Tears. Gratitude. And Change.

As you may have seen, I have already unpacked my recent travels in Italy. I started fromme 4 years old ud142_edited-1 the top of my suitcase right after opening it. But there is more. And it’s much harder to unpack. The bottom layer of my ‘virtual suitcase’ is heavy with memories all the way from my childhood. Some now wrinkled, others still vivid.

After having to say the final goodbyes to both my dear dad and husband last summer, I had to go back to Finland mid September to take care of dad’s estate with my sister. That’s where my recent trip started. At my childhood’s lake house in Finland. The quiet, peaceful place in the north that’s had a great influence on who I am today.

I have always felt that the many moods and expressions of and around the small lake reflect my life. Dark skies, bright skies, strong colors, soft colors, fire and passions, peacefulness and sadness. I love them all. And I will remember them all.


lake after sunset Finland Aug16 UD142

sunset 2 on the lake Finland UD142

sunrise fire at lake sulunjarvi finland ud142

sunrise on the lake finland UD142

rain on the lake ud142

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75After losing our mother to cancer in our teen years, we “the sisters”, were blessed to have the world’s best dad with us until this past July. A WWII veteran, despite of failing health in the last couple of years, he was sharp as a knife until the day he passed on. Here pictured at 19 in his military uniform and on his 90th birthday a few years ago. An ironman with the heart of gold. His love is still vividly felt and his wise counsel missed on a daily basis.

While going through all the papers and photos gathered over so many decades we found remarkable things. Among those was an old newspaper article about our dad. He was carrying the Olympic torch as it traveled through Finland to the 1952 Olympic Summer Games in Helsinki. I had heard of it, and knew he had been a great athlete, but never before seen this ‘evidence’. It made me proud…and teary-eyed.

Olympic flame carried by Mikko in summer 1952 UD142_edited-1.jpgIt was hard to put dad’s house on the market, the house he built with his own hands and where we grew up. But since none of us could live there, it had to be done. My sister and I remembered how we used to have a ‘grocery store’ right under the enclosed front porch. Among other neatly packed goods, we ‘sold’ sand in used wheat flour bags…to whomever walked by. Great for pancakes, we used to advertise. So many happy memories.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75In the last picture I took of the house, the wild wines seemed to form a colorful heart on the wall. Symbolic of the love that lived in this house. And that is how I will always remember it.

koivuranta finland home ud142I packed what little I could carry in my suitcases, the most precious memories. When I left for the last time on that overcast Saturday morning, they were filled with melancholy and gratitude.

two suitcases ud142The old Loon I had seen on every visit in the past few years made an appearance far out on the lake, as if saying goodbye.

the loon finland ud142I traveled to London. I would have a Sunday stopover in this familiar city before continuing to Milan for work early on Monday. I would pull myself together.

That evening I took a long walk on the darkened streets and ended up at a small restaurant reflecting on life. Full of twists and turns, but at the end delicious like calamari. If we had the courage and took the time to taste it.

late night snack in London ud142_edited-1Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. I rode double-deckers, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked for miles. The brilliant fall colors in Hyde Park reminded me it was the season of change. But that was hard to accept.

hyde park ud142I wanted to dwell on memories crafted with my husband in this city. I revisited places I remembered from our honeymoon and several subsequent visits. I passed the Trafalgar Square, where were used to walk among the pigeons. Nelson was still there.

Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square London UD142I passed the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where my husband had photographed the beautiful interiors such a long time ago.

Westmister Abbey London ud142_edited-1

st pauls Cathedral 2 London ud142I walked around the Tower of London, where we had fun adventures as newlyweds. The landscape around it had changed remarkably. The famous Gherkin, the Shard and other modern glass towers now filled the skyline.

tower of london and the gherkin ud142_edited-1

tower of london and the Shard ud142The newest tower was still under construction, but already invited prospective buyers to visit model apartments. This reminded me that while the old and familiar was still there, new experiences would be added to the fabric of life.

londons newest glass tower apartments UD142The Big Ben at the Parliament buildings had fallen silent. At some point age tends to catch up. But hopefully, when the extensive repairs have been completed in 2021, its famous chimes will be heard again.

