You won’t be the same

On April 3, 2004, this supercell thunderstorm dropped 2″ diameter hail over Chaparral, N.M. causing widespread damage. Even so, the sun broke through those formidable clouds.
Photo by Greg Lundeen, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”Haruki Murakami

There’s an old saying that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I’ve never been particularly fond of that quote, and to this day I’m not sure I believe it. Speaking strictly for myself, I feel weaker than I’ve ever felt. But if that old saying is true, and if I survive the past five years with my sanity intact, surely I will be a female Hercules.

Until this most recent storm is resolved, it’s probably best not to discuss it here. Let’s just say that there is very little chance that Matt and I can hold onto even what currently remains of our life as it once was. Change– seismic, inevitable change– seems to be hitting us with overpowering force. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated. For now, though, please accept my deepest gratitude for being with us through all this. And please keep those prayers coming!

If you are facing unwanted changes right now, I hope you will grit your teeth and hang on. And if you are not, just wait awhile; sooner or later, it hits all of us. Let’s be strong for each other and keep believing that despair can be defeated, and one day it will be. For good.

For those who may be interested, the full video of Jeff’s burial ceremony
is available for viewing online at this link.


  1. Well. I’m reluctant to ‘like’ this post, but I have because I want to show my support. I have to agree that I don’t believe that adversity always makes you stronger, but it does show you what you can do and it shows you who your friends are. I hope that you and Matt have lots of support around you at the moment. It’s particularly difficult to deal with everything when you are grieving. I wish you strength to get through it.

    • You are so right about that. I used to say that Matt’s presence in our family was like a litmus test that showed me what people are made of inside, but with Jeff gone, that’s ten times more true than it ever was. Grieving makes it harder from the inside AND the outside, since so many people flee the scene of suffering. It’s tough to find out one can’t count on the people (or institutions or agencies or whatever) once thought to be reliable, but I suppose it’s ultimately helpful information for planning. Thanks so much for your encouragement and presence here. It truly does help.

  2. Ann

    I love the photo and the quote.
    I believe that despair can be defeated, and one day it will be. Hang in there!

    • Thank you, Ann. I am so glad you are here!

  3. Cherie

    Please know you are in my prayers, Julia. Love and Light!

    • Thank you, Cherie. As always, your prayers, love and light are a true comfort to me. ❤

  4. jholley1954

    Keeping you and Matt in my prayers, Julia, and sending positive vibes and hugs your way.

    • Thank you, Judy! I am so happy you are here with us. I hope it’s not too much longer before I can see you again. I am trying to find some way to get to Russellville this year.

  5. MaryEllen Davis

    Since my only child, Nick was killed in a motorcycle accident I have often felt his presence when I am low. He walks beside me with his arm around my shoulders saying, “You can do this Mom. Keep going.” I don’t care whether it is his spirit or my imagination either way it seems to help. Praying for you and Matt. Keep going Julia. You can do this.

    • MaryEllen, I agree with you– whether we imagine it or it’s real, the effect is the same either way. But of course, I think there is a very real sense in which our loved ones ARE with us. It’s just one of those things we don’t yet understand. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it until we all find out how this stuff works. 🙂 Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement. It is especially comforting to know that people can and do survive what seems impossible to survive. Blessings to you as you continue to live with a life-changing loss. I’m happy you are here with us!

  6. Ann Vande Zande

    Beautiful even in your suffering. Thank you for this post, Julia. I will be praying for you and Matt.

    • Thank you, Ann. It’s so wonderful to be in touch with you here. I still cherish the hope that the “she musketeers” have at least a few more future adventures in store…

  7. Susan

    Julia, blessings to you and Matt. Changes full of frustrations can be exhausting. I am finally understanding that God is with me through the pain and difficulties and is not punishing me for unknown offenses. Rejoicing and giving thanks through the hurt is something I am learning and it makes all the difference. My husband is undergoing radiation treatments for cancer through the end of this month, the outlook is good. Enjoying God’s creative beauty this Spring brings joy as do His promises. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us and he does work all things together for our good even through the tears. Take care.

    • Susan, isn’t it funny how easy it is to personalize all these universal human sorrows and think that we are being punished? I try to guard against that but sometimes it sneaks up on me. I am sorry to hear of your husband’s need for radiation, but happy that the outlook is good. Doctors tend to give pessimistic prognoses, so when they are positive, it’s truly encouraging. Thanks so much for your presence here, and for your encouragement. I will pray for you and your husband as you travel this path.

  8. Sheila

    Good morning, my friend. I so wish things could be different and life could somehow lighten up on you. I am so sorry and although I know most of the details, even now it’s hard to comprehend. Praying for strength and the miracle this will require! Hugs crossing the distance! Love, Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila. Your steadfast presence here means so much!

  9. Veronica Brown

    My heart goes out to you with love and prayers

    • Thank you, Veronica. I am comforted that you are praying for me. I still believe in prayer, and always will.

  10. Thank you for this. Said a prayer for you today.

    • You’re welcome – and thank you for the prayer. I think I am surviving on prayers right now.

