A never-tiring affection

Renee, Mitzie, Troy and Myra at my birthday celebration, 2018

“One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. Very brief is the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided. Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instill faith in times of despair.”
Bertrand Russell

Those who have been reading this blog for at least a couple of years may recognize that quote, which I’ve used once before. It has been my practice never to use the same quote twice, but today I broke that rule because the quote is so perfect for what I wanted to describe.

You probably also will recognize the three women with me in the photo above. (The lone man is Myra’s son Troy, one of the most cheerful people you will ever meet.) For the third year in a row, Renee, Mitzie and Myra made sure I was not alone for my birthday, which was also Jeff’s birthday.

As always, they showered me with lovely gifts and even lovelier sentiments in the cards they brought me. This year, there was also a special treat in the form of the little birthday “fireworks display” that was brought to our table at the Asian restaurant where we had dinner. I had never seen such a thing before.

It appeared to be a closed lotus flower atop a piece of cake, but when the server lit it, it became sort of a volcano with a flame that shot upward. Then the lotus petals slowly opened outward, each bearing a tiny lit candle, with an embedded music box playing the Happy Birthday song. I wish I’d had my camera to take a video of the whole thing, but Myra caught a photo of how it looked at the end. It was so much fun!

There are many traits we value in our friends: humor, understanding, loyalty and a spirit of fun are among them. But as I grow older, the trait that seems most important of all is the willingness to maintain a steadfast presence in our lives. It’s not always easy to commit time to friends, particularly through years of trials and sorrows. But these women have stayed with me every step of the way.

Through darkest grief, across significant geographical distance, and despite their own full time careers, family demands and dedication to church and community service, my special sisters have gone the distance with me, both literally and figuratively, for many years now. The quote from Russell that appears above could have been written about them. They have given me all the gifts he describes, with the crowning one being “the pure joy of a never-tiring affection.”

My wish for each of us is that we learn to give, and receive, this precious gift.

That’s us on my birthday at the Puakea home in 2017.
Don’t you love their funny Christmas sign?


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Per Russell’s quote, “ours” would be a noble cause! I can see how clearly your friends have embodied sunshine on your path! How wonderful!
    And how has your birthday escaped me again? I see a Christmas tree in one photo, and 2018 on the caption on another …. Since Thanksgiving fell on the earliest possible day this year, your birthday had to have been within the last few days ….
    As was mine; which makes me think I’d have remembered it!
    Well – Happy Birthday, Julia! Perhaps a little Belated, but I’m wishing you a marvelous year, all the same!

    • Susan, I don’t think I’ve ever thought to ask you when your birthday is, and I do think I would have remembered…maybe it’s the very same day? If so, we will have to plan a joint celebration sometime. A belated Happy Birthday to you as well!! And a marvelous year, hopefully with at least one trip to the DC area (or maybe Yorktown before your Williamsburg pass expires?)…just saying… 😀

  2. Chris

    Julia, happy belated birthday. You’re a lucky lady to have those friends, with an untiring affection. The quote is great, and so apropos! So, yours and Jeff’s birthday is the same? How neat! And what is the special day? Have a great week!

    • Chris, yes, Jeff and I had the very same birthday (though I was two years older than him), and his sister and cousin shared that day with us, as did two others at our church. So it must be an extremely popular day to have a birthday. I was always relieved to share the day with Jeff, especially when I was younger (20’s and 30’s), as I was uncomfortable with being the center of attention and felt like a caged zoo animal with everyone looking at me over a birthday cake. Hope you have a great week too!!

  3. Susan Valentine

    I’ve never seen that lotus cake accessory either, but it looks amazing — and what a lovely tribute to your beloved friends.

    • Susan, I’m planning to call around and find out if any Asian restaurants in this area have that treat. Or maybe my friend in Hong Kong could tell me where to order one to use at home, though I’d be afraid of starting a fire with it! 😀

  4. Bobby

    There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and we know who those friends are. It always makes me smile to see their happy faces. Glad you had such a wonderful birthday gift and for sharing it with the rest of us. Happy belated Birthday.

    • Hi Bobby, wish you could have been there with us, just like old times. Yes, when I saw the photo I just grinned from ear to ear, looking at all their beautiful faces. We are blessed to have such fabulous friends, are we not? Thanks for being here and sharing from a distance.

  5. raynard

    Julia, I didn’t ask and didn’t know. Was that liked to Do or not Do, Try or not try? I digress. Mary started training in her new job today. Waiting on a new addition to the family this week. Then it’s Cannonball Runtime. Weather was hot today I seen a fly in December. On Thanksgiving, I baked a Red Velvet Cake with vanilla icing instead of cream cheese. It was sooooo mmmm good ……Just to let you know…..

    • WOW Raynard, hot weather is beginning to sound good after one snow already and some really cold days. It was warmer today but I’ve heard that won’t last. A fly in December? That would be a first for me. My home has been swarmed with ladybugs this summer and a few of them are still lingering here and there. Hey send me some of that cream cheese icing you didn’t use on the red velvet cake. Cream cheese icing is the best part of a carrot cake IMO and to me it’s better than any other flavor except some form of chocolate. Let me know when the Cannonball Run heads this way. Tell Mary I’m thinking of her in her new job and hoping she really loves it.

  6. Renee West

    Friends are timeless. I love the verse that says to have a friend you must be a friend–well said and we are all girlfriends to one another. I am blessed by your loving and caring friendship Julia. We had a blast at your birthday celebration!

    • Thank you Renee, y’all are TOO good to me but I loved every minute. I’m enjoying the gifts already and I’m happy to say that Myra’s cookies lasted through FIVE sittings, although I ate the last one today, hee-hee. Maybe y’all can come up here for the Smithsonian trip for MLK Day or President’s Day. Thanks for everything, especially for being HERE and being YOU!!!

  7. Lani

    Happy, Happy Birthday, Julia. I am so happy that you have such good, forever friends. Well done!!

    • Thank you, Lani! I’m so happy you shared the day with us here.

  8. Sheila

    HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY‼️ Can we extend your special day just a bit so I can wish you many smiles, good health and renewed happiness in the upcoming year? I loved this post and the photos of you with very special friends! You’re a blessing to them and they love you dearly, I’m sure. ♥️

    • Thank you Sheila. Yes, we can extend the birthday as long as you want. It’s nice not to get all the wishes at one time, I think. I’m glad you liked the post. I always feel solipsistic when I write posts, and especially so when they are centered on events in my life. But those who are still with me here at this point feel like friends anyway, so I am not so averse to being personal. Thanks for your kind words, and for being here!

  9. Great and loyal friends…no price can ever be worthy. I saved the picture of your most unique b-day dessert. A belated Happy Birthday my friend!

    • Thank you, Alan. If I ever find out where one can buy those little devices, I’m planning to order one and I’ll get one for you too. Although in my case, there’s this little voice in my head saying “Don’t try this at home…or at least keep a fire extinguisher handy!” 😀

  10. LB

    Julia, I am so happy that you have such dear friends to share your day, and Jeff’s day. What a lovely post!!

    • Thank you, LB! It’s nice to see you here. Hope you are doing well. I think of you often and fondly!

  11. Mike

    “The silent order of omnipotent death.” This wonderful quote also reminds me of the St. Francis prayer- ” To bring joy where there is despair.” Grant that we may not so much seek to be comforted as to comfort.”
    Did you ever vist the monastery of the Holy Light in Conyers, Ga. . Run by the Trappists they make wonderful biscogtti and other baked goods from their in house bakery, Suppposed to also have wonderful retretes there. that anyone can attend.

    • Mike, when I was in elementary school, the monastery at Conyers was on the field trip list and was a place that all students went, usually in 4th grade, I think. For some reason I didn’t ever get to make that trip. Maybe I was home sick the day my class went, or maybe that was during the time my teacher’s husband was killed in a motorcycle accident and we had a substitute for an extended time. In any case, I do remember them talking about the bread baking there. I also remember being amazed to hear that they were a silent order; no one spoke at all except maybe the people who gave the tours to the students. Coming from a family full of talkers, it was hard for me to imagine living a life of silence. I don’t know if they still do that (or maybe they never did and I was misinformed) but in today’s world that would be even more rare.

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