the houses of parliament and big ben london ud142The 3500 years old Egyptian obelisk at the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle, brought back both our honeymoon and our last visit to this city just a few years ago. I could still see myself behind the camera and husband sitting on that sphinx on the right.

cleopatras needle London UD142And passing the London Eye, I realized I had to learn to look into the future, however difficult and meaningless that may feel at the moment.

the London Eye ud142I knew that sooner or later I had to cross that misty bridge to the next phase of my life.

tower bridge 2 london ud142And with that I was on my way to Milan and my Italian experience, grateful for what had been and what was yet to come.

the shard and the plane ud142It was, indeed, the season of change. And I had to accept that.

hyde park in fall colors ud142_edited-1

91 thoughts on “Tears. Gratitude. And Change.”

    1. Thank you, my friend ❤ Yes, I will keep writing. I have now immersed in nature again…and feel that healing is happening when spending time with the trees and birds.

  1. Your words so descriptive I barely needed your gorgeous photos to feel as if I was hovering over your shoulder on your journey. So many goodbyes, memories of decades of shared wonders and yet I feel your sense of hope at the chapters ahead. Sending hugs and strength as those doors begin to open to you and as you carry so many loving memories with you on the path of life.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful, caring and comforting words, Sue. I know that hope is present in my life despite everything, and I am grateful for the wonderful times shared. Nothing can take those away.

  2. Melancholy moments and memories are to be expected when we are forced to say good-bye to the people and places we’ve loved. Losing your dad and your husband so close together can’t help but change you. Keep breathing!

    1. Thanks Nancy. I will keep breathing…my breathing practice literally helped me to survive the first days and weeks. Right now it is a bit easier to breathe as healing is happening.

  3. Beautiful words and photos Helen. I feel both the melancholy and the gratitude. It sounds as though you have much to treasure from your childhood, dad, lake home, and marriage. Thanks for being open and vulnerable. I wish you healing and an interesting future. Hugs, Brad

    1. Thank you, Brad, for your good wishes and hugs. You are right in that I truly have much to treasure, and that is how I want to look at it. Just not always easy as yet, but I feel I’m making some progress.

    1. Oh…if I could be half of what he was, I’d be so happy. But one has to do with what one has. Thank you my dear friend ❤ Will write soon.

  4. Thank you, Helen for sharing these precious photos of your childhood home and your dad.
    May these beautiful moments and memories be your strength. Hugs ❤

  5. I love seeing your childhood home, and hearing of your father’s Olympic experience.What a special man to have as your father. And I suspect he would feel so very proud of the daughters he was blessed to have. Your husband had a tough act to follow as the man in your life, but it sounds like he, too, became a very special presence in your life. You have such a creative and tender heart. And you have generously shared such beautiful things with all of us. I know there will be more beauty ahead in your life, and I’m wishing you to begin feeling this each and every day. Sending love and gentle hugs your way… ❤

    1. I smiled when you mentioned that my husband had a tough act to follow. So true…and he mused on it at times. I am hoping to find the beauty, wherever it’s hiding and in the meantime I am focusing on nature that displays it so generously. The same is true of my remaining family. Thank you for your beautiful comments, Cyndi.

  6. A very touching post, Helen. Your photos and tender narrative tell a story of a person who feels so much gratitude for her life right up until the present day. I’m wishing you many more years of continued joy, buoyed up by all the wonderful memories you have safely stored in your heart. Hugs and love to you dear friend. xx

  7. I can only echo the thoughts of the commenters above, Helen, and similarly pass on my very best wishes as you continue to adapt whilst holding dear to your heart all that you have loved, and will continue evermore so to do. H ❤

  8. You are a warrior, Helen. Your father raised an amazing woman, and I’m confident that the immense love you and your husband shared will continue to envelop you while also giving you the strength to walk this new path. xoxo 💕

    1. I don’t feel like a warrior, maybe a small foot soldier who’s trying to find the way forward and see the new path. But it is getting easier little by little. Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful comment ❤

    1. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment, David. This was a difficult post to write, but I am happy I did it…because that’s where I am at the moment.

