There are no words

2022 update: When I first decided to re-post everything I had written for the past seven years, I dreaded the heartache that would come when I had to re-live the most difficult times. This post marked the first of the great sorrows that changed me forever. Yet watching the video, I also feel blessed beyond measure that my siblings and I had such a wonderful, loving Daddy. I still miss him, each and every day. And often, I will listen for what I think he might have said to me if he was still here to advise, comfort, and amuse me with his wit and wisdom.

Dear blog readers, our wonderful Daddy passed from this life earlier today. Here is a video I made for him on Father’s Day 2014, just a token of the tremendous place he holds in the hearts of his four children. There will be no posts this week.  Thanks for understanding.

Update, Monday 12:15 a.m. — Thanks to all for your kind thoughts, prayers and comforting comments. Please be assured I am reading the comments and will respond to each one as soon as time allows. Your friendship and support mean more than I can say. Please pray for our Mama who is having a very hard time after losing her husband of more than 66 years. She has depended on his loving support for so long.

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. mike c

    Very nice tribute collage. Where was your house in Atlanta?

    • Mike, we lived in East Point, Georgia, right off Camp Creek Parkway…near the point where College Park, East Point and Atlanta all come together, so we were close to all three cities. I worked and went to church in Atlanta.

      • mike c

        And what church did you attend in Atlanta.

        • Mike, my father was an elder at the Greenbriar Church of Christ, which transitioned right along with that part of southwest Altanta, from being (almost) totally White to almost totally Black. By the time my father retired and my parents moved away, the congregation was about 60% Black and as the years passed, it became one of the largest and most thriving Black congregations in the area. They outgrew the still-lovely building (my son and I just happened to be there on their last Sunday in that building some years ago and the building looked almost exactly like the one I grew up in, still like new) and moved to a nearby, much larger location. The day we were there, the need to move was evident. There were chairs in all the aisles and standing room only, with people standing all around the pews — as one member said, “Brethren, we have no choice but to move, this is bound to be a fire code violation.” With the move, they changed their name to fit their new location as the Camp Creek Church of Christ. As a proud former member, I invite you to view their online church service where you can sing along with some good congregational a capella gospel singing, and hear some sweet soul preaching beginning at about 35 minutes in.

  2. Sheila

    Julia, how did I know when I read the topic of todays blog? I knew, like it was yesterday and I also knew when I watched the video that I would cry, like I’ve done so many times when I watch it! It’s so much more than I can explain, but you captured a life of such a fine man and at the same time a glimpse of your life, as well! I will forever be grateful for what you gave to me in your posts and long distance friendship that was never far away!

    • Thank you, Sheila. Today, as seven years ago, there are no words…for so many things, but especially to THANK YOU for your steadfast presence here and in my life. I was always especially grateful for how you seemed to “connect” with Daddy, just as you did with Dr. Vann. Blessings to you and your family! And to all of Club Verandah. ❤

  3. Chris

    Julia, the video is wonderful, and so touching. I can see that it would bring you joy as you reminisce. Such a great tribute to your Dad. I get the feeling that he was truly a remarkable father.

    • Thank you, Chris. Yes, he was remarkable. I have never known anyone before or since who was quite like him — unique in his humor, his perspective and his ability to roll with whatever life threw at him. All four of his children remain ever grateful for his influence even as we miss him to this very day.

  4. tpeastin

    What a wonderful tribute to your father! And what’s even better is that you were able to present this to him while he was still in the land of the living. So often these tributes are done at funerals, so it’s great that you were able to give your daddy his “flowers” while he was still alive. You were truly blessed beyond measure to have such an exceptional father.

    (By the way, the tribute was excellent and done very thoughtfully. I enjoyed it.)

