When Words Fail

Julianna was the most stoic person I’ve known. When she cried, you knew that something really hurt, and you wanted to fix it immediately.

The tears, you see, came from a little girl who had endured a lifetime full of tear-worthy events but shed very few. She simply did not have the time, not when there were stories to tell and fashion advice to dispense and people to love.


“Let me tell you something…” I am so grateful that she was able to see her words in print.


One thing that upset her greatly was when she was not understood.

As her CMT got stronger, her physical voice got weaker. Her voice got softer, and it had to fight against the noise of the BiPAP – which kept getting louder because her chest muscles needed more and more help moving air.


A little microphone made all the difference. Along with the pink koala and happy manicure.



Through all this, her need to be understood never changed. She wanted us to understand her stories, agree with her opinions, and appreciate the nuances of language. She cherished words and insisted on proper enunciation (in one of her stories, there was an Ella, an Ellie and an EEliza. Different people, different names – and they had to be pronounced correctly.)

We did our best to understand her words and intent. When we failed, tears would spring from her beautiful eyes and she would shake her head in frustration.  This is how important it was for her to be understood.



Sometimes she dictated, and we were just the scribe.


I share Julianna’s love for words, and I communicate best through written word. I can’t paint, sing, dance or emote. But I can put my feelings into words, and I need to put them into words – just like Julianna.

And now, words fail me.

I don’t know how many more ways I can say I miss her, or that it hurts, and that nothing feels the same.

I’ve used all the words I know, and they’ve expressed just a tiny portion of what I feel — and only the smallest, most palatable bit.

These days, I have no words – so I knit.





I have a lot of pink yarn


I learned via YouTube and I make a lot of mistakes – but life is far from perfect, and my knitting can match.

I knit with bright colors and soft yarn. I want her to approve of everything I make.



She would like this. 




This yarn is called “Unicorn Sprinkles.”


I knit to fill the quietness that is our “new normal.”

I knit so that I don’t have to think, and I knit to help me think.

I knit because life didn’t stop when my world did, and I resent that sometimes. Knitting slows it down.

I knit because I’m starting to forget things she said and how she was. I’m getting used to this life without feeding tubes and syringes – and I don’t like it. I don’t like the fact that I seem to be tolerating it so well.

If I knit until my hands are on fire, I feel something – and sometimes that’s better than nothing, even if it hurts.


I have a lot to work out, apparently.


I knit because I miss her so much, but I seem to have used all my tears (they went away with my words, I think) and I can’t just go back to the person I was before she was here. Something has to be different — because she changed me fundamentally.

So in this new life, I knit.

(But I still need my words. I miss those too.)

22 thoughts on “When Words Fail

  1. Thank you for continuing to write. We still have our picture of Julianna that came in the envelope and continue to remember her whenever we pass by its place. God bless and I’m sure J would have loved the Unicorn Sprinkles yarn 🙂


  2. mmm, thank you for sharing. i’m also at a lost for words. don’t know what to do or say to help however my thoughts and prayers are with Julianna, you, Steve & Alex. may God continue to bless you all, valentino

    Sent from my iPhone 6 Plus



  3. I am wearing her shirt today with pride, reverence and many smiles. Love IS a Superpower- it’s been some time that I have followed your writings, and a peek into your families life. Cross-stitching was my helper for years, your knitting is beautiful. I am sure there are many wonderful memories knitted into your creations and I hope a lot of Joy that is in store for your family. I live nearby and her presence is great ❤


  4. Knitting is therapeutic.

    Look for bamboo needles.. I find them most pleasing. I have a feeling J would aporove.

    Such aptly named yarn!

    I also wore my blue shirt twice recently.. I feel superpowerful in it.



  5. We L💟VE wearing Julianna’s shirts! You do what you can do brave momma, I pray for your dear hearts always. Hugs for Alex 💜


  6. Julianna would love your knitting…..such beautiful works….love the name of the yarn….we all needed to hear from you….I have no words but sending hugs to everyone who loved J


  7. You have a real gift for knitting, Michelle! Your dear Julianna would be so pleased and proud of you! In our church there’s a knitting ministry that knits blankets to give away to special people, and the women say a prayer for the future recipient with every stitch. The blankets are invariably beautiful.
    Much love to you, Steve, and Alex.


