More present

One of Jeff's last gifts to Drew and his family was a membership to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Here they are, on their first visit after Jeff's death. November 2016

One of Jeff’s last gifts to Drew and his family was a membership to the
Chattahoochee Nature Center. Here they are, on their first visit after Jeff’s death.
November 2016

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

At times the pain of missing Jeff stabs me with a grief so severe and sudden that I wonder how I will survive without him. More often, though, I feel through the sorrow the reassuring stability that was his first and greatest gift to me. It’s true that he is still present with me, every day, there in my mind and in my heart, as if he never left.

It’s not so different, in a way, from the bond I feel with many of you. We may have seen each other seldom, or only once, or not at all, except in imagination stretching across a bridge of words. Yet I feel secure in knowing we think of each other with support and affection, and are not alone. Thanks for being here, where it’s not always easy, but hopefully, it’s always safe, and kind, and real.


  1. Good morning, Julia! that photo is just so precious – as I’m sure are the many legacies that Jeff left as gifts for all of you.
    I often petition God on your behalf, to wrap you up in His love and care. I hope that this Monday morning brings you a new week of happy memories of how your family, and Jeff in particular, have enriched your life, and all of ours, through yours.
    Hugs and love

    • Thank you, Susan. Your petitions are holding me up and keeping me going. I love that photo too. I’m so glad Megan took it. My favorite part of it is little Owen’s tiny fist, clinging to his Daddy’s shirt. He is a really cuddly baby, which is so fun. Drew said they really felt Jeff’s presence on that trip. I am so glad you are here with us!

  2. Cherie

    Julia, my heart is breaking this morning as I feel your pain, dear sister. The deep love that you and Jeff had together is a bond that cannot be broken. I pray you will feel Christ’s loving arms around you as you go through each day. Love to you and Matt! You are always in my prayers. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie. The pain really is heartbreaking at times, but there’s nothing for it but to grit my teeth and get through it. Usually I just have a crying fit and it eventually passes. I’m not much of a crier, so it has been something to get used to, all these tears. But I sometimes remember the words of the beautiful song from Casting Crowns: “Every tear I cried, You hold in Your hands. You never left my side, and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm.” Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!! ❤

  3. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I looked at the photo and thought for just a moment that it WAS Jeff. Then I realized he was there, in Drew and those precious little boys. Isn’t it wonderful that they’ll always be able to go there and enjoy, and be comforted? Thank you, Megan, for capturing such a special moment! We connected here many years ago and through time and words shared became friends. It’s a friendship that we treasure, for sure! Smile and keep your chin up! 🙏 Love, Sheila 💛

    • Yes, Sheila, he was there! Megan said that they really felt his presence that day. Thinking of you helps me keep my chin up. Sending you love, thanks, and a steaming hot cuppa on a windswept Verandah!

    • Megan

      Sheila, your comment made me cry! What a beautiful sentiment. I love thinking about how Jeff is in Drew, Grady, and Owen. Thank you for putting Jeff into that picture. I’ll now see him every time I look at it.

  4. Mike

    Wonderful words Julia with all kinds of Christian implications- the communion of the saints and the presence of the Lord in follower’s lives post ascension.l Of course holiday times are sometimes not helpful after loss?
    Is this nature site near Lake Altatoona which is also the start of the Appalachian trail. I think you have seen -“The Walk.” with Redford supposedly about this trail, which takes about 9 months to walk at a snail’s pace. I have not made it there yet- but we did make it to the Tellis museum last visit- which was pretty awesome.

    • Mike, this particular place is in Roswell, on the Chattahoochee. I have vague memories of Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier, but many more of Lake Sinclair, where my parents used to own a lakefront “cabin” that really became more of a house over time, with updating and improvements. I have never seen The Walk but I think I would enjoy it. I’ve never been to the Tellus Museum, either, though I used to love Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta. So many places, so little time…

  5. MaryAnn Clontz

    Julia, my dear, you are in my prayers! I CANNOT imagine the journey you are on, but I KNOW you are trusting God & leaning on His Promises.
    I love you!

    • Thank you Mary Ann. Love you too!

  6. Amy

    Lovely photo of Drew and the boys. You are ever in my heart. I love you.

    • Amy, “thank you” feels inadequate. I hope you know my heart. I love you.

  7. Ann

    What a wonderful gift idea and what a wonderful photo.

    Your Jeff ws a special person.

    • Ann, Jeff really was special, and he was wonderful at giving gifts. He used to leave little surprises for me all around the house, for no particular reason. When I would go somewhere without him (which was rare) I would usually open my suitcase and find a surprise there with a loving note. On my days in the city (San Francisco) when we lived in northern California, I would often stop to eat a sack lunch in Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square, and almost always Jeff would have tucked a chocolate bar and a note inside my lunch for me to find later. I miss him so much, but these gifts he gave us are those that keep on giving, through sweet memories. Thanks for sharing them.

  8. Julia, absolutely “safe and kind and real.” Our memories offer great comfort over time, but the immediacy of your loss will take time. I know you are in a great deal of pain. I’m happy you have this blogging community. We’re here for you. xo

    • Thank you Alys. It does mean so much! ❤

  9. Carol L.

    Julia, your encouragement over the years has indeed been “here but not here” and as valuable as those I see in the three-dimensional person. I have only lost one person (my Dad) whom I was not ready to let go of, but leave he did, to a heaven he so desired and was received with love and care. I see a picture of him “before the sickness” and my heart leaps with joy because I see his smile again, but this has taken three years for the joy to be there instead of sadness. To know one is better off was not comfort to me, but God in His mercy and His timing, eventually turned my mourning into joy. I know your journey through the valley of grief will be different than mine, so I cannot know how you will feel or even experience God during your passage. I can predict the other side of the valley will have joy in moments unpredictable. I thank God for them. Carol

    • Carol, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I can identify with much of what you say here. I too have difficulty in telling myself that Jeff is better off now, when he had so many reasons to live here, and was so very needed by so many. It takes faith and the realization that it will likely take time to get to that place. It helps me to know that you were eventually able to get there, even after three years, because that is at least a finite amount of time. At the worse moments I just hold on tightly, as if clinging to a raft in a storm-tossed sea, hoping for the calm. The worst moments come and go, and it’s a rhythm I am learning to expect, even if I can’t get used to it. I appreciate your encouragement and your presence here.