    • Hello Pat, yes, I’m so happy that I gave this to Daddy before he died. I think it meant a lot to him — and he told me something interesting that I had not realized – that final shot of the plane flying into the sunset, is actually the widebody Airbus of the type he flew during his final years and on his last flight when he retired. So it was perfect. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      On a related note — during the Covid shutdown I was able to take some poetry workshop courses online at Oxford (I’m so happy I was able to be there in person again this summer!) — and we had to write a poem each week according to a set assignment. The tutor (Oxford lingo for professor) was one who was quite encouraging, while also requiring us to learn and use traditional forms, meter, scansion, rhyme schemes etc. This was the first assignment for my first course with him, Michaelmas Term (Oxford lingo for “fall semester”), and the assignment was to write about the theme of holidays. As you probably know, in the UK holiday means “vacation” not an assigned day as we use the term here in the US. Here is the poem I wrote, using blank verse. I’m going to try to copy and paste it here, and hope it does not lose too much of the formatting:


      All these are blanks, he said. Just fill in where
      you want to go. Blank passes, leading me
      to worlds that I could choose, my path through clouds
      to islands, cities, homes of distant friends.

      Sometimes the person seated next to me
      would note my eyes fixed on the sunlit sky
      and ask, Is this the first time you have flown?
      Smiling, I would shake my head, and think

      I could not count the times. My father works
      up here.
      I grew up having wings, first his,
      now mine. My world was large enough to be
      exotic, yet familiar, though quite new.
      My life, it seems, was one long holiday.

      And now a half a century away
      I sit hemmed in by age, bereaved, alone
      as global viral threat imprisons all.
      Yet still my mind has wings and I am free

      as from the grave my Daddy says to me
      Just fill in where you want to go. He banks
      the plane to give a better view of what
      lies far below, a distant memory.

      JHD 10-01-20

      • Sheila

        I L O V E T H I S 💙✈️

        • Thank you, Sheila. The tutor really liked it as well. He is a deeply religious man who often used the King James Bible (as an example of poetry) in our classes – not everyone liked that, but I found it quite refreshing. All that to say, he saw a parallel spiritual dimension to the poem, in which he compared certain lines, such as “my father works up here,” to God and our relationship to him. Though I had not intended it that way, I found it interesting.

          • Sheila

            Julia, I remember when you went to Oxford! I can’t recall all the details but know it was a wonderful experience and timely ♥️

            • Sheila, the first time I was a student there myself was 2017, less than a year after Jeff’s death. I took a course there on C. S. Lewis through my PhD program – it was set in Oxford but under the auspices of Regent, where I was in the PhD program (which I had to drop after Jeff died, due to having no help with caring for Matthew at the time. But I’ve never regretted dropping out). More recently, I took online weekly classes directly through Oxford University, for two terms during the Covid shutdown, and this summer (July 22) I was thrilled to be there in person for another class. I love Oxford and the UK in general.

      • Oh my!
        That’s spectacular!

        • Thank you! So kind of you to say so.

      • What a lovely poem! You have talent! They posted on Upper Room that Matt had surgery this week…I pray all went well. Hopefully we can catch up soon! BIG HUGS! Love, pe

  5. Judy

    Your incredibly beautiful tribute to your father touches my heart. Love shines through it all. What a special father you have had.

    • Thank you, Judy. I owe you a L-O-N-G letter and update. Suffice it to say that I think of you often, always with gratitude for your friendship, and hope to see you again before too long…

  6. Such a lovely tribute, Julia! I’ve teared up, watching your video.
    I hadn’t previously realized how much you look like your Daddy.
    I’m praying for you and Matt this morning.

    • Thank you, Susan. Most people thought I looked more like Mama, especially as I got older, but many did see the striking resemblance to Daddy as well. In fact– this might sound a bit odd, but then I’m a bit odd– in March, when I first suffered the facial trauma that destroyed my maxillary arch and front teeth, one thing I felt grief for was realizing that my toothy grin, which was the single trait that most looked like my Daddy, was gone forever. My very skilled and sympathetic prosthodontist is going to do his best to re-create my smile (assuming my bone grafts heal, which so far they have not) but of course, my natural “Daddy” smile is gone. His best friend, and some of his colleagues, always called him “Smiley” (after a cartoon character who was a pilot way back in the past). Thanks for the prayers– Please keep them coming! (Obviously I was not able to go to Germany this month as I had hoped.)

