A happy thought

From a sweet friend in the faraway North, a wooden sign that lifted my spirits. March 2017

“It was a happy thought to bring 
To the dark season’s frost and rime 
This painted memory of spring, 
This dream of summertime.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

Last Thursday, the evening before Jeff’s burial ceremony at Arlington, I opened our front door to family arriving from out of town and found a package on my doorstep. It must have been delivered late, because I had been out earlier that afternoon and did not see it. In the rush of arrivals and plans for a very full day the next day, I tucked the package away to enjoy later when I had a few moments to myself. I knew there would be a time when I really needed it.

Even though I did not open it immediately, I was delighted to get it. It was from one of the “regulars” in our little blog family, who lives far away and often sends me thoughtful surprises in the mail. (No, it wasn’t from Boomdee, but good guess!) The day it arrived had been remarkably warm, almost hot, but the next day the cold set in and even brought flurries of snow that began during the outdoor moments of Jeff’s ceremony, as the flag was lifted from the casket and folded, the gun salutes were fired and the bugler played taps.

The cold weather remained for days, as if nature was in mourning with me, and a fairly heavy snowfall came on Monday. The overcast skies and the dread of facing my first springtime without Jeff had me feeling quite blue. Having caught up with many of the tasks that were awaiting me when the last of the visitors left that morning, I knew that it was time to open the lovely package I had gotten nearly one week ago. The time since it had arrived now seems a blur, but I did think how remarkable it was that it arrived in the warm weather and was now being opened on a cold, snowy night, having been sent from a place that was doubtlessly far colder than it is here right now. (No, it wasn’t from Susan, but that’s a good guess too!)

Of course, it did not disappoint. Each delightful gift had a thoughtful note attached or tucked inside, and the one pictured above, nestled under the colorful tissue at the bottom of the box, was the last gift I saw. It was perfect– absolutely what I needed on this cold and gloomy night. The little handwritten note with it was even more perfect than the gift itself. Just when I needed it most, a cheerful splash of color and a ray of hope. I felt so blessed and grateful.

So how are you today? How is the weather as you are reading this? If it’s a sunny day, I hope you will have time to enjoy it, spending a few minutes outdoors and maybe even planting some primroses or pansies. But if it’s gloomy day, overcast by literal clouds or the burdensome cares and worries that can render even the best weather powerless to lift your spirits, I wish for you an unexpected surprise that warms your heart with the knowledge that you are not alone, no matter how much it sometimes seems so. May your memories of spring and dreams of summer be painted with all your favorite colors!

P.S. Thanks to all of you who have left comments — I have read and enjoyed them, and hope to respond very soon. I appreciate your patience!

46 Comments

  1. I offer this as a comment on a blog entitled “A Happy Thought”: Some have said as each of “the beatitudes” begins with “Blessed are they . . .”, we can better understand by substituting the word, Happy. This renders Matthew 5:4 “Happy are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
    With hopes that your painfully personal Arlington experience actually strengthened you, I share again the beautiful music of John Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen”. Here it accompanies a series of sunny scenes of American National Cemeteries around the world.

    • That’s a lovely piece of music and the clips to go with it. Of course, I love cemeteries and graveyards of all kinds. Arlington has always strengthened me in the sense of feeling like a solid foundation under my feet. I don’t feel the strength in myself but I do feel it as a safe place of serenity and consolation, and Friday galvanized that existing sense of connection as nothing else could have done.

  2. MaryAnn Clontz

    Such a beautiful treasure you received, another way to remind you of God’s love & care:
    as you stated, ” a ray of hope!” Much love to you. We pray for you every morning. I pray during the day.

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. ❤

  3. Aww! I was hoping it would arrive and be opened at just the perfect time. I told my Matt that God has often seen fit to time our mail exchanges in ways we couldn’t plan or anticipate. 🙂

    • It is really remarkable how it works that way, isn’t it? Thanks for making it happen!