  11. Heba

    So true and beautifully said! ^_^
    I pray that God helps us through storms and that we come out a better person. ” Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us.” [Surat Al-Baqarah: 285]

    • Hello Heba, it is always a joy to hear from you. Thank you for being with us, praying with us and lending your encouragement and good wishes!

      • Heba

        Thank you Julia! I am blessed to have found your heartfelt, amiable blog!
        You are in my prayers ^_^

        • Thank you Heba! I need all the prayers I can get. 🙂 ❤

  12. MaryAnn

    Glad to meet you, Female Hercules! You ARE surviving because you depend on our Heavenly Father to sustain you, when all else in in chaos. I love you!
    This cloud photo is marvelous, magnificent power! And gorgeous!

    • Well Mary Ann, I’m honored by the prediction, but keep in mind I’m not ready for Prime Time yet, so don’t enter me into any Olympic events anytime soon. 😀 Please keep those prayers coming. As I told Alys last week, I AM going to find some way to come out to the NorCal Republic as soon as I can. I will give you plenty of warning notice before I come. Meanwhile, I hope you know you are always welcome here, and always in our hearts.

      • 🙂

      • MaryAnn

        My plan is to “drop in for tea”, someday. We have 2 spare bedrooms, so you have your accommodations ready! What a joy that will be when we meet on either or both Coasts! WAHOO!

        • Hey, I’ll take “both Coasts!” WAHOO indeed! Something to look forward to. 😀

  13. Harry Sims

    Bill W is notable for saying something like, “we are kindergartners in the journey of faith”.
    I am a kindergartener in my journey of faith.
    I can do all things through God who strengthens me.

    I’m Harry, grateful alcoholic and devoted twelve stepper.

    • Thank you, Harry. This reminds me of Shunryu Suzuki’s writings on the importance of “beginner’s mind.” It’s helpful to remember that, contrary to what the culture might tell us, none of us are required to be experts. Confidence is a wonderful thing, but humility is probably more important.

  14. raynard

    Julia, I had to put it mildly” A Dr Doolittle” Stop talking to me moment”.. I told my baby sister ” Quote What’s the point of being on the phone with family members who” don’t atleast offer anything.. I’m not one who” guilt anyone into doing anything or feel” entitled because we might share the same DNA .. Now that I’ve” exhaled” if you need any help dealing with the V.A , I’m willing to find out any information and point you to the right person . I live about 20 minutes from the local one I go to.. Keep your head up.( Besides looking down too long will make you ” wonder about ” does these shoes go with this outfit? I digress.. Be blessed and have a great day..

    • Raynard, thanks so much for that offer. I’ll email you with an update when the dust of all this VA business settles. Thanks for the reminder to keep my head up. Not only will it keep me from worrying about my shoes, but also I might quit bumping into walls so often. 😀 Hope you and Mary have a wonderful week coming up!

  15. I’m holding you in my thoughts, Julia and trying to understand why life has to be so hard for so long. I’m reminded of a book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. Of course you feel weak. Life has been unkind. I wish there was something tangible I could do.

    • Alys, Jeff read that book years ago soon after it came out, and he really liked it and recommended it to me. I never did read it, but I heard him mention passages from it when he would speak or teach Bible classes. You have done many tangible things already! I am surrounded by reminders of your support. BTW I remembered that See’s Chocolates were SOOOOO good, but I had forgotten just how good they are!! Now that’s something tangible. 😀

      • I’m glad you are enjoying the See’s Chocolates. In my opinion, they are the best out there. They always have a line out the door of that place near the major holidays.

        Here’s a link to the wiki:

        • Alys, actually it’s “enjoyed” — you would laugh if you knew how quickly they disappeared. I will say though, Matt did finish his puzzle before they were gone. 😀

          • Well, Julia, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that can quickly polish off a pound of See’s. They are delicious. Assembling a puzzle with a hot cup of tea and a box of See’s nearby sounds like the perfect evening to me. I hope you’re remembering to breathe, Julia. Xo

            • Alys, it’s a winning combination for sure. I’m trying to breathe, sleep, eat, etc. with varying degrees of success. On days when I’m not doing as well with one, I tend to make up for it with the others. Sometimes I think exhaustion, hunger and thirst are the body’s way of forcing us to take breaks. I’m being forced to listen to mine much more that I used to, and that’s a good thing, I think. I even took a nap one day last week, something I hardly ever make time for.

              • Julia, I’m glad to hear that you’re taking care of yourself. Giving in to a nap is simply paying attention to what you need. Better to sleep at home then to doze off in the car. Staying hydrated is so important too, especially as the temperatures heat up. Sleep, hydrate, repeat, and yes eat!

                • Sounds like a recipe for survival to me. So far, so good… 🙂

  16. Emily N Lavender

    So sorry. I think change and heartache so often veil us. It’s so terribly hard to see through and even what can be seen is so uncertain. May God give you the strength you need for each moment. Love, emily

    • Thank you, Emily. I have been intending to write and thank you for the beautiful letters you gave me at the funeral; they meant a great deal to me. Just yesterday I was remembering how I depended on you to help us decorate that cabin at the Hermitage for D & M’s rehearsal dinner. I had just had an emergency appendectomy and don’t know what I would have done without you! Love you.

