Spring always finds a way

There’s still this: our York back yard, April 14, 2017

“…spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.”Charlotte Eriksson

Probably there are few spots of ground in this hemisphere that have been more neglected in the past three years than our once-lovely azalea garden in the corner of our York back yard. When we first planted additional azaleas back there over twelve years ago, we tended it lovingly. I pruned the shrubs and Jeff was careful to feed and mulch the plants with the acidic nourishment they preferred. Once he even gathered a big bunch of pine straw from the wooded common areas of our neighborhood because I told him that azaleas loved pine straw (or so my mother always told me).

But somewhere along the way, our springtime gardening got hijacked. Spring 2013 brought Jeff’s first liver surgery; Spring 2014, Matt’s fifth open heart surgery; Spring 2015, work crews and equipment were in our yard continually as our guest house was being built; Spring 2016, Jeff’s brain tumor and craniotomy, and of course, Spring 2017, his burial. That corner of our yard is now overgrown so wildly that I can barely walk through to the fence where Pasha is buried near the large tree. I wasn’t expecting much beauty to show up there this spring.

Lo and behold, though, that little patch of ground is doing fine all on its own. Two days ago I looked out the kitchen window and saw the sun streaming through the dogwood flowers, and had to run get the camera to take a shot to share with you.

Don’t you just love it when things go fine even when you aren’t able to contribute to the effort? This has been another week filled with bad news, but springtime always has something uplifting to say to me. I  hope you’re enjoying some seasonal cheer, too!


  1. Sheila

    Julia, I’ve seen maintained gardens that aren’t any prettier! I’m thinking they’re reflecting the love and care that was bestowed on them. Thank you for sharing this lovely yard again, feel as though I’ve been there before. I love the photo of Jeff cutting the grass back there. Oh, sweet Pasha! Well, must meet a granddaughter to pick out prom shoes so better do the “Mimi hustle”. 💃 Haha! 💛

    • Sheila, I hope your shoe shopping went well! The yard looks even prettier today than it did when I took that photo. We’ve had some rain here and the azaleas are POPPING! It was so warm today it felt like summer. I had on long sleeves but before day was done, I had switched to sleeveless. Another clue: I’m drinking less hot tea, more cold tea and sparkling water. And it’s still April! Happy weekend to you!

  2. Carolyn

    Beautiful back yard. Sending love and hugs to you and Matt.

    • Thank you, Carolyn. ❤

  3. Cherie

    Julia, so happy for you to see the beauty of the azaleas without all the work. Azaleas are pretty hardy ( thank goodness!) I have some that didn’t bloom quite as pretty this year because of our moderate drought. But they did bloom and we loved the different pinks!! Praying you and Matt are well and please know you are always in my prayers! Love and Light!

    • Thank you, Cherie. I do love the azaleas; they are one of my favorite things about being back in the south. A couple of years ago, Jeff and I hired a landscaper to do some much-needed work on our front yard, but we have had less luck with those azaleas. I’m hoping they will do better over time. We have lots more sun in front, so that may be the problem. But notice the ones in deep shade don’t do as well either. It’s a hard balance to strike, getting just enough sun (or water) without getting too much. Thanks for your continued prayers — they are needed and appreciated!

  4. MaryAnn

    Such a peaceful, lovely view out your window! God loves you & is showing that Love in this beautiful garden! Thanks for sharing. Continued prayers for the never-ending paperwork to find resolution.

    • Hi Mary Ann. I wish I could give you good news on the paperwork front, but there isn’t any. I’m trying to hang on and keep hoping for a miracle. Thanks for your continued prayers.

      • MaryAnn

        I sent an email with a song.

        • Thank you, Mary Ann. I will go look for it. I am as far behind with email as I am with these comments, or maybe more so.

  5. Julia, we just celebrated the greatest miracle that sacrificial love can produce. Why would you be surprised that a miracle of a lesser degree, yet still significantly meaningful, should appear in your own back yard?