  4. Cherie

    It’s so funny. The picture of the birdhouses is one that I cross stitched for my mother about 20 years ago. My hands are too bad with arthritis now to do any more. I am so happy you had a blessing from a friend with the wooden sign for SPRING!! We are even cold here near the Nature Coast in Florida! I love you, dear sister! Love and Light! Cherie

    • WOW, I copied the picture off an old note card that had no kind of copyright or signatures on it. I wonder whether the artist has any idea that his/her work is bringing cheer to people even now. WOW, if it’s cold in Florida, it’s too cold! I told Matt yesterday, this snow would have been harder to take in January than it is in March, because we know it won’t be too much longer…

  5. Sheila

    Julia, as I read this, very early this morning (pink robe and java), I was happy to remember being so close by in Old Town Alexandria. Can you believe that we walked by another “428” on our sunny afternoon stroll? It was on St. Aspagn, close to our hotel and King Street. That area really looks very much like Charleston, SC and just as pricey! I’m so glad that you had a package of goodies to brighten your day. So thoughtful! Hi to Matt. 🍀☘️💝 Love y’all, Sheila

    • Sheila

      That street is N. Saint Asaph St. Are you familiar with it? She

      • Yes, I always notice the name because it’s so unusual and poetic. I can’t tell you which shop is on what street, though. I just know it’s a very fun place to walk around. Did you make it to the Torpedo Factory? Was there a band playing in front of the town hall (or whatever it is called) as there sometimes is? I’m so happy you had a pretty day that Thursday! WOW did the weather change quickly or what?

    • Sheila, I had never thought about it, but Old Town does have much the same flavor as Charleston, and of course dates back to the same era. But the 428 here has only a river view, if that, not an ocean as yours does! Next time you walk down its streets I simply MUST be with you…

  6. Warm enough to wear a lighter jacket and take a very long brisk walk at a favorite park. The sun actually beamed down on us all, no rain for once in eons. Glad you had such a lift from a friend. Spring will come, thank goodness for nature’s cycles.

    • I’m so glad you were able to go walking. Yes, I have returned to the four seasons I loved so in childhood. Our years in California, Hawaii and Texas had me reluctant to leave the west and its perpetual sunshine, but after that first autumn in Virginia, I remembered why I had always loved having four distinct cycles to enjoy each year.

  7. Growing up in MI, I so know what you mean about the four seasons. But I am a loyal and true Pacific NW person after 25 years!

    • I can imagine it would be an easy place to love. Once my Daddy told me that if he couldn’t live in Atlanta, his next choice would be Seattle.

  8. Harry Sims

    I am a daily visitor here on this wonderful website but sometimes I wonder — Where are the guys?
    Harry

    • Harry, to borrow a phrase from Dave Barry, here are some “stereotypical, offensive but nonetheless generally true” observations that might answer that question. First, I think most women are more “into” blogging (or any other form of conversation) than most men. Of course there are always exceptions, but even among the men who do read blogs, I think most of them are more reserved about commenting than women are. Sort of like most of the women I know talk more than most of the men I know. Having said that, Mike and Jack and Alan are only three of the male regulars here, and others don’t comment often but keep in touch now and again with a brief email to let me know they are still reading and praying for us. I wonder whether Facebook or WordPress have ever done any demographics that compare male to female ratios among users? My general impression is that Twitter has more males than chattier sites such as FB or WP. And aside from all of this, although I try to keep things fairly gender-neutral around here, I do think some of my favorite topics (such as tea, flowers and crafts) tend to appeal more to female readers. I’m not into sports, cars, or other traditionally male interests, so it’s natural for my female readers to outnumber the male ones. But I am very happy for those of you who are willing to speak up and lend some male voices here!

      • Harry Sims

        Thank you Julia.
        So you think maybe it could be that men are from Mars and women from Venus?
        I suppose it could be that men are men and women are women and thank God for the difference.
        Harry

        • Yes, men and women are definitely different, from each other and also sometimes even from other members of their own gender. Some men are from Mars, some women are from Venus, and some are even from different galaxies — and yes, I too am (mostly) grateful for the differences.

  9. I’m so happy for your surprise, Julia. I had hoped to get the painting done for you this week; I actually did it, but through a weird thing that happened, it was ruined. Then I decided I was going to do something else, but haven’t decided what yet. So sorry! I hope to get something to you in the next couple of weeks! Glad you are doing well.

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry, Patsy…but they say it’s the thought that counts, and in this case I’m doubly touched that you ran into some obstacles but still stayed cheerful about it. No rush and no pressure to do anything more, but I’m sure that whatever you do will be delightful. I am surviving…some days I feel a long ways from “well” but I think under the circumstances, Matt and I have managed about as well as could be expected. With lots of encouragement from people such as you! 🙂 ❤

      • Thanks, Julia. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I didn’t want you to think I had forgotten about you! I know that “well” is not always how we are doing when we are grieving, but you sound so positive most of the time which I think is wonderful. So thank for your grace. I am still thinking about you and praying for you and Matt. I feel encouraged by you as well, Julia. Have a good day, and stay in touch! 🙂 Did you see my silly Kermit the Frog doodle I posted? That might give you a laugh.

