How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?
I wasn’t expecting it to happen. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was running errands with my husband and we stopped to get sandwiches. The shop has grown in popularity over the past 6 years since it finally opened its flagship doors. The combination of delicious house-made traditional sourdough bread and pastries (+ sandwiches), as well as an incredible female baker, had the line steadily down the block on this Sunday afternoon. My mind trying to keep itself occupied while the urgent grumbles protested the long line on the sun-filled sidewalks of La Jolla. I thought of the crunchy baguettes inside resting peacefully in their wicker baskets. I wished I could devour one right there in the street. Crispy bread flakes like confetti exploding with every rip and tear. I thought of all those cafes in Paris with pigeons eagerly awaiting an opportunity to feast on those fallen crumbs. And that was it - with those few happy thoughts, the storm clouds rolled across my eyes. The sudden rush of water barely contained in the well of lashes and sunglasses.
Tilly. My niece passed away nearly 4 months ago mere days after her 4th birthday. I had dreamed of taking her to Paris. Of eating those crunchy baguettes with her sitting on the uneven cobbled streets of that painted city. Time was stolen from us. I was standing there mourning the memory that never was able to ink itself into our shared history.
I felt one hot tear escape and slide down into the sunshine that seemed so juxtaposed to the storm of emotion that had rolled in so quickly to my heart. I felt a vast emptiness and sorrow settle deep in my chest. I surreptitiously wiped the few watery rebels that had escaped captivity. The whole mental journey had lasted no more than 90 seconds. No one, not even my husband standing inches from me, had even noticed the melancholia that had passed over me. A skill honed from too many moments like this. Too many tiny mournings like stitches in the fabric of my grief.
Grief is a bitch. It can hit you anytime with little more than breadcrumbs to lead you to its source. Later that day my sister Aubrey, Tilly’s mom, and I spoke about our grief. We do this often and usually over text as it is sometimes easier than the odd comfort and emotion in our voices can seem overwhelming. Aubrey, ever the wise older sister even in grief, shared her respite. Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the broken pieces with gold. The breaks are gilded and celebrated as part of the object's history. Battle scars of the life lived are not disguised but gilded in homage and celebration. Kintsukuroi translates directly to “golden repair”. Beauty is found in the repairing of the shattered pieces. It is, in the truest sense of the word, an art.
I recently wrote an article, Pennies from Heaven, in which I discussed the monikers that keep Tilly’s memory alive to me every day. Flamingos, ladybugs, and rainbows. These symbols of the love that simultaneously breaks me and the golden glue that puts me back together. They are the golden lacquer that tries to make something beautiful from these broken pieces.
We won’t always have Paris but I will always have her. I will remember watching her wonder at the beautiful notes that escaped from the guitar chords the first time she plucked them. I will remember the 30-minute episode of putting on her first outfit in the NICU. A feat that required two aunties, one nurse, and of course mama. I will remember watching her fight and win until the end. I hope those are the golden pieces that will glisten in the cracks of my heart.
So to answer the question - how do you mend a broken heart - maybe the answer is - with gold.