    • Great point, Alan! 🙂

  6. Dorothy

    Dear Julia,
    How lovely! Neil loved our garden and spent hours pruning, mulching and fertilising, so after his passing last year, it was my mission to keep the garden alive. However, with open heart surgery last year and a very hot dry spell, the garden was looking decidedly ragged and his beloved roses were even looking sad. I felt sad too and decided some of them needed to be removed. A couple of native plants even died. Just as well I was not able to dig out plants as about a month ago we had an incredible amount of rain and now the roses are in their Autumn flush and other plants have been rejuvenated. What a joy! Enjoy your spring garden as it will help lift your spirits. I do hope all gets sorted for Matt soon, it must be so frustrating and hard when you haven’t Jeff to help. We miss them in so many ways. Love to you. Dorothy

    • Dorothy, as I read your comment I felt so sad, for you and the fading garden, and then was so happy when I read that your roses came back! Extra-extra joyful to see them in bloom this year, I’m sure. I spent sometime outside weeding tonight. It is tremendously therapeutic. Yes, every day there are hundreds of ways we miss Jeff and Neil. So much goes undone, other things partially or ineptly done. But of course, these things don’t matter nearly as much as the sorrow behind these nagging little reminders. Thank you for understanding. Love to you too! I am so happy you are here with us. Wishing you a lovely autumn and a kind winter. Hope your surgery was successful and your heart is doing well – literally and figuratively. ❤

  7. It seems God is saying He’s got this, you can let it go for now. I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful garden area. I’m sorry you are still getting bad news. Hugs and love,

    • Marlene, I think maybe that’s the message, although some days I seem to hear and trust it more than other days. I do love that back corner. I love most everything about our York home, but having that view out my kitchen window is maybe my favorite thing of all. Hugs and love and thanks for being with us.

  8. Wow! They look fantastic… sometimes a little neglect is fine. I hope, however, that you are not neglecting yourself. During difficult times, it’s easy to forget to care for ourselves, so I hope you can find just a little time each day to do something nurturing for yourself.

    • Yes, that’s the real challenge. It seems a bit odd, but when one is a caregiver for another person (especially the sole caregiver 24/7) it is all too easy to be fed up with their everyday self-care routines to the point that one wants to collapse and do nothing for oneself. Some people who have only themselves to take care of still can’t manage even that, so I suppose I should not be too hard on myself. Let’s just say that I have a lot of bad hair days and hardly ever wear makeup anymore, but that seems a small thing in the grand scheme of things. All the things I used to do before Jeff died — sauna, walking, long relaxing baths — have gone by the wayside. My sauna broke and I haven’t had time to replace it; I use up all my energy running around on errands, doing laundry, etc. (my Fitbit tells me I’m burning the same amount of calories most days as I did when I was walking regularly) and the long relaxing bath is now the quick bath or shower. BUT I cherish the hope that someday I may yet have time to enjoy these things again. Meanwhile, I cope, and try not to get frustrated at reality. Thanks so much for being with us here!

  9. It looks beautiful. All we can do at times is just be grateful for the blessings of nature. I wonder what the bad news was, but I just hope you are fine. Take care, Julia!

    • Hello, Bindu! I am always so happy to see you here. How are you doing? The bad news has to do with my mother, who is dying (nobody seems sure how much time she has left, but by all accounts, she appears to be fading quickly) and my hoping to get back to see her, and the real catastrophe is that Matt is losing his Medicaid, which is the federal insurance that provides people with disabilities the day programs and special services they need. When Jeff died, Matt began getting a small survivor’s benefit check which put him just barely over the limits, so now it looks as if I will lose even the limited help with his care that I used to have — coming on top of losing Jeff’s help, which was my most reliable support and Matt’s dearest joy (he loved spending time with his Daddy) it is pretty devastating. BUT I’m getting through it one day at a time and praying for better days ahead. You have brightened my day by being here today! Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead.

      • Thank you for sharing it with me, Julia. I can imagine what you are going through. Try to be with your mother as often as you can if she still recognizes you all. You know I lost mine recently. I pray for you and Matt. May God shower you with all the strength. Just believe- He won’t make it too hard for you.

        • Thank you Bindu. I know you are in the same position as I am, losing both your father and mother. I remember being touched reading your words about both those passages of grief. My brother said yesterday that Mama is having a much better week this week than she did last week, so I hope she will be in good form when I see her. I so appreciate your prayers and your being here with us. Hope you are having a lovely springtime.

  10. Lydia

    I love azaleas. What an amazing variety of colors. You have given me a special gift. Thanks for sharing. God bless you and may He keep giving you strength as you face the different challenges going your way. Praying for you.

    • Lydia, thank you so much! It makes me very happy to think I have been able to give anyone anything lately; I feel so depleted, resentful and useless most of the time. I do so appreciate your prayers and encouragement!

  11. Harry Sims

    If you only knew how often I (we) pray for you especially every morning with gratitude for this website.

    • Harry, what a kind thing to say. I am grateful to know you are praying for me, and I so appreciate the encouragement and support I always find here.

  12. Oh Julia, more bad news. I’ll send you a note.

    • Thank you Alys. Along with all the other negative ways I could describe all this bad news, it is becoming (to borrow the words of British friends) “quite a bore.” Thanks for hanging in there with me through it all. It was such a wonderful blessing to be with you recently.