      • Yes, I do pray for you often, Julia, and for your facial healing.
        I’m so sorry you couldn’t go to Germany.

        • I got such sweet “miss you” cards from my friends there. They had so much fun, they have already set a date for May of next year, same lovely central German town, and I’m going to do my very best to be there. Please keep those prayers coming!

  7. Julia, what a wonderful tribute to your dad.
    Considering the video, it seems he had two great loves, his family and flying. And from that, what might he have to tell you? “Julia, the sky’s the limit.”
    -fondly my friend,

    • Alan, you are correct, with one noteworthy addition. Although it may not have been obvious from these tributes, the number one love of Daddy’s life was God and the church, in which he served as an elder for many years. In our faith tradition there were not many outward signs (no fancy clothing, no rituals other than baptism and weekly communion) but believers were expected to live their faith daily, in all situations. Daddy’s love of the holy scriptures meant we all learned them as well, and his singing of beautiful hymns with us sometimes while traveling in the car or at home put those songs in our hearts. His unshakable conviction that kept his faith steadfast in many adversities was an unforgettable example to us. Once while discussing his long aviation career with him, I asked him how he managed to get through so many frightening or difficult situations over the years, and he said “there is no question in my mind that the only reason I survived and did as well as I did, was the hand of God blessing me through all.” Another memory; when my mother had to undergo surgery for a hemorrhaging aneurysm at the base of her brain (which I’ve written about here in a different post, in my tribute to her), I’ll never forget how all her friends and relatives present at the hospital that day joined us in the chapel as my Daddy led us all in prayer, asking for God to bless Mama and her surgeons with a safe outcome. Then we all waited for the hours until the doctor came with the joyful news that all had gone well. As soon as the doctor left, amid our joyful hugs and tears of relief, Daddy waved his arm in the air and pointed back at the chapel– it was time to offer prayers of thanks, which he did. He did the same thing before and after our infant Matthew’s open heart surgery. His example of faith was his greatest legacy.

  8. Julia, Your dad’s first love of God was an assumption on my part. For the rest of your tribute to him can only flow from my first assumption. And that is best exemplified in his gesturing for all to return to the hospital chapel after having those prayers for your mom answered as you all had hoped. For to complete our relationship with God is as it is with others; petition must be followed by gratitude, regardless the outcome. A most important balance in any relationship. But your dad knew that.

    • Yes, Alan, I never forgot that moment. And as Daddy prayed that day, he acknowledged that we could not always expect our very large extended family to be spared the pain of death. I knew that what he said was true, but little did I suspect that my Daddy would be the first of my immediate family to die, and my husband would be the second. But those deaths would not come for another 35 years, and in that I can give thanks. As you say, a balance– “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

  9. Juila,
    From your tribute to your dad, I made the assumption that he was a man of faith and that his first love was God. For the rest that he was to family and flying could only flow from that assumption. When he gestured to all who prayed for your mom’s successful surgery to return to the hospital chapel in your collective joy, he showed that he understood an important aspect of any relationship, especially one with God. That petitions, whether successful or not, must be followed by expressions of gratitude. Yes, he was a man of faith. Whether in the air or on the ground he was well grounded in that faith. For he seems to be one who was Found Always In His Hand.

    • Hi Alan, this is one of those times I was just talking to Judy about in her comment – the “disappearing comment” – in this case, both came through and I like them both, so I’ll include both of them. 😀 Also your remark reminded me of something my brother once told me that pilots sometimes said after a particularly harrowing flight– “…and when we landed, there was a giant handprint on the bottom of the plane.” 😀

  10. Julia, sorry for the two replies. I thought the first one didn’t take. Well you now have a choice on which one you like best, or the best parts of both.
    Your friend always,

    • Hi Alan, as you will see, I kept them both. Hope you don’t mind! Thanks so much for being on this long journey with us for all these years.

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