A meaningful and heartbreaking story from a loyal reader…Tomorrow, Tom’s birthday, a special but scary story with photos…

All of today’s photos were taken yesterday on a drive to the countryside surrounding Penguin, Tasmania.

After a lazy start of the day, finally I opened my laptop to begin today’s post. Each morning, before starting I check my email for comments that we may have received overnight. 

At times, there are many email messages from readers and some comments posted on the site. Rarely is there a day when we don’t hear from our readers. With the commitment to respond to all email messages and comments within a day, on most occasions we respond within 12 hours

Poppies, Permethrin flowers and the hills.

This morning, there was only one message and it read as follows with this word in the subject line:


Dear Jess,  I came to your talks on Radiance (of the Seas)and now follow with great interest your blog. I wish both you and Tom continuing health and happiness. You are both so inspirational. Happy holidays!”

Immediately, I wrote back thanking the thoughtful sender for writing to us. Each message we receive, short or detailed, is truly a gift.  As Christmas approaches we’re reminded that we have no need for decorations, a tree, presents to unwrap, cards to open, cookies to bake and yet… the gifts keep coming and coming.

What are those gifts? Simply put, the gifts of words, written by readers, family and friends when they share their love, their experiences and their heartfelt expressions over the holiday season and throughout the year. 

Beautiful farm land with hay rolls (bales) at a distance.

Sometimes, we receive a comment or message that touches us in immeasurable ways; with compassion, empathy and appreciation for a reader opening their heart to reveal their innermost struggles and losses. 

Today, I share this story that came to us via a comment at the end of a post of a few days ago. Had the reader chosen to be anonymous, he could easily have done so. Instead, he used his name and location both of which we’re excluding today with the utmost of appreciation for his privacy. 

We share his story with respect and sympathy over his tragic loss.  Had it not been the holiday season, which inspired our story of a few days ago of the sorrow and loss many suffer over the holidays, our dear reader may not have been inspired to write. 

Bordering trees.

Perhaps in doing so, it may have provided him with a moment of relief from the grief which some of us may feel when we put thoughts into the written word. “They” (whomever “they” are) often say expressing ourselves in writing may provide clarity. 

His message had a powerful and lingering effect, one we’ll carry with us long after the holiday season comes to a close. As sad as his experience, he so kindly wrote to us to share his life changing experience. 

For us, in a way, his message became a gift, one we’ll always treasure. Not all gifts in life bring a smile to our faces. Some are a message from which we learn and grow. Isn’t that the message of Christmas, after all? And, long after a “happy” gift has worn out and withered away, the gift of learning and growing lingers with us for the remainder of our lives.

Thank you, dear reader, for sharing this sorrowful, yet powerful story, for being a part of our lives in your own special way as you work  through the grief and healing you’ll experience for many years to come.

A creek running through farmland.

Here’s his story as written to us in a comment a few days ago:

“Hi Jessica and Tom. I have written you a couple of times during your travels and my wife and I have followed you since you left Minnesota, where we lived nearby.  I love your adventure and we were using you as inspiration to perhaps do something similar. I had to write today because your words of grief are so true and enlightened. I lost my wonderful companion and wife in July this year. Without going into details she hid her depression from everyone and developed psychosis late in life, very unusual (age 66). She took her own life. And it has been very daunting. But myself and our daughters are forging ahead and I treasure your wise words about filling our hearts with the blessings we’ve been gifted (I feel very fortunate for the 33 amazing and wonderful years my  wife and I had together) and this Christmas time we will tell joyful stories about her. So just wanted to say I find your words many times inspiring and wise, always interesting, and look forward to reading every post. Thank You. You and Tom have a wonderful Christmas.”

We wrote the following response to his comment:

“Dear Reader, we hesitated in responding to your comment on our site as quickly as usual. We were at a loss for words, our hearts aching so, for the loss of your beloved wife. Its kind and generous of you to share the story of your devastating loss of your love and companion of 33 years.

No words we or anyone can express can lighten the load of the sorrow you must carry with you each and every day. The typical, “I’m sorry for your loss” is meaningless and shallow, an easy attempt to deflect the responsibility of saying something more revealing and heartfelt when we try to imagine the depth of your loss. None of us who haven’t experienced such a loss can even comprehend.

We are grateful to hear your daughters have rallied at your side while together you try to make some sense of it all. We commend you and admire you for your determination and hope for the future.  (Continued below).

A peek between the trees to the sea.

Reading your comment has had a profound effect on both Tom and I, especially in light of our discussion of loss in the prior post. We are honored and grateful to know you have found even a morsel of distraction in reading our posts and thank you with all of our hearts for reaching out to us.

If you don’t mind, we’d like to make mention of your comment on tomorrow’s post. We will do so anonymously, using no names, no city or any specific identifying references. We all have a lot to learn from you which is all the more vital during the holiday season and year end, as we all reflect upon our own lives.

May healing and comfort find their way into your hearts as you work your way through the painful grieving process.

Much love and blessings always,
Jess & Tom”

One of Mother Nature’s bountiful gifts.

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2015:

One year ago in Fiji, we noticed there were no poinsettias or Christmas cactus plants in the stores, only colorful flowers blooming year round.  For more in Fiji, please click here.

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