“Time goes on, and your life is still there, and you have to live it. After a while you remember the good things more often than the bad. Then, gradually, the empty silent parts of you fill up with sounds of talking and laughter again, and the jagged edges of sadness are softened by memories.” –Summer to Die, Lois Lowry
Here’s the thing. Teaching can get boring. Professionalism, the constant yoke of academia, can get old. Sometimes it’s nice to take students to an event and just have fun, even if that fun needs to be central to school in some way.
So Lois Lowry came to a neighboring town and my speech class all wanted to get sushi and drink coffee and listen to her talk. So we went! We had a great dinner, enjoyed discussion and non-school related time with one another. We even held back the urge to scream out “WHY DIDN’T YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?!” when remembering the end of the novella The Giver, our post-middle school brains still raw from the memory of the cliff-hanger ending.
Imagine students’ surprise (and my lack thereof) that her lecture was incredibly meaningful.
We arrived a few minutes late (parking garages with a huge school van is somewhat of a Tetris nightmare), but we walked in as Lowry was discussing kintsