Out of suffering

Jeff at Dachau, Germany, August 2005

Jeff at Dachau, Germany, August 2005

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”Kahlil Gibran

This photo is rather odd, but it seems fitting as a symbol for where Jeff is now, on his 55th birthday. He’s in a place of past nightmares and trauma, somehow surviving (thus far) life-threatening complications and tremendous pain, holding on in a position where his strength is likely to fade quickly.  His stamina and endurance are unbelievable, but insofar as any human has limits, we have to fear that he is surely approaching his.  We continue to need and appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers.

About the photo: when we visited Dachau with our friends in August 2005, we drove around searching for the parking and main entrance.  It was quite obvious from the walls and barbed wire that we were at the camp, but we weren’t sure where to start touring.  Steve and Aaron got out to inquire, going through a gate that looked too small to be an entrance, and when they did not return after a few minutes, Amy and I convinced Jeff to see if he could find them.

We didn’t mean “look over the wall” but that’s what Jeff did.  Instead of going through the same gate Aaron and Steve had entered, he walked over to the wall and somehow jumped to a position where he could pull himself up to look over.  Amy and I were in the car cracking up. I don’t remember how long Jeff was up there, but naturally I went for my camera and got a shot of him scanning the grounds of Dachau, looking for Steve and Aaron.  Our visit to Dachau was sobering and unforgettable, but this photo survives as the only note of levity of a day spent in a heartrendingly tragic setting; a flash of laughter in a day devoted to the remembrance of seemingly endless tears.

I am comforted today by this reminder of strength and humor in a desolate landscape. Like those who survived Dachau, Jeff will bear forever on his body the marks of what he has endured.  May he live many years to reflect on blessings and joy that lie on the other side of his pain.

One year ago today:

Two things stand

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Sheila

    Happy Birthday Julia. I hope you will enjoy this day, it’s about you♥️ I’m so happy we met, have shared so many laughs, even tears and Verandah memories that will carry us through with smiles! I love you dearly💖✝️😘

  2. mike c.

    Yes and Rollheiser say’s the best wines are aged in the “cracked” oak barrels. Apparently somehow the cracks let the wine breathe a little. Somehow. Somewhere.
    Little chilly here in Woodstock at 28 degrees.

    • Mike, in Georgia, that’s FREEZIN’ weather! It’s not even that cold here in the Old Dominion. Not yet, anyway.

  3. mike c.

    It is 30 this morning. Warmin up. Supposed to go Xmas shopping.

    • I realize it’s all relative, but I simply can’t think of 30 as “warming up.” 😀

  4. mike c.

    Can’t we all just slow down a little during this Xmas rush? After all we are in the middle of a Pandemic. Let’s just chill or is it =”This is the one thing we don’t have to skimp on now: Christmas. Let’s go all out and not let this pandemic stop us? Which one is it?

    • I suppose the answer must vary from person to person. If my husband and sons were still with me, I would be opting for the latter. But now, absent any family except for Matt, I feel quite content with the former. My Christmas celebration, once an elaborate 6 weeks or so with enormous tree, decorations, numerous dinner parties at our home and more wrapped presents than could be counted, is now down mostly to indulging in leisurely holiday postal correspondence and lots of hot tea, plus quiet time with Matt. I won’t say that I’ll never set up a tree again (never say never) but for the present time, at least, that era of my life has passed. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

  5. mike c

    Old Dominion is D.C? Did you watch, “Hilbilly Elegy? ” I don’t do well in the cold. Maybe because i am old?

    • Mike! I’m amazed that you didn’t know that VIRGINIA is the Old Dominion! We were, after all, the site of the first landing and the first colony! Have you seen the series Jamestown (the exteriors of which were filmed near my York home)? I haven’t seen Hillbilly Elegy but that’s the one Netflix show I might be interested in seeing. I read the book and really liked it. Of course, I’ve read that the leftist critics are predictably against it– wrong demographic group to have any sort of sympathy for, in some people’s eyes. To which I say…bovine organic fertilizer! Seriously, I highly recommend you read the book, whether or not you watch the series.

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