So great a sweetness

A detail from a whimsical canvas in the cardiology waiting room at Children's National Medical Center, March 2014

Detail from a whimsical canvas in the cardiology waiting room,
Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, March 2014

When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blessed.William Butler Yeats

Recently when I took Matt for his diagnostic testing and pre-surgical planning at the Children’s National Medical Center in DC, I knew it was going to be a long, hard day.  His cardiac situation is so complex by now that I have learned there is no such thing as a quick, routine appointment, and this one wasn’t even meant to be routine.  We were discussing his upcoming fifth open heart surgery.  (Though Matt is 28 years old now, his complex heart condition requires that he see cardiologists who specialize in congenital defects, and these doctors are almost always located at children’s medical centers.)

That morning before leaving home, I decided to make the day better by consciously trying to look for reasons to be happy and thankful.  Almost as an afterthought, I took along my camera, knowing photography makes it easier and more fun to look for the “perfect pictures” Ellis wrote about so eloquently.  As it turned out, I was very happy to have my camera along with us, because I saw many images I wanted to capture.

I’ve lost count of how many times Matt and I have sat in the cardiology waiting room there, but I honestly had no memory of any of the art I photographed there that day, including the lovely canvas from which the detail printed above was taken.  Throughout the various areas of the hospital we walked through that day, there was abundant colorful art, much of it created by young people. What a difference it made to the climate of the huge, potentially intimidating hospital!

But it wasn’t just the art that made the day so much more pleasant than it might have been.  The cheerful and caring staff there were a joy to be with.  More than once I caught myself giving one or another of them a hug, almost without thinking about it.  They didn’t seem to mind.  All of them asked about Jeff, joked with Matt, and generally kept the atmosphere upbeat.

I took the time to really take in the views from the huge glass windows; the rainy urban landscapes, the water, and the hazy U. S. Capitol in the distance.  I photographed these views, along with the large hospital atrium and decorated hallways and a colorful aquarium with different kinds of fish.  I even took a few shots of the doctors clustered around the Medtronic machine, discussing Matt’s always-interesting (to them) pacemaker data.  They didn’t seem to mind, or even notice.

Matt, of course, was sunny as usual, laughing and smiling and generally enjoying himself among the medical professionals he has come to trust as friends.  Anytime I’m in the mood to make things festive, Matt’s in, no question.  That makes the challenges so much easier than if he was a brooding, gloomy type.  Many of the children I saw at the hospital were equally happy, though all probably were dealing with health issues, some more obviously serious than others.

None of this changed the fact that it was a long, exhausting day, and in the rush hour DC traffic, it took us 90 minutes to drive a relatively short distance home.  The rain made it even more tedious than it normally is.  But aside from being very tired, we were in good spirits, all things considered.

There is so much beauty and joy around us in most circumstances, even those that are trying and worrisome.  My camera lens is not rose-colored, but it does help me focus on the best aspects of any situation.  You may find the same inspiration from music, poetry, nature, or just a friendly chat with a friend.

Today, I wish you the sweetness of laughter and singing and blessings everywhere you look!

One year ago today:

A thousand small ways

Dear readers, one of you sent me a lovely (but unsigned) thank-you note via the Jacquie Lawson website, from which I posted an Easter card for you. Whoever it was, thank you! And if you didn’t realize I would not know unless you signed the note, feel free to email me at to let me know who you are so I can thank you personally.

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. Susan

    Julia, what an amazing post, even when you were in the midst of such deep challenges.

    • Thank you, Susan. Finding things to post about (back in the era when I was doing it daily) gave me motivation to search for all the hidden nuggets of blessings that it’s so easy to miss.

  2. Lydia

    I needed this so much today, Julia. I just got a phone call from a very dear person who is going through quite a difficult time. Tears were flowing. I couldn’t say anything to change that situation, so I just said, “Enjoy your walk with the dogs, give everything to the Lord.” I’ve praying and listening to praise songs. Well, I just a call letting me know that the Lord is working through the pain and there is peace that only God can give. May the Lord continue using you to bring joy, hope and a smile in the midst of pain and sorrow.

    • Hi Lydia, and thanks for this beautiful comment. I’m so sorry that recent life circumstances (some fairly unexpected) have kept me away from the comments for so long; I wish I had replied to this comment sooner. It’s a funny thing about these posts; often when I go back to read my own words, I’ve completely forgotten I wrote them, and just as when I first composed these messages, I’m the one who seems most to need them. So when someone else finds them helpful, that’s a joy and solace to me as well. Thank you not only for being here, but for taking the time to share a bit of inspiration with me. Let’s continue our walk in faith and trust as we give everything to God. I hope that your friend is doing better, and that you have a week of blessings underway.

  3. Good morning, Julia! What a nifty painting! I appreciate those pieces that can draw you in for a good while as you explore and discover different features of the painting. A waiting room is the perfect place for one like this to be hanging.
    Another marvelous waiting room art feature I’ve seen is the kinetic mobile (like this ) Have you seen those? I can watch one for a good, long time.

    • Yes, I have. They always strike me as a variation of the old crib mobiles we used to display for our newborns.

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