  9. What a powerfully moving and beautiful story, Tiny. Your tribute to your Dad and your family home, and the reminiscences of travels with your husband, are all so touching and poignant. Thank you for sharing them. I’ve been away from WordPress for many weeks and have truly missed your posts. It feels very good to reconnect.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kat. Life is, indeed, a journey with twists and turns…we just need to adapt and continue walking, however difficult it may feel at times.

  10. Beautiful heartfelt reflections Helen. Your family, your home, your memories and experiences are foundations of your strength today. May you always travel through life with this deep love and connection within. Much love 💕💚

    1. Thank you for your beautiful reflections here, Karen ❤ I know you are right, and I feel the foundations are pretty solid. Now it's up to me to build further…when I am able to do that.

  11. Ah yes, Helen; change! There is a saying (I’m sure you know of it) ~ “the only constant is change”. How true this is for all of us. Whilst within the change process, as most of us find ourselves more often than not, life’s challenges seem all too heavy. And yet, most of us find our way through… This is what I have gathered from your beautiful reminiscences of childhood, your father’s stable/loving presence, your sister’s fond/playful company; and to have journeyed, as you did, with your husband must have been wonderful. All in all a well spent life to date. ❤

    1. Oh, I know about the constancy of change and even teach it sometimes, but certain types of changes are more challenging than others. That said, I look forward to some easier times. Thank you for coming on this journey back in time with me Carolyn, and for your kind comment ❤

  12. Wow, great pictures as usual. Thank you for sharing your dad and them with us. I know this is a profound loss for you as well as the death of your husband. I pray that the days to come bring you a measure of peace, and that slowly but sure you find moments of joy yet to be lived.
    Sometime it helps me in difficult times to remember the old hymn, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus.” Much love and huge hugs, N 🙂 ❤

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment and encouragement, Natalie ❤ One say at the time it is…and I look forward to more joy-filled days.

  13. It makes me sad because I almost feel what you’re going through by reading your words. But I feel also confident that you will manage well these circumstances and shine again, you’re strong and the memories of them will reinforce the love for them. My blessings to you Tiny.

    1. Thank you for your wonderful encouragement, my friend. I believe you are right … life will smile again one day. I just need to travel there one day at the time.

  14. A beautiful heart felt post Tiny, and the reflections were stunning also, as the reflections reflect your reflections on your lost love ones and the special times you shared with them on your travels together, as well as in the home you grew up in. Thanks for sharing this very personal experience from your breaking heart which is slowly mending as you start to piece together what your new life will look like. Prayers and blessings to you dear friend, you are daily in my prayers and thoughts.

    1. Thank you, my friend, for your prayers and wonderful, encouraging comments. I know that one day joy will be back in my life and I will feel ‘grounded’ again…right now it’s still one day at the time.

  15. Dear Helen,
    Thank you for sharing with us. Although I have not met you in-person, I almost feel as though I’ve known you for some years thanks to your beautiful writing and photography. Just wanted to say you are in my thoughts.

    All best,

  16. Really enjoyed these poignant pictorial glimpses of your life. Maybe I missed it, but am wondering: Did your home by the salt marsh survive the hurricane? Will you be going back there or is moving elsewhere part of “moving on”?

    1. Thank you, Christine for making this journey back in time with me. Yes, my home by the salt marsh survived Irma without any damage. There is some damage in the nature around us and in our gardens, but nature is very resilient and the healing has already started. When I look at the salt marsh from my home, it looks just like before, but when I walk the trails there, I can see some trees are missing…taken by the storm. As to my moving on plans, they now include moving from here possibly sometime in the spring.

  17. What an incredible journey you are on, Tiny; so much uncharted territory, but I think you are a wise navigator and a good path finder. All will be well. Hugs from Downunder. 🙂

    1. It is indeed a journey where I have to find my way as I go, one step at the time. Thank you for your hugs and encouragement, Gallivanta.

