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.

We lost a friend…

Sue, Pippy & Chip

Writing and dreaming of our upcoming world wide travels seems trivial and self serving at the moment.  Today is a day to write about our friend Chip who embarked on his own journey last night at 8:45 PM.

With his devoted wife Sue at his side day after day, he struggled to maintain a grasp on this precious life he so treasured, one filled with love, family, friends, creative endeavors and a purposeful lifelong career as an orthopedic surgeon. We surely will miss him.  

Rather than turn this tribute into a mournful array of the overused words, we often hear at the passing of a special person, it feels right to tell the story of the life altering influence this man and his lovely wife have had in our lives for the past 26 years.  

They happened to be neighbors, four doors away, on the peninsula.  Yes, I will admit that we became friends due to the close proximity. But, we stayed friends due to the love, the laughter, the lively banter, the shared view of the world, the common sorrows we freely discussed, the fine glass of red wine and the plate of enticing foods, lovingly prepared with each other in mind. Oh, yes, we surely will miss him.

Chip loved people.  Chip loved dogs.  Many years ago, we had the privilege of sharing our lives with a quirky little Australian Terrier, Bart, who lived a short five years of life, run over my our mailman in front of our home.  

During those five happy years, Chip & Sue shared their home with their adorable Australian Shepherd, Pippy.  Bart and Pippy were best friends, as if they knew were both Australian, occasionally hanging out with their friend Peabody, a delightful dog of uncertain descent who lived further down the road. 

Living on a private road with little regard for any leash laws, the three of them roamed freely on the point frequently stopping by neighbor’s homes for a treat which invariable resulting in many chuckles.  They were cartoon characters. 

At times, we walked into Chip and Sue’s home to find our Bart sleeping on their sofa cuddled up next to Pippy. When Bart died in 1996, Chip cried with us, reminiscing with tear filled eyes, and again many times over the years.  

We’d visit the spot in our yard where we lay him to rest, telling funny stories: One warm summer day, when independent Bart was but a year old, we saw a canoe pass by as we lounged in our lawn chairs near the water, on a perfect sunny day.

We didn’t recognize the people in the canoe but, we realized that the dog inside the canoe standing on his hind legs looking over the edge at us was our Bart!  It was if he was saying, “Hey, Mom & Dad, look at me!” He was in a canoe with Sherry, Chip and Sue’s adult daughter, whom we barely knew at the time.  We howled then and many more times over the years.

Chip, a talented sculptor, created one of his first projects of a man sitting with two dogs at his side, Bart and Pippy.  And then, we cried some more.  Yes, we surely will miss him.  

When Pippy’s life was to end, Tom drove Pippy and Chip to the vet while Tom took Pippy inside for his final journey.  Chip stayed outside.  It was too painful to let go.  We all cried some more.

And there was the laughter and the happy hour boat rides with the bouncing appetizers and cocktails, the fun dinner parties back and forth, summer after summer, year after year. Then there were the birthdays that Tom, Chip and Doug (the neighbor and friend in between our houses), all shared on December 23 that we often spent together.  

Sue and I often struggled to decide on what special event to plan for the birthdays, so painfully close to an already packed Christmas season.  One year, I made a cake with one half chocolate, one half white, decorated with each of their names and own decor on their own side.  We laughed, had more cocktails and ate cake.

Chip and Sue were the epitome of a happily retired couple.  In later years, living half the year in Florida and the other half here at the point we stayed in touch counting the days until they returned in late spring to a fun filled summer on the peninsula.

Several years ago, Tom and I came to realize that we wanted to be just like them when we retire, our role models; in love, doing that which we love to do and most of all, spending valuable time together.  Their relationship represented a life of retirement that we all aspire to; having traveled, spending time together and with those they loved and, never failing to admire and respect one another.

Grief, an unwelcome visitor, appears at our door. We let it in, knowing that it brings not only sorrow and sadness, but a wealth of happy memories to soften the blow and to see us through to the other side, which ultimately is gratitude.

Gratitude, for feeling so deeply for him. Gratitude, for the experience of knowing him.  Gratitude for the lessons we’ve learned from him.  Gratitude, for the example he set, the love he freely gave and the legacy he leaves behind.  Yes, we will surely miss him. 

Goodbye, dear Chip. Whenever we go, however long we are gone, you will be in our hearts.