  17. Amy

    I don’t know if you remember but you wrote a blog about going body surfing with some friends. You said that you nearly drowned. You said that among the things you learned that day was to keep your heard above water and roll with the waves. One of your readers commented using that quote about what doesn’t kill you. He said how lucky you didn’t drown that day because the world be a darker place for those of us who have come to know you. I quite agree with him. I know my world be a sadder place. Maybe like a true “steel magnolia” you can buy your size six shoes in comfortable size 8 and find laughter through tears to be your favorite emotion. I do pray the tide will break soon and you find some comfort and peace. I love you.

    • Thank you Amy. It’s helpful to remember that day at Jones Beach and how foolish I could be when I was younger. Despite everything, I wouldn’t go back to being young again. Your prayers and friendship mean so much!

  18. I, too, have felt what you have Julia, when I lost each of my parents at different stages in my life. I have found that life will never be the same in their absence. However, the love and wonderful experiences from that past stage sustained me with hope while I found balance in the new stages.

    • Thank you, Alan. It really does help to hear from others who have been there. I am trying to give myself lots of time to adjust, but just when I think I’m doing pretty well (or at least better) something comes along to knock me for a loop. But as you say, there is tremendous comfort in memory. Love given to us is never lost.

      • Yes, Julia. And in time those loops get fewer and less powerful. Then we are left with warmth.

        • That’s a hopeful thought, Alan. Thank you.

          • When all seems hopeless, that is when hope is most relevant.

            • It’s interesting that Paul writes, “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:3-5, NRSV) On first thought, it seems that hope would come between suffering and endurance. Yet here, it is listed as the outcome, not the precursor. So perhaps in a sense, hope is not fully hope until it has weathered such desperate seasons.

  19. Good morning, Julia!
    Sometimes I wonder who I’ll be after the storm; will I recognize myself? Will others recognize me?
    Thank you for being such a steadfast example. You are still recognizable, but stronger than you once knew possible, and that is a great encouragement, and a testament to the grace and mercy of our Lord.
    I’m still praying for you and Matt (my worrying hasn’t done anything for any of us, but we can’t go wrong with prayer).

    • Susan, thanks so much for your kindness and confidence in me. And yes, we can’t go wrong with prayer! ❤

  20. So true, Julia. You can say that from your own experience, I’m sure. When I think of what you have been through I feel that you are able to survive because they have made you stronger. I remember the death of our father took us all by surprise because we had never been faced with any serious illnesses or the death of a family member. But that has given us an idea what it is like and what to expect. So ‘prepared’ would be a more suitable word than ‘stronger’.

    • Yes, I agree. Prepared is a better way of understanding it. I remember how I loved what you wrote about your father, and I love the photo of you with him. I knew when I read it the very first time, that it would not be too long before I was facing the same circumstance with my own Daddy. Knowing these sorrows are universal does not diminish them, but it does bring comfort to know that others understand. Thanks for being here.

  21. When despair comes my way, as you and I know it will, I hope l’ll have the strength to endure. No one person is exempt from it but you have been tested to the nth degree. You may not be here but I will always been hoping that something good is finally coming your way. xo K

    • Thank you Boomdee. Let’s both keep hoping, and who knows? It may happen. ❤ But even if it doesn't, I still believe hope is a better way to live.

  22. Dear dear Lovely Julia
    You have traveled a very-challenging road, and you are a light to others who are sometimes overwhelmed with their own challenges.
    If you have not seen any of these videos, this will surely bring comfort…

    Sending you a very strong and genuine cyber hug…

    • Lisa, WOW– when I saw this comment I did a double-take because just recently– I think it may have been within 24 hours of you sending this, but I’m not sure– I was thinking about you, wondering how you were doing and telling myself I needed to find time to check in with you. Then I saw your comment (cue Twilight Music in background, but without eerie tone). Talk about long distance telepathy! I didn’t have time for the entire video right now but watched the first bit of it and will look forward to getting back to it as soon as I finish this paper. Meanwhile please know that it was a fabulous surprise to hear from you. I love that cyber hug! ❤

      • Ah, dear Julie; we both know and embrace that there are forces larger than ours at work behind the scenes, and they orchestrate moments like that – just when we need it….

        I think that we also need to be ‘quiet’ so that we receive and act on those nudges… Glad I’ve had some quiet time, and gracias a-Dios and the angels as well.

        Love, Lisa

        • Thank you, Lisa! I too am grateful that you had the quiet time to pick up the signals. I’m sure artists must be super-aware of the need to get away from the chaos and “tune in” to what we might otherwise miss.

          Sending you love and best wishes for a beautiful week ahead!

          • Thinking of you, lovely lady,,,, I’ll remain offline a lot, but will hold you and your beautiful family in my heart…

            • Thank you, Z. I am not online myself as often as I’d like, but I do think of you too, and so appreciate your being here whenever you’re able! I know that when you are offline it probably means you are traveling, creating and having adventures, so that’s a happy thought. 🙂

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