I held the bowl in my hands. It was solid. Weighted, grounded. Whole. Beautiful, almost flawless. It had its purpose and I’m sure it served it well.
The bowl represented me, in my previous life.
I wondered how long it had its shape, for how long it had been whole. I wondered what purposes it had served prior to being here in my hands.
The hammer was passed to me. It was my turn to hold it.
The hammer was smaller than hammers I had at home, but heavy and still took my two hands to hold it. And I knew what damage it could do to this beautiful bowl. I was supposed to have a silent moment with this heavy object in my hands in front of the group. I felt its weight. It represented the weight of the real world – how life can crash into us, and how quickly something so small could damage something so whole and beautiful.
This was my life now.
I had signed up for this craft event by myself a few months ago. And here I was, sitting in this beautiful local event venue (Gather at the Red Cedars Gardens) among 15-20 strangers who knew loss, who knew struggle, who were going to be going into the holidays with a broken heart – maybe yet again – some of them for the first time.
It was few weeks before our third Christmas without my husband, Eric.
You don’t know true grief unless you’ve gone through it. And then those people automatically become your people. So they’re not strangers after all.
I had read about it before, people had shared the Japanese art with me in Facebook images after my husband died. It’s the process of fixing broken pottery with gold. I remember looking at the images people would send me and feeling a teeny tiny tinge of hope. That the bowl – that I – could be mended. But I was so broken at the time I couldn’t see it, I just knew eventually it would happen. I knew some widows who had gone before me who were happy and living and contributing to society again, some were remarried… I just didn’t think I’d be possibly including myself with them.
Our third Christmas. I’m about to mend a bowl with gold – well, technically gold foil paint and super glue. But it was the representation all the same.
If we wanted to, we could share our grief story with the group when the hammer came to us. Not everyone did, and that’s okay.
I took my silent moment with the hammer. And then I shared. Because I know I was curious about others’ losses.
Who would know the pain of losing a life partner and being a young widow?
Who had lost their 98-year-old – you know, the way that it’s supposed to be… ?
It’s different, you know. The grief hurts, but it’s not the same, I promise.
“My name’s Kari and my husband died almost 3-years ago from a ruptured massive brain aneurysm at the age of 43. I’m really looking forward to this activity and moving forward in my grief, thank you.”
And I passed the hammer to the woman on my right
Eventually the hammer returned to me when it was time to break my bowl. I had wrapped my bowl in the cloth given to me. I ran my hands over the sturdy pottery one last time. And then I let the hammer come crashing down.
That’s what life did to me.
One hit. Eric’s death.
That’s all the pain and sadness and real life obstacle I really ever really knew. I mean, I thought I had known challenges, but running out of coffee creamer or even having low funds in your checking account really mean nothing when your husband dies. Nothing in life mattered except not having Eric anymore.
I heard the breakage. It had happened.
And that’s when I cried.
The women were laughing and talking amongst themselves, some of them were not strangers when they entered the greenhouse. And that’s okay.
I remember that feeling.
The crash was loud and silenced the world for a second…. And then there I was, broken in a million pieces while the world around me went back to their happy lives.
That wasn’t the case. I had an incredible support system. But it’s kind of like what happens. That’s life. It’s supposed to, I guess.
But there I am, broken under the cloth.
I unwrap the cloth slowly to see the damage.
Some larger pieces, some smaller pieces, some pieces of tiny dust particles I knew I’d never be able to include in the fixed bowl.
Pretty much just like me.
It took me about an hour to repair the bowl.
I wish it only took an hour to repair me. And then when I feel like I’m healed sometimes I miss the familiar feeling of grief and I yearn to hurt again because sometimes it feels like I’m closer to Eric when I am in the pain.
I started with the big pieces first. And then I tried to fit the smaller pieces in like a puzzle. Sometimes I got so frustrated that the pieces didn’t fit just right. I didn’t include all the pieces – sometimes I was pissed they wouldn’t work just right for me and I discarded them. Sometimes the pieces were too small for me to use.
That all seems about right.
After Eric died there were some parts of me that didn’t go back together.
It’s like I didn’t want them a part of my life anymore.
I CHOSE not to include them.
And then parts of me and my life wouldn’t work in this new life.
And then some parts were too broken or too small to be put back into my life.
While I worked on the bowl sometimes I’d smile, amused at the refection in this activity.
And yet, the bowl retook it’s shape.
It wasn’t complete, the bottom – where the hammer struck – it couldn’t be fully repaired, so I just left it open.
Much like me.
Some of me won’t ever be completely healed… there will always be a missing piece after losing Eric.
But the bowl retook its shape, much like me.
And the bowl can still serve several purposes, much like I can.
It just perhaps serves new purposes and not the ones before.