  10. Oh Julia, that is a precious picture. I pray you and your son and family cling to each other at this difficult time. Thinking of you! I can’t imagine how much you miss your other half.

    • Thank you Patsy! I have to admit, it has been harder and more painful even than I was expecting. But Matt and I have survived so far. We just keep putting one foot in front of another, and thanking God for the blessings that remain I appreciate your being here with us!

  11. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I was thinking of you, as I do so many times every day, and decided you might enjoy a beach report. Well, how about overcast, cold, and a gray ocean? Bill and I often say that no two days are alike, often referring to not only the weather but aches and pains! Haha! 💛 I have a small Christmas tree by my kitchen window, Jack’s “lucky beach dog” sign on the window sill and the ocean is the backdrop. I’ll try to send a photo! I know you’re gonna have some SPUNK in your step today. I’m hoping so! Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, this beach report was just what the doctor ordered. I have loved stormy or overcast beaches ever since seeing the movie “Julia” many years ago. No two days alike, indeed! Same here, right down to the aches and pains, but I love the mental snapshot you have given me of your tree. I’ll try to inject some spunk into my day. I’ll think of Jack and Walter to make it a bit easier…

  12. Jack

    Julia, praise God that you are experiencing the pain of the loss of someone dearly loved, and not the awful, inconsolable pain of regret. The pain is non-negotiable, but eternal sorrow accompanies one, and joy awaits in the transcendence of the other. When my father died in 2000, I grieved (seemed to me excessive) for months. What I discovered after the passing of time was the most profound grief was a sadness over what had gone unspoken between us. It finally yielded to joy: complete, unadulterated, cheshire cat grin joy when I realized that while we certainly had our share of troubles over the years, I knew he loved me and he knew I loved him. Imperfectly. Pridefully. Just like all we humans do. Merry Christmas and may joy creep in like a thief in the night!

    • Thank you, Jack. This is beautiful.

  13. Harry Sims

    I am here.

    • I’m glad you are! 🙂

  14. Thinking of you, everyday, Julia! When I passed on the news to my husband, to whom you are all quite familiar through my narrations, he was sad too though he had never read your blog. Some relationships are like that.
    Last Sunday we lost one of our KG students (the sole child of one my previous students from the same school) in a very tragic school bus accident. Sad to admit that the mistake was on the driver’s part. Haven’t slept peacefully ever since. Each one at school is paying for the mistake in different ways now. Pray for us.

    • Oh no, Bindu, this is tragic news. News of school bus accidents is always devastating. I imagine the driver is feeling horrible right now. Yes, the consequences of such things tend to multiply and spread, touching so many other lives. I will certainly pray for you, that grace will find its way into all the places of sorrow. Thanks for sharing this news with us. I know many other readers will pray also.

      • P.S. thanks for sharing the blog with your husband! That makes me feel happy.

  15. LB

    Julia, I’ve been absent from WP for a couple weeks, and now that I’m back, I’m glad to see you here, too. Your friends and family love you and are thankful you are finding the energy to write.
    Thinking of you daily. ❤

    • Thank you LB. I too think of you, often and with gratitude. Hope your holidays are wonderful!

  16. Mike

    We just got a pict of our granddaughters and daughter in law at Fernbank science center on facebook–Jen Bertoglio. Hope to go there on April trip. And of course I hope the University of Washington Huskies rise to the Crimson Tide- float upon the Crimson tide? Friday night in Atlanta. I like to root for the underdogs.

    • Mike, I gave Drew and his family a pass to the Fernbank Nature Center (different from the science center, which is run by the school system, therefore charges no admission fees, and is also wonderful). We enjoyed a very nice few hours there one day last week. It’s quite impressive. Hope you can go to both of them soon.

      I can’t give you any encouragement about the Tide washing out. They are pretty good at winning. 😀

  17. Linked back here from today’s post because the photo caught my eye. Gorgeous and the still water is so calm. I guess this was a post I missed. No doubt deep in the throws of stuff at Urban at the time.

    Lovely photo to capture your son with his sons and know that someday, they may visit too with their own sons. There’s always *something* to look forward to, isn’t there? I’ve thought, one of the nicest parts of being a parent might be, watching them grow, become their own little personalities, being part of their futures. Not being a mom has it’s pitfalls, I have to use my imagination. As John Lennon poetically wrote and sang, “you may say I’m a dreamer”. xo K

    • K, remember that he added “but I’m not the only one.” 🙂 All of us are dreamers, one way or another, aren’t we? I don’t think I ever met a person who had no dreams, although some are more inclined to keep quiet about them. I’m sure you’ve heard this, but being a parent has pitfalls, too; for most of us, it’s an odd blend of joy and sorrow, fun and frustration. However, children (whether one’s own, or other people’s) add so much fun to life. As I look back on my sons’ lives, I realize that some of the people who were most present for them, were people who did not have children yet (or ever) and therefore had more time to be involved with nuclear families other than their own. Those of us with children often benefit from the investments of those who don’t, and not just in tax dollars.

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