am thankful for you and the love and strength I have witnessed. I pray for you and Matt every day! Love and Light! Cherie

    • Thank you, Cherie! I am so grateful for you too! I am thankful for your being here, bringing your love and light. ❤

  3. Ann

    Thanks for the Pasha post (looks like a little drool is start😉) and please explain the already decorated Christmas tree in tge main photo (Southerners do Not put up the 🌲 before Thanksgiving!)

    Hope you find happiness today

    • Ann, I’m a die-hard Southerner, but I picked up the have-the-tree-up-by-Thanksgiving habit while we lived in California. The first year we ever had an artificial tree, I realized I could put it up early and keep it up past New Year’s (another taboo I remember from childhood). As much time as I spend decorating them, it makes sense. Plus, when Drew went off to college in Tennessee, we didn’t see him until Thanksgiving and his special request was that I have the tree up and decorated when he came home. So it became my custom. This year I’m not doing a tree at all, nor did I put one up in 2012 (when Christmas came immediately after Jeff’s devastating prognosis). But pretty much every other year, I’ve had some sort of tree, and usually my usual over-the-top one with way too many ornaments and lights.

      Yes, Pasha was probably drooling in that photo. He loved Thanksgiving even though we literally almost killed him when he was a puppy and we didn’t know better than to let him eat as much of it as he wanted. We learned the hard way to watch his diet, but he never stopped hoping. 🙂

  4. Happy Thanksgiving! Blessings on you, Julia, and you, readers.

    • Thank you Susan! Hope your holiday was full of blessings too. Also hope we can get together soon, somewhere in New England?

      • Julia, I got a darling two-bedroom two-bath apartment with great views of morning skies and New England trees. You are welcome any time.
        Do you and Matt ski?

        • Wow, that sounds wonderful, Susan. I skied for the first and only time in 1972, in the Bavarian Alps, and even then my favorite part was at the end of the day when I took the heavy boots and skis off, and felt weightless, floating around the warm lodge. I’d be afraid to try it now (not eager for any broken bones) but I could really groove on sitting with a hot cup of tea and watching others conquer the slopes.

  5. I sincerely hope that you are able to find some happiness this year… the first year after a loss is always hard, but you seem to have had to endure this feeling far too many times recently. Much love x

    • Thank you, J. Yes, I feel as if I’ve been hit hard, repeatedly, but somehow I’m still here and surviving, hoping for better days. Thanks so much for being with me through all this. It helps more than I can say.

  6. I hope you are with friends and family today and despite all your sorrow and loss that you are able to find some moments of joy. I’m praying for you.

    • Thank you, Jena. I was thinking of you with gratitude today, as I do so often — but especially today, as I was enjoying the latest lovely issue of Tea Time magazine. 🙂 That letter I’m writing you in my head keeps getting longer– but in the meantime, please know how much I appreciate your friendship, kindness and prayers!

      • Aww. You’re welcome. =)

        • 🙂 Love and best wishes to you both for a beautiful holiday – “First Christmas together as Mr. and Mrs.!” 🙂

          • Aww! Thank you! Quickly followed by our honeymoon in Hawaii for New Years. It is both of our hope after this exhausting school year that it will be wonderful and relaxing.

            • I hope you have a FABULOUS time!! I’m sure you both will enjoy a break from the classroom, and no better place to take one.

  7. Mike

    yes you have had a bunch of hits the last couple of years and I am sure you have gone over your allowable stress points number–110?

    • Long ago, the first time Jeff and I found one of those “stress scales” in some sort of medical journal or news magazine, we started rating the years of our lives since our marriage and almost every year was over the top of the scale, due to frequent moves, Matt’s many surgeries (including open heart surgeries), Jeff and I both going to graduate school, loss of loved ones, etc. From September 2015 when Daddy died, to now, I don’t even want to imagine where my stress numbers are. Probably in the “most likely dead or dying” range. It does not bode well for my own longevity, but my genes for a long life are mostly good hopefully the next phase of my existence, when I move on from this world, will be less fraught with angst than this one has been.

  8. You have so many good and a few sad memories. The most important thing to be grateful for is the ability to keep moving forward each day to make another memory. It’s what I’m most grateful for anyway. I’ve never had 2 holidays the same.