  8. Thank you for continuing to share in your journey of love and loss. Julianna loved deeply,as do you. Knitting is good for the soul. You are in my prayers.


  9. There just aren’t enough words,tears or yarn. There will likely never be enough because you have a Julianna sized hole in your heart. Words, tears and yarn can’t fill it. God is the only One that can.

    Prayers for you.


  10. you still have words…. and I enjoy them 🙂 I still think of J a lot, every time I see a unicorn, which is quite often… so weird.. I never noticed unicorns until being a part of J’s world, and now, I see them a lot !!! When I see pink flowers, pink anything really, I think of J and smile. Her words and strength made me a better person thats for sure !!!! And your words, your hurt, reminds me to take stuff for granted, reminds me to keep close to my kids, my 17 year old son struggles from a bone disease, I understand hurt, but not the hurt you carry, I carry some of your hurt for you. hope you guys have an awesome and Happy Halloween !!!!


  11. by the way… J is definitely proud of her mama’s knitting !!!! That is an awesome hobby, I have tried it before with no success 😦 you are very talented …. J got her talent from you 😉


  12. I think your ability to express yourself is a true gift — you have enough words to bring tears to my eyes. And I know the feeling of needing to keep busy — both to calm your thoughts and to clarify them. After my husband died, I spent many months (years?) furiously working on projects around the house. Fixing this, painting that, building this, etc. After 6 years, I have finally found that I can rest. That my quiet thoughts are not tormented any more and I can enjoy a less frenzied pace. I still like to keep busy, but I don’t have that driving compulsion to do so that I once had. I pray that you will come to that place too. May God bless you in your grief.


  13. Awww Michelle, your words do say a lot….very much. There is no wrong place to be in your journey of “healing” or rather i should say your journey of somewhat coming to terms with everything that has happened, and this blog entry tells us where you are…and that is by no means wrong.
    Honestly, some of your words made me a bit sad. Like when you wrote that you knit even when your hands feel like they are on fire- you knit just to feel. I think the paragraph above it is very very related to it. It happens, dear friend. It is the human condition. Unless one has a photographic memory, the memories thin quite a bit. I called it “synaptic suicide” when i wrote about that in one of your earlier blog entries. The whole process must be biological, to help us adapt to change. Without J physically there to stimulate the specific synapses, well, you know. (Ok i should feel dumb giving YOU a lecture on how the brain works 🙂 and i do )
    You never wrote extensively about any past loss that you have experienced, Michelle, i’m sure there had to have been some losses though. That “somewhat coming to terms with the loss” is how i try to describe it. Obviously one is not happy about a profound loss, there are some bitter days, i know, dear. You have to accept what happened, which takes time, then you have to somewhat come to terms with the loss, which takes even more time. It happens, Michelle. Some do not want to feel better…they think it is sort of betraying the lost one. There is no wrong place to be in you figuring it all out, Michelle, and for what it’s worth, i can promise that things hurt less in time. Pretty much, they hurt less after enough time, “healing” and you allow yourself to feel a little better. Some take antidepressants and the like… personally i never did, like the VA hosp wants me to but i always say no.
    Words never totally fail, dear, you do not have to write 5 pages every blog entry. The ability to write long blog entries may fade at times, but you always have words. You could write one sentence, and that would say a lot. There is no wrong place to be Michelle, and there are no right or wrong words to say. In extreme cases sometimes one will not be able to even write one sentence and shut themselves out from the world… but if you can write at least one sentence, it’s okay Michelle, that is not a failure, it is where you are at the moment.
    Oah, and Michelle, you are my favorite writer of all time. People who know your work since you started this blog know that you are an amazing person, and that clearly shows in your writing. I absolutely “listen” when you write, Michelle, i listen with all my heart. Others do, too, obviously. I am sure lots read your words and do not reply…but they still read your words and are moved by them. So hey, you, as long as you can write at least one sentence, lets try to talk a little less about words “failing” you…because you are by NO means a failure, okay? 🙂 Just a humble suggestion on how to think. Yeah, i know, everyone is so great at telling OTHERS how to think and feel… 🙂
    Oah and i see you wrote again in Nov, which is awesome. So keep writing, you…and i am absolutely going to keep listening. Lots of others are, too. Hugs to you and your family.


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