      • Julia, it was wonderful seeing you and spending time together over a few days. I really enjoyed meeting Matt as well. Sending you continued strength and love and hope. xo

        • Thank you, Alys. 🙂 Your visit was a blessing!

  13. Hello hello, dear Julia. What a stunning view and thank goodness for neglected gardens that are sending gifts your way. Got back to Edmonton Sunday to find it had snowed all day Friday and Saturday, so nothing green in my view at all. Such is life North of Boarder. I’m missing you already. I’m still gobsmacked at how late we managed to stay up a few nights, LOL I don’t know if you’re over your cold but I left NYC with a whopper. Oh well, it’s worth spending time with my favourite gal pals.

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve gotten more bad news hon, maybe that’s why Jeff’s made certain your view would be so glorious. I still think about our visit to Arlington that day and the gentleman we all met. Too many broken hearts. It seems so cruel too be given such great love in our lives that’s swiped away too soon. Thinking of you xo K

    • Oh, no, a return to snow? It was downright hot most of the week here – I’m wearing sleeveless today! Hurry back down to the sunny south and I’ll try to be a good camper and get my chatty self to bed earlier. 🙂 My voice is finally starting to come back and the cold is fading. I am afraid you caught what I had because I think I got it from Owen but it did not show up for a couple of days. OH NO! I hope you are better now or I’ll worry that you’ll drag on and on with it as I did. I have heard lots of people complaining about that this year, the nasty congested cold that never ends.

      I too have thought many times about meeting Col. C and I am quite sure I will see him there again, since he says he goes every single day. I am sort of comforted to think he will be watching out for Jeff’s grave too, now that he spent some time with us. I must find out if he has a computer, maybe I can teach him how to read our blogs, hee-hee! Can you imagine that. It might help cut through the loneliness of losing his wife. In some ways I think it is harder on people who are so much older. Though I feel cheated at losing Jeff so early, I think it’s a different kind of heartbreak when one is as old as he is – a World War II vet to boot. Not many of them left. The photos he took of us at the grave with the flowers are beautiful and I will post one here soon. Thinking of you too, with love & gratitude.

      • Oh hon, yes he was so very very sad. Both Alys and I were choking on tears for his broken heart. I didn’t want to leave him there and say, “please come for a cold drink with us and we can walk you back”. It was so hot that day, he could get heat stroke sitting there. I think losing your partner at any age is unbareable for so many reasons but I think he definitely was in deep pain that day. I sure hope his girls and him have a nice cruise together and he doesn’t give up living for being alone and lonely.
        On the cold front, I’m still coughing though not as constantly as I was. I sure can’t attribute it to you hon, I caught a cold in Vancouver just a week before I came and thought I felt better but traveling and stuff just caught up to me and bam, I relapsed. Besides, Owens way too adorable to be the instigator of this plague, LOL Thinking of you too. I miss you xo K

        • Wow Kelly, sorry it has taken me so long to get back to these comments. Hope your cough is better. I saw Owen when I went back for Mama’s funeral last week, and he is back in tip-top shape. His first birthday is tomorrow. I’m glad you and Alys were there with me to talk with Col. C. If it had just been him and me it might have turned into a real pity party but you guys always make things brighter. ❤

  14. Beth

    Julia, I’ve been told that the first three years azaleas need tender loving care, and will hold their own in the following years. If only we were so resilient, or maybe there’s a lesson there.
    Mom has Parkinson’s and I’ve retired early to spend more time with her. She’s in a wonderful place, but I don’t think it’s the same as family. Mom is refusing to go anywhere – I think it’s fear of the unknown and the dementia, or we would have visited your mom by now, and I also hoped she’d be up to visiting you. Perhaps her new meds will make a difference. We would love to see you.
    You and Matt are in my thoughts and prayers.


    • Beth, that’s interesting about the azaleas…definitely a lesson there, and not just a botanical one. Perhaps we are more resilient that we give ourselves credit for. Or maybe all those books have kept us going. 😀 Please give Sadie my love and tell her I think of her often. I have such fond memories of all the times we used to sit at the end of her bed at night when she was trying to go to sleep, and we’d be laughing and talking about all sorts of things. I will be coming to see Mama soon. Now that she’s on hospice, she sleeps much of the time (probably from the pain meds) and Carla and Al say her ability to be fully present is in and out, but declining. Maybe I can come by to see you guys while I’m in Atlanta. I’ll try to email you with my schedule before I come. Thanks so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!


  1. Always flowers | Defeat Despair

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