Broken Pot

Travis would have been 40 today…next Wednesday, the 25th, he will have left this earth and been with God and Jesus for 9 months.

Two thoughts have been foremost in my mind in the past few weeks as today approached.  First was that it was a little hard to believe that he had been here…with us…last year on his birthday.  Many friends gathered in our yard and serenaded him and our family that evening.  Many of you wrote letters that talked about Travis’ imprint on your lives.  The second thought is that he was really young to be gone already.  How are either of those things possible?  Yet they are.

Last year in October we attended, as a family, a grief camp.  Travis had only been gone 2 1/2 months and the the camp also coincided with the weekend that I had taken him to the hospital a year prior and where he eventually was diagnosed.  I know a grief camp does not sound like much fun and frankly none of us really wanted to go but I felt that it was important for us individually as well as a family.  One of the activities that held a lot of symbolism for us was called the “broken pot”.

They gave each family a clay pot that we took outside and had to drop on the ground to break.  This symbolized how our hearts, identity and even families break when we suffer a significant loss in our lives.  I remember even the sound of the pot hitting the ground causing me to cringe.  I thought, “I know that sound.  I have felt it inside in my heart.  I have seen it in my children…in Travis’ friends.”  We brought the pieces back inside and now we had to write on them.  On the pieces that curved inwards (the inside of the pot), we had to write words that described our grief, our loss, our pain.  Symbolizing the things that we tend to keep inside and let no one see. On the pieces that curved outwards (the outside of the pot), we had to write the things that had given us support during our grief, our loss, our pain.  After all the pieces were filled with writing, we had to reassemble the pot with glue, figuring out where each piece was supposed to be.  This activity was accompanied by many tears as it seemed to draw so much out of us emotionally even as we were putting our hands to something physical.  At one point, as the final piece was placed, everyone in the family had their hands on the pot holding it together until the glue solidified.  It impacted all of us in that moment, that it was going to take all of us…together as a family…to put this back together.  

Recently, as part of our continuing activities at the family and grief center groups that we attend monthly.  We repeated the “broken pot” activity.  Only this time, I did the activity with each individual child.  We encountered quite a few difficulties this time around with the activity.

With one child, we dropped the pot twice to break it.  Thus ending up with a quite a few very small pieces.  I thought about how often, we as a family and individually, have been re-broken along this road.  As each holiday passes without him, as shock and denial recede more, as we live life each day sometimes it seems the breaking happens more to pieces that are already broken.

In some instances, we became very frustrated because we just simply could not figure out how the pieces went back together.  We simply had to walk away and allow ourselves to come back later to work on it.  (We are still working on it.) 🙂

I thought about how often we have been emotionally overwhelmed by moments and have just had to walk away and deal with it later.  Deep, heavy emotions…such as grief, pain, loss…I am realizing take quite a bit of time to process and the layers of those emotions are quite thick and numerous.

In all the scenarios, we had a hard time coming up with words…something we did not encounter the first time.  It seems that as our emotions have run a deeper course, words are harder to find to fully grasp the depth of emotion contained inside our hearts.

In some ways, I can say, it feels like we just started feeling like we are sliding downhill pretty fast as the shock and denial have seemed to wear off to a greater degree.  In the beginning, I experienced a general sense of loss, of him being gone.  Now it seems to be more specific…the person that I would emotionally unpack my day with…cook dinner with…garden with…just “be” with.  I enjoyed life and activities not necessarily because of the activities themselves but because I was with him.  Travis had a way of just living life with you and being with him, for me, brought enjoyment to life itself.

We got through today with tears, sorrow, memories and good friends.  I know that somehow God holds all the pieces of our pot…He knows how they go back together…when they go back together.  There will always be a Travis’ shaped hole in our hearts…our family…our house…our days…our weekends…our years.  We will miss him and love him every day until we can see him again.

“In a sense, grieving is actually a show of faith.  We are trusting God to hold us in our most vulnerable time, when our feelings are raw, our life is in pieces, and our strength is gone.”–Experiencing Grief