        • Patsy, I’ll have to go check old Kermit out. He’s always good for a laugh! I must sound more cheerful here than I feel most of the time. I guess it’s a case of the old “fake it til you make it” routine. I do find that even when I force myself to be positive (or at least LESS crabby) it does tend to elevate my overall mood. I’ve even read that some research indicates that the mere act of forcing a smile, however insincerely, does something to our brains on some level that makes us feel a bit better. That might be an urban legend, but the placebo effect is now proven to be real, and perhaps faked cheerfulness is a sort of placebo…

          • Julia, I think there might be some truth of forcing a smile doing something to our brains that makes us feel better. I was recently in the grocery store feeling somewhat depressed, and a woman I didn’t know and I kept running into each other. We even helped each other find certain things. By the time we reached the checkout line, she had gotten behind me. She had a lot less stuff and I did, so we ended up bagging our stuff at the same time, too. I finally asked her what her name was and told her it was fun shopping with her. Her kindness really got me out of my mood for days which amazed me. I think watching comedies helps me also. 🙂

            • Patsy, I really needed to hear that story, as I had just the opposite experience yesterday with a woman and I being crabby with each other in a checkout line — there was a problem with the register not reading my card and it was taking a long time for me to get finished checking out. I turned to the woman waiting in line behind me and said “I’m sorry it’s taking so long, ma’am” and she just glared at me in a haughty way and said nothing at all. That got on my last nerve so I said “I SAID I’M SORRY, MA’AM” and she said in a snotty tone “I heard you.” I told her someday when she was in the position I was in and someone was ugly to her, I wanted her to remember this. But then I felt ashamed for saying that. I should have let it go. Impatience, like kindness, is contagious…and I need to be better at “the soft answer.” Life is so much nicer when people are kind and friendly. It helped me to read about your experience with sharing friendliness– thanks for telling us about it!

              • I’m glad what I shared helped! You know, many years ago when I went through a divorce and had days like you were having and someone would be snotty to me that way, I would just give them puppy dog eyes and say, “I’m sorry. I’m going through a divorce right now. Things are hard.” Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. I knew it was no one’s business, but I had a hard time not showing my suffering back then. I think saying you were sorry twice and her responding that way is more on her than you. I also think she may have needed to hear what you had to say. I wouldn’t feel bad about it. But I hear what you’re saying that you should have let it go. The “soft answer” turns away wrath sometimes, but not always. Hang in there, Julia. You are right, too; life is nicer when people are kind and friendly. 🙂

                • Thank you, Patsy. I’m the same way about showing my sorrow; I am just generally way too open about everything, I think. It used to drive Jeff crazy how I would sometimes mention his illness to people, particularly service providers we hired who seemed to expect him to help or be present — he HATED that. For example, one time we had bought a small piece of furniture (still heavy) and before I bought it, I was clearly told it would be loaded into our car for us, but when we pulled around to the loading dock the staffer just stood there with a clipboard doing nothing until Jeff got out and somehow heaved the entire heavy box into the trunk. That got all over me because he was NOT doing well at the time and had recently had surgery. I was afraid it would be a strain on his incision site. I told the guy “My husband is on chemo and just had surgery and they told me you would load this into our car for us” and that made Jeff VERY mad. I think he should have at least asked the guy to load it for us (he was supposedly meant to do that whether the customer was sick or not, after all) but Jeff was the type to suffer in silence. I am just not the type to do that, but what I need to remember is that I might be dealing with another silent sufferer who would be too reserved to remind me that they, too, need consideration.

                  • Yeah, my husband used to have a hard time with attention being brought to his back suffering and recently his dental issue he had, but he is better now somewhat, but I used to know someone like your husband, and for me, I had a difficult time dealing with her suffering in silence, too. It’s frustrating. I guess for some people when they are that sick they just want to feel as useful as possible for as long as they can.

                    • Yes, that’s exactly how Jeff was. Whenever I would ask him “isn’t it time for me to start (whatever it was– doing the laundry, driving, cooking, getting Matt ready for bed, etc.) he would always answer: “I want to do this as long as I can.” I hope that he knew he was valuable to us, and the world, quite apart from all the hard work and accomplishments. But there’s no doubt that such a person, when he dies, is missed far more on many different levels (including practical everyday ones) than one who was totally self-absorbed.

                    • Wow, Julia, that must have been difficult. And yes, the person who does so much for others is usually the one who is missed the most.

                    • I hope and pray that each such person is rewarded with eternal rest and bliss in the next life.