    • Thank you, Marlene. Your thoughts and experiences always give my spirit a boost. Long ago, when I was a young girl, Daddy impressed on me the lesson that one can never go back, no matter how beautiful a past memory seems. Only forward, always forward. The past can give us strength and sweetness but I can’t afford to spend much time there, at least not now. No two holidays the same is a good ideal. Hopefully with just enough tradition to knit them loosely together. Thanks for being here. Hope I can meet you in person someday. You are a kindred spirit.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, I hope that today, although difficult, still had many blessings for you to count. We’ve had beautiful weather, an abundance of good food, and family gathered together. I’ve thought of you and your family so often. Thank you for continuing to bestow so much through “Defeat Despair”. I’m blessed to know you here! 💛

    • Thank you Sheila. Whatever blessings you have found here, you have returned to me tenfold. One thing we share as “southern sisters” is an abundance of blessings along with the ability to see them– at least most of the time! Love you. ❤

  10. Thank you for your wishes Julia and thank you for sharing your life with all of us here. Even though you’ve gone through hell and back again, you’ve always inspired me to be focused on the positive and celebrate life’s many blessings. I cherish our time spent together on that, now long ago, visit. I replay our fun and antics over again in my heart and mind when I’m missing you. I’m really teary tonight knowing that this will be the first holiday without your dear Jeff by your side. I know you’ll be with other family and not alone, so that is wonderful. I linked back to read your post about the the dire state Jeff was in and felt pangs of sadness, then I read the interaction with the crazy nurse that made me laugh, so thanks for that. It’s remarkable that your sense of humour hasn’t disappeared. I also enjoyed visiting Pasha’s post too. No one else I know would or could bare what you have and still be such a shining light. You’re a gift in my life Julia, and for that I feel truly blessed. I hope this weekend will sooth your wounded heart by some measure and those grandbabies are bound to bring joyful relief too. As always, sending love your way xo Kelly

    • K, you are so generous with me! I think most of what you see as my positive nature must be the mirror of my heart reflecting back to you your own sweet joy. As you know, you found me very early on in this blogging journey, and Boomdeville became, and remains, my happy place, and the blogging thing seemed like something I wanted to stick with. What a wonder that we were able to get together after years of crossing the miles through cyberspace. If that first hilarious rainy disaster of a walking tour of DC did not deter you, we must certainly have more escapades in store. I too remember it with many smiles, just as I am sitting here right now with a smile on my face to think of it. We must find a time to get together again and follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Until then, please know that you too are a gift to me, wrapped up in one of your wonderfully decorative packages that even the grouchy mail-woman can’t help but love (as she has commented on when delivering them). “Thank you” seems inadequate, but I think you know how much those words contain. ❤

  11. The special occasions become painful in a way after the loss of a loved one. I once again salute your spirit, dear Julia. Happy Thanksgiving!
    I missed a lot of your posts as life has become too hectic for me these days. My prayers are always with you. God bless you.

    • Bindu, I so understand about life keeping us away from things we enjoy. I think of you often and hope that your days are filled with satisfaction, contentment and happiness. I also hope you are able to return someday to “God’s own country” (Kerala) if you and your family should choose to live there again someday. I hope to visit that lovely place myself. We have friends in Chennai that I may visit eventually, so it’s not out of the question.

      Thanks so much for your good wishes. I am always so happy to see your smiling face here. I hope you have a nice school break coming up soon! Mine starts in a few days and I plan to get as much rest as I can until it all starts up again in January. Thanks for being here and may God shower you and your family with great blessings!

  12. Mike

    G.H Hardy quote.G.H. Hardy- “ A mathematicians apology”
    I have never done anything really useful and no discovery of mine had made the least difference to the amenity of the world. The value of my mathematical life is nil and unknown outside the small world of mathematicians. But I have added something to knowledge and helped some others also add, and these somethings have a value in degree only from those of the great mathematicians or any of the artists who have left some kind of memorial behind them.

    His little book is the best known of any memoir by a mathematician and every time I read it,” it showers me with sparkles like a Disney fairy.”

    • Well this answers my earlier question about this memoir. It does sound interesting. I love arithmetic, but math intimidates me, probably in part because a very early high school teacher discouraged me tremendously. Having said that, I know it’s mostly because I love literature and history so much more. I love the phrase “it showers me with sparkles.” That’s a trait to which any of us could aspire.

  13. Harry Sims

    Give a Smile
    Receive a Smile!

    • 🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. Happy Thanksgiving J!
    For full hearts and a deep sense of gratitude for mercies that truly are new every morning. Amen.

    • Thank you Timi! I hope your holidays are wonderful. Seeing your smiling face always brightens my day.

  15. LB

    Julia, your strength amidst sadness is inspiring, and this post is a lovely memory for you, I’m sure.

    • Thank you LB. I think of you often and fondly!

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