  18. Great tribute to such a loving and caring father,wonderful photography with bright and moody colours resembling the temperament of your alternating sentiments.A long and moving journey down memory lane,dear Tiny.Stay well,my friend;send my kindest thoughts your way 🙂 xxx

    1. Thank you for traveling down the memory lane with me, Doda. It is true that my sentiments went on a rollercoaster ride during this journey. But it proved to have some healing effects…it is a bit easier to breathe now. Have a beautiful weekend, my friend. XX

  19. Thanks, dear Tiny for sharing your soul with us! The photos are wonderful…breathtaking really. And I can only imagine how hard this time was for you, yet I can sense that there was a transformation on this journey. My heart is with you and I send you lots of love and light…always! 💜

    1. Thank you dear Lorrie, for your beautiful comment. You are absolutely right in that this journey was transformational in several ways. It is a bit easier to breathe and find joy in life again. Your love and light is felt here on the other side of our beautiful state. Blessings to you, my friend ❤

      1. I feel your love too, Helen 😁 And it brings a giant happy smile to my face! I am so grateful for you to have had the experience. I know that you needed it and I love how brave you are!! Sending lots of love and light…hope you have a wonderful weekend!💜

  20. Thank you for sharing this heart felt journey into the past, Helen. Such wonderful reflections and memories that resonate deeply. Treasure them all…. and keep shooting and reflecting.
    May connecting outwards and inwards ease the journey. Much love to you 💕

    1. Thank you, dear Val, for your kind comment and your encouragement. I am still working on getting fully into the treasuring mode. Sending love to you too ❤

  21. I love all the moods of the lake you captured with your camera. It’s amazing how well nature reflects our moods and helps us through changes. Thank you for showing us the pictures of your childhood home and your father. He, too, had to learn how to live as a widower, and I have a feeling his example has taught you much about how you can live and manage to carry on.

    I remember going through the treasures left in my grandparents’ house with my cousin, before the house had to be sold. So many sweet memories… I still drive slowly by the house whenever I visit Cape Cod, and savor those scenes from childhood. Thinking of you as you start crossing the misty bridge to the next phase of your life. *hugs*

    1. Thank you for your beautiful comments, Barbara. It took our dad quite a long time to learn to live by himself and be happy again, but eventually he did. He also learned to cook for himself 🙂 He loved oven baked dishes and, surprisingly, I find myself doing the same right now. I hope I can drive slowly past the house sometime in the future, remembering all the love we received there.

  22. Precious memories will always remain with you even thought much has change around you. Remember that there are many here and now who love you deeply because of the very special person you are. There are arms always around you, holding you close, keeping from
    being alone in a big and sometimes strange world.
    hugs, Eddie

  23. Helen, this post brings tears to my eyes, so moving, so hard to say the last goodbyes. You have a wonderful sentimental mood in all your images beautifully wrapped in your thoughts. All the best, hugs to you from Norfolk, x

  24. Great memories and beautiful photos. I love very much Your dad the carrying the Olympic torch photo.

    My late father was sport fan and he visited many times Helsinki Olympics game. I still have couple of his entrance tickets.

    I understand Your sorrow very well. My dad died in 1990 and my mom few years ago. We visit every spring and autumn my dad grave putting flowers on his grave although we have to drive about 300 km.

    All the best. Matti

    1. Thank you, Matti. Finding that newspaper article about my father carrying the Olympic torch was a wonderful testimony to his sportmanship, memory of which I will always cherish. My sister and I also visited the grave of our parents and planted flowers when we were in Finland recently. I hope to visit again next summer. All the best to you and your family as well.

  25. I know this was a sad time for you – but that being said – what a wonderful story and the pictures helped make us feel we were right there with you on your journey. Kudos to you on a fabulous story of your life, adventures and all. Very well written and presented. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  26. I understand what closing up the home of a loved one entails. Stay strong because as my mother says, “You will laugh and feel joy one day.” I did not believe her when she said it, but I have laughed again and feel joy over seemingly insignificant daily things. You can too…

  27. Wat moet het zwaar geweest zijn om afscheid te nemen van je vader en man.Je bent zo’n sterkke vrouw .De 2 mannen in je leven zullen je vast op handen gedragen hebben Wens je ondanks alle verdriet nog een heel mooi leven en daar zal de natuur je zeker bij helpen.

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