                    • Sorry it took so long to respond. Having trouble with the comments box on my site. I hope it’s fixed now. Yes, I hear what you’re saying. I’m sure he will be. 🙂

                    • No need to apologize…look how long it has taken me to get back to this! 🙂

  10. Carolyn

    I was outside today trying to get some vitamin D. The sunshine was here and felt so good on my tired body. Terry did yard work and I stayed on the porch. I was thinking about you and Matt. Praying that things are going good, I know this has been so hard on you, but you are strong. I enjoyed the Hymn to the Fallen that Eric sent. Remember that you and Matt are in our thoughts and prayers always. Take care and sending love to all .

    • Ah, sunshine! It was gloomy and/or rainy here, but hopefully we’ll have sunny days next week. It will be hot before you know it. I don’t feel very strong but through the kindness and prayers of others I have been upheld. Thanks for being here with us! Love to you and Terry.

  11. With all the moves I’ve had to make in my life I regret losing touch with some of my friends the most. May latest move from Portland, OR was one of the hardest because it was do entirely for financial reasons. Continuing to live in Portland became impossible when rents rose above my fixed income.

    I had to make a 3100 mile relocation just to avoid being homeless. With my last few pennies I orchestrated my relocation to Massachusetts om October of 2015 I packed my worldly possessions into my SmartCar and boarded a plane to a 5 hour flight to a new strange environment.
    I regret losing contact with you Julia and all that has changed in your life. It was strictly a case of neglect on my part for which I truly apologize. It was great to read your comments again.

    • Thanks Bob, no apologies needed…I have been quite out of touch with the blogging world myself for awhile now, except for my own blog. Life happens and it often prevents our getting all the things done that we’d like to do. WOW, hard to believe you’ve been on the east coast for over a year now. Judging from what everyone says about living in the lovely Pacific northwest, I imagine it would be hard to leave Portland, but you seem to be “blooming where you are planted” and enjoying your new location. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. LB

    So thankful that you have been shown love and care by family and friends. My thoughts, too, have been with you.

    • Thank you Laurie. Hope to see you SOON! 🙂

  13. Wonderful Julia, a sweet surprise from someone special. I watched the terrible weather reports for your area and knew it was going to impact your plans and most likely add to the woefulness of the days. I was really p.o.’d at Mother nature, but hoped you’d be surrounded by family and friends who could cast a wide blanket of warmth over you. I hope we can visit Jeff together, I really want to lay some flowers. Not long now before I arrive but you know, I’ve wanted to just jump in a plane for months now. It’s rather boistrous of me to think I could make things any better. But if only for a few days, I will give it my whole heart. Sending loving thoughts your way this morning sweet Julia

    • You certainly will make things better, K. I’m having great fun just trying to decide what to do with the brief time we’ll have. Lots of ideas…I’d love to show you guys the spot where “our” grave is. The monument won’t be ready (in fact I’m still choosing it) but it’s in a lovely location in the very heart of Arlington. Of course, you and I (and Alyster!) spent so much time in Arlington when you came here before that I feel guilty going back there when there is so much you haven’t seen. But maybe it will give us a nice little walk and this time we’ll come RIGHT OUT that gate before it closes. 😀 😀 😀

      • NO guilt need be! I’m in town for 8 days and we have time for the important things and fun things too…even if it’s the scenic route through the wrong gate 😀 xoxox

        • I now have a parking pass for the Arlington garage, so this time we can go through the ceremonial gate, but our gravesite is actually closer to the Old Post Gate that you and I went in before. I think the garage might close at 5:00 pm too…we’ll have to watch the time a bit more closely but if we leave Alyster at home we might manage it. I do hope he is coming with you? I don’t have Old Jiko’s garden ready for him yet, but I’m sure he can find some other photo ops…

          • ha! I will absolutely bring along Alyster, he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to be wandering around DC with us nuts. I’ve been a little lazy about the fairy garden. I had a brilliant one last summer when Alys visited. I moved it into the guest room and the kitties have munched on the greenery at times. I will rethink it this summer though. Maybe I’ll find some extra fun props on our travels? ! that’d be awesome xo Love K

            • The great thing about fairy gardens is that they don’t exist in real time, so nobody there is ever in a hurry or gets impatient. I love to picture P & B munching on your greenery! Maybe the fairies got together and said “Hey, you two felines, we need some new decor around here…can you help us do a bit of weeding and pruning?” 😀 Of course this assumes that cats can hear details we can’t hear, but to me it always seemed that they were tuned in to a different frequency anyway…Yes, let’s find some new props and photo ops — it’s a great way to hone creativity!

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