Sealed inside

As usual, Pasha stood hanging on Jeff’s every word, November 2008.

“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” Brian Jacques

People often laugh at my habit of taking photographs for seemingly no reason at all, but from where I sit now, I am so glad that I did. So many memories are preserved in sharper detail than my mind could hang onto without help.

The other day I got out the digital photo frame that Jeff used to keep on his desk at work. It had been packed up with the many framed photos and other items that he brought home after retirement, and we never got around to unpacking it during the few months he had left.

Jeff was a notoriously difficult person for whom to choose a gift, because he didn’t really want much. This was one of the gifts I gave him that he most appreciated and enjoyed. The nearly 700 photos I had loaded onto it in the beginning were meant to be supplemented with others, which turned out to be just another good intention. But those 700 photos featured a lot of variety.

Going through such memorabilia is slow work for me, as I can only handle it for short periods of time. I was a little afraid to plug the frame in, and indeed, watching it did bring waves of sadness. However, as the lovely photos of our family, friends and travels scrolled on, the sadness was alleviated somewhat by the wonder of all those years together, all those memories. I heard my voice saying aloud “What a life we had!” and it was more an expression of thanks than a lamentation.

I have the digital frame sitting nearby as I write this. I don’t plan to unplug it anytime soon. It brings both water and sunlight into my life.



  1. Amy Hill

    I have always appreciated your photo habit because when I go to recall parts of my life or share something with the kids I often have a difficult time finding a photo of it and I think to myself, “I should have taken just one picture that day”. Treasure those memories. You did pack a lot in with Jeff. You have a lot of living left to do still. So keep the camera handy. I love you.

    • Thank you, Amy. I love and appreciate optimism! Love you too.

  2. Ann

    How wonderful, dear friend.

    • Thank you, Ann. ❤

  3. Chris

    Julia, I like the quote! Wow, 700 photos! That seems like a lot, but I imagine you’ve taken thousands. I’m happy for you that you have those memories to brighten your days. You should also know that YOU are that sunshine for your readers. Sharing your life with us is a blessing for us. Thanks!

    • Chris, thanks so much for your very kind words. It means a great deal to me that someone else gets any benefit from this blog. Yes, I have tens of thousands of photos, and getting them organized properly is one of my good intentions. But until then, it’s fun to go randomly searching for something to post that I haven’t already posted of the nearly 1000 photos of my own that I’ve already used!

  4. Good morning, Julia! oh, how beautiful, both the sunshine and the rain! Together I hope they blend into lovely rainbows to adorn your days!

    • Thank you, Susan. It’s very slightly rainy today, and overcast. After several days of sunny HOT (for October) weather, I am enjoying the change in climate. It’s muggy, though. Still not cool yet. We had the one cold snap but the warm weather is back for now. Yes, it’s nice to have all sorts of weather. 🙂

  5. Carolyn

    Yes Julia, you and Jeff had a wonderful life. So many memories and the love you two shared. I was looking at pictures the other day, on a page there were pictures you had sent to me. I think most of them where in Hawaii. I feel so lucky to have become friends with you all. Of course Jeff was wonderful to work with. Our weather is good right now , so I am enjoying my porch, I will have a cup of tea and wish you were here friend. Love and hugs.

    • Thank you Carolyn. I have a cup brewing right now and will join you in my imagination, sitting on your porch and reminiscing about those Bartlett years when you were such a stable support in our lives. Now Drew’s older son is exactly the age he was when you first met us. WOW, how the years fly. I’m glad you still have some of those old photos. 🙂

  6. Beautiful post, Julia. Photos trigger deeper memories than we would have without them. I miss seeing them regularly.You have me thinking here. Hope all is going somewhat smoothly for you. Keeping heart healing thoughts for you. Hugs, M

    • Thank you Marlene. I guess “somewhat smoothly” would be an apt description for the past week or two. I love going through my old photos but it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and not climb out for HOURS, so I have to earmark my photo time carefully. I read some techno-media expert recently stating that he thought photos had become so ubiquitous nowadays that people do not value them. That seems at least partly true, but I know there are many people online who publish gorgeous work. Maybe you can make some collages or photo boards with clips where you can easily change out the photos. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts, and for being here! Hugs to you too!

  7. Paula Escobell

    Thank you, Julia, for reminding us to face the pain and feel the pain; thereby being able to bring to mind the beautiful…Paula

    • Thank you, Paula. I’m so happy you are here!

  8. Steve

    Your days of healing have been insightful and inspirational as well. I understand that sentiment of only being able to view for a period of time before the remembrances become too painful. Thank you for the courage to share yourself with others. Praying for your continued healing and peace within Julia!

    • Thank you, Steve. It’s always nice to see you here.

  9. Jack

    Well, almost nothing can live without water and sunlight. Plus there’s nothing wrong with a good cry every now and then. Being the average male that I am, when I feel the tears coming I almost always suppress them, but what catharsis in just letting the tears fall.

    Four years ago this Thanksgiving, my 21 year old nephew took his life. My sister, his mother, is a medical doctor but also a scientist. I have learned so much in watching her grieve. She still cries tears of sadness, but also the palliative tears of joy for having had him for a while.

    May the memories bring mostly smiles and joy in due course.

    • Jack, I am so sorry about the loss of your nephew. Suicide is devastating for survivors, and in the case of a young person, it must be doubly so. I imagine that your sister has learned things through the grief that have made her an even better doctor. I’ve never been one who cries easily but when I do cry it’s fairly intense and I do think it is often cathartic. I’m clinging to the hope that the memories will grow less painful over time. Thanks for being here.

  10. Harry Sims

    Some are determined to get the most that they possibly can out of recovery.
    Some want to do everything they can to nurture their recovery.
    Some succor their recovery with Thanksgiving.
    Some go to the meeting before the meeting.
    Some go to the meeting after the meeting.
    Some do it in person.
    Lots have meetings of gratitude in company with God of their understanding.

    Willie Nelson said it very well; “You are always on my mind”.


    • Thank you, Harry. I remember being surprised when I first learned how many recovery meetings are attended by a person who is dealing with substance abuse. It can become like a full time job, I imagine, but those who manage to be successful at permanent recovery often cite the power of such determination. As you mention, everyone is different and what works for one may not work for all, but I think the determination is probably a universal factor in recovery.

  11. bobmielke

    Memories are fickle at times. When my first wife suddenly disappeared off the planet I had a few pictures of her, all 4’8″ of her. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see her face and that was 45 years ago. Others that I knew have faded with time. I suppose my wife’s memory was special to me. Because I will never know what happened to her I have only loving memories. I never wanted to speculate on the unknown.

    • Bob, I think you’re wise not to try to speculate, although it must be hard not to. It’s truly a gift to have only loving memories of someone and I hope that they bring you mostly joy after all these years.

      • bobmielke

        I’ve lived a happy productive life, helping many and being helped by many more. My faith in God and the love I’ve experience makes life bearable knowing He is in charge.

        • I think you have just summed up the secret to contentment and joy. We need to be able to give AND take, and we need to realize we are not in control.

  12. Sheila

    Julia, what a perfect description of grief and sadness being replaced with memories and love that somehow will always be in our heart. I love that intent look of Pasha as she listens to her master’s voice. I bet Jeff looked at those photos many times and shared the same feelings as you. I’m sure he smiled, happily! Much love crossing the miles! Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila. Pasha was so crazy about Jeff. It’s amazing how a dog always knows who the alpha is. Pasha had his own ideas about the “pecking order” in our home, and in his mind, the chain of power was: 1. Jeff 2. me 3. Him (Pasha) and 4. Drew and Matt. 😀 The few times Jeff had to travel on business, Pasha would watch for him each day at his normal coming-home time. He stayed close on Jeff’s heels whenever Jeff was home, following him throughout the house and listening intently to everything he said. It was such fun to watch.

  13. xo

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