Guest post for Still Standing by Cathy Lin
This purple pot tells a story. The summer after my 8-year-old son, Nathan died, my husband and I attended a weekend retreat for child loss parents. One of our first activities was to put a small terra-cotta pot in a plastic bag and then hit it on the ground. We were then given the task to reconstruct our shattered pots with craft glue.
We started with the base since it was the part with the largest whole pieces. We had some success reconstructing the base but trying to recreate and rebuild the rest of the pot, proved to be a tough challenge. We both had different strategies – just as we have had with our grief journeys. Our progress was quite slow, and we were not able to finish the project.
We discussed the powerful symbolism of this activity as all of us had experienced our lives shattering into unrecognizable pieces with the loss of our children, just as with our broken pots, rebuilding our lives was a challenging task that would take quite some time and result in something that looked very different than it did before.
Related: Beauty In The Broken
I brought the pieces of our broken pot home on a paper plate, and it sat untouched in the laundry room for the past year and a half. I wanted to rebuild that pot, but I never took the time to do it – I was not ready.
This morning, as I was preparing for a busy day, I saw the pot, and something made me stop and pull it out. As I handled the pieces, I thought about how this brokenness still applied to my life in so many ways since losing Nathan. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I felt such a strong need and desire to finish this project.
It is a longstanding joke in our house that glue guns can fix ANYTHING – so why not this pot? With the glue gun, I was able to take those broken pieces and shape them into a unique new pot on the original reconstructed base.
My new pot is lopsided and full of holes. It looks much different than the original smooth and flawless piece of pottery, and it most certainly could not hold a plant anymore! It was important to me to use every single broken piece. I even collected the tiniest pieces and put them into the pot – nothing was discarded.
I then decided to add some extra love and character with a bit of purple paint in honor of my proud and always enthusiastic little TCU Horned Frog. I put a tea light in it, and the light that shines through the cracks of that misshapen purple pot casts off a soft and peaceful glow.
Life had presented challenges to us before, and our metaphorical pot had been cracked and broken, but we had always been able to reassemble it with time and care. We were entirely unprepared for Nathan’s brain cancer diagnosis and the journey that led to his death, and it shattered our lives – just as my husband smashed the terra cotta pot with a mighty blow.
There was no way to fix the pot to make it look like it did before, but today, when the time was right, I was able to create something beautiful from the broken pieces. I hope and pray that we will continue to have the strength to do the same thing with the remnants of our broken life without Nathan.
God gave us the strength and wisdom we have needed to face every part of this journey, and our friends and family have helped us pick up the pieces of our badly broken lives and start to rebuild it. Our family foundation is strong, so just like our broken pot, the base went back together without too much trouble, and we have been able to build upon it.
Rebuilding the rest of our lives on that intact base without Nathan has been a heartbreaking, confusing, frustrating and exhausting challenge. With time, I have accepted that even though our life will never look the same, we can carry on and rebuild this new life into something that will always include and honor our precious son.
Just as the paint on the pot honors him, I find myself always making decisions and choices that involve and honor Nathan. He may be physically absent from our family, but his presence is strong.
I put a light in our new pot to celebrate and emphasize the holes and gaps that exist in it because of our loss. Even in rebuilding with all the pieces we have left, there is still so much missing. There is and always will be pain and sadness because of the holes, but the light that shines through those holes brings new beauty and perspective that would not have shown through an intact pot.
The tiniest pieces of the container will always sit safely in the base – just as I will keep every memory and thought of Nathan tucked safely in my heart until we meet again.
As I worked on the pot this morning, I had other things I should have/could have been doing to prepare for my day, but it finally felt right to be working on the pot. The pot, like my grief, was not going anywhere, and for a long time, it was not the right time to work on it. It is so difficult to address and put effort into rebuilding a “new normal” when your heart aches and longs for the child you have lost.
With time I am learning and understanding that progressing and healing does not mean that I am leaving my precious child behind. I am creating a new vessel out of the devastation to safely carry his love and my memories of him into the future, and in the process, I am allowing his light to shine through and guide me as it illuminates the darkness.
Photo credit: Author’s own
About the Author: I am a stay at home Mom to two teenagers and my son, Nathan, who is forever 8 years old. Nathan passed June 3, 2016 from brain cancer, and I have found comfort and healing in sharing his/our story through my writing.