Like a handprint on my heart

We went with Daddy to greet Tuffy as he arrived home after his first flight as Captain.
At the old Atlanta airport, sometime in the mid-1960s.

You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart…

— Stephen Schwartz

Many of you will remember my earlier post about going to visit my “other Mama and Daddy” on the first Christmas after Jeff died. My siblings and I were blessed to have a second set of parents who provided us with another home where we felt loved, safe and happy. The fact that this additional home was in the same neighborhood, just a short stroll away, was an added benefit, but the bond had never depended on geographic proximity. “Tuffy” and Betty Jo had been close friends of our parents since before we were born. I cannot remember a time when their presence was not a significant part of our lives, even during the relatively brief time they lived far away from us.

On Friday I got word that Tuffy was very ill and near death, and on Saturday came the phone call I was dreading, letting me know that Tuffy had died. Echoes of other losses resonated with this new sorrow. One by one, the adults who shaped and shielded my early life have left this earth, leaving a landscape that often feels desolate and bare. It’s a continual reminder to me that we, as adults, seldom realize the deep impressions we can leave on young lives.

It seems increasingly rare in today’s world to find lifelong friends whose connection begins in childhood and lasts more than eight decades. This was a great gift in my Daddy’s life, and therefore in that of his entire family. Friendships are blessings in so many ways, but one that I don’t hear mentioned very often is how important adult friendships are to children, who learn everything by watching. Trust is understood on a deep and unspoken level by seeing friendship demonstrated over long periods of time, affirming that loved ones are with us through rejoicing and sorrow, holidays and weekdays, good times and bad.

If your dear friends have children or grandchildren, know that your presence in their family’s life is a blessing to them as well as to the older generations. You may well be leaving handprints on their hearts; a seal of affection that will stay with them.


  1. Nancy Blevins

    The Circle of Life. Julia. I love the phrase from the bible…and he was gathered unto his people. It’s comforting I think.

    • Thank you, Nancy. Yes, that and similar verses are a comfort, and we have a better understanding of them now than we did when we first learned them. One that has been floating around in my head for a long time now is Ecclesiastes 12:5B: “…man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” (KJV). Really all of chapter 12 and in fact, the entire book, feels like a background theme to my life right now. But that particular verse was first impressed on my conscious mind by Willard Collins, who said it was one of the most meaningful verses in the Bible to him, because it reminded him of eternity. It seems odd to think Ecclesiastes is a comfort, but realizing the universal nature of what I’m experiencing (albeit at a younger age than my friends will go through it) helps me to feel less isolated and alone.

      • BTW Nancy — I’m not sure whether you remember Tuffy and Betty Jo, but you were in their home at least once, for Carla’s Bridesmaid’s luncheon, and of course you would have seen them at the wedding too.

  2. So sorry you are facing the loss of another loved one.

    • Thank you, Marlene. One would think I’d be accustomed to loss by now, but I suppose there are some things one never gets used to.

      • It takes a real change of perspective to not be hammered by it. There is the other side of the coin as well. The person leaving struggles with it as well. My mother’s death, though fully anticipated, left me shell shocked in a way I never expected. I have not been that close to very many people but those I have watched transition, have truly opened my heart.

        • Marlene, thank you for understanding. ❤

  3. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    Wow! This story resonates so well with me. I couldn’t begin to tell you all the memories and images that were conjured up when I read this. We grew up in a small rural NC town, west of Charlotte. Mom and Dad were both born and raised there, and died there. They had lifelong friends that obviously made impressions on me and my 2 brothers, as I recall many little things and interactions with those friends. One of Dad’s friends taught me to play the guitar when I was in the 7th grade. Another taught all three of us boys, at a very young age, how to play checkers! (He was a prison guard and played a lot of checkers!). So many good memories.
    An interesting twist on this theme is seeing the impact that my Dad had on MY friends. There was one big employer in my hometown back then, Carolina Freight. I think half the folks in town worked for Carolina, or it seemed that way to this kid. Working on the loading dock was a hard job, and sometimes could be dangerous. Dad was a supervisor on the docks. When we were in high school, all the boys aspired to work summer jobs, or part-time, on the docks. The wage was triple that of any other opportunity!! Dad refused to allow me or my brothers to work there. I never knew why, other than it could be a physically hard and potentially dangerous place. But, a handful of my classmates did land jobs on the dock, with my Dad as one of their supervisors. Throughout high school, the comments to me from these friends, about my Dad, were so gratifying and a source of pride. Everyone of them said similar things. Essentially, my Dad was the best supervisor on the docks; he was the one “boss” that they could talk to, they could interact with and learn the trade. Every last one of my friends that worked with my Dad respected him and admired him. As a high school kid, I never had the chance to see that side of my Dad. But learning about him and his work habits through my friends made a lasting impression on me as well.
    Thanks for the memories! 😊

    • Chris, thank you so much for sharing these happy and touching memories with us. I really enjoyed reading them. I’m so glad you had the sort of childhood riches that are worth more than silver or gold. Also it’s really cool that your Dad was such an influence for good in so many lives. Everyday heroes such as he might not ever make the news, but these are the people who keep the country going. I really believe that. Thanks for being here.

  4. MaryAnn Clontz

    Beautiful sentiment, Julia! I’m sad for your current loss of a loved one. Seeing how you view life’s happenings brings comfort & wisdom because you have a gifted way to communicate your experiences.

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. I’m glad you like the post. Putting things into words is how I cope with sorrow and despair. Something about stringing sentences together and sorting through my thoughts prevents me from feeling overwhelmed and drowning in emotion. If anyone else can benefit from it, I’m doubly blessed. I am so grateful that you are here!

  5. I’m so sorry for yet another loss. *hugs*

    • Thank you, Jena. ❤

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I’m so very sorry that you have lost yet another friend. “This blending of time and joy and sorrow creates a powerful alloy”. I hope your own words will indeed be a strength for you. My condolences to you, your family, and certainly to Tuffy’s family, as well. 🙏🏻 ♥️

    • Thank you, Sheila. I so appreciate your friendship and understanding! ❤

  7. I’m sorry for the loss of your beloved friend. How amazing to have these adults in your life for so many years.

    • Thank you, Alys. Yes, I am very grateful to have had so many pillars of strength and support, surrounding me for so long. I try to focus on the gratitude through the sorrow, knowing that grief is a natural and inevitable part of being blessed with love from many directions.

  8. Harry Sims

    I think I see where that beautiful smile comes from.

    • Harry, long before I was born, Tuffy gave Daddy the nickname “Smiley” (just as Daddy gave him the nickname “Tuffy”). All through the years, I don’t remember Tuffy ever calling Daddy anything but “Smiley.” Though Daddy pretended to be a tough guy himself, I think “Smiley” was a perfect nickname for him, though nobody but Tuffy ever called him that, as far as I know.

  9. Dear Julia, I am so sorry to hear of yet another loss for you at this time.
    I understand about the handprints on our hearts. At least, I have a similar feeling about many people who have left handprints on my heart.
    All that “handling” (?), I guess it’s a lot of what makes us who we are today, as we pick up this torch and carry it forward to provide light for future generations, generations upon whom we leave our own handprints, no doubt.
    It’s a good reminder for me to be gentle with those hearts.
    I’m praying for you and your family.

    • Thank you, Susan. We really do need the prayers. As tough as the losses are, they remind us of how blessed we have been. Even when the heart is at its lowest point, the synergy of the equation cannot totally escape the mind. In the arithmetic of the heart 50 plus 50 minus 100 does not necessarily equal zero.

      • Sheila

        Julia, I came back to read your post and the comments, again. I love the arithmetic of the heart reply that you shared. You can express more in one sentence than some will never know! ♥️ Thank you, dear friend! 🙏🏻

        • Aw, thank you Sheila. When I write things like that I always wonder if they sound crazy. I’m glad to know someone “gets it!” And I’m glad you “get it” about so, so many things on my heart!!

        • That’s true, Sheila!
          I suppose that different hearts come up with different sums, but in the environment that Julia provides, I know it adds a net positive effect on my heart, and many others!

          • Awww, y’all are SO generous! If only everyone could be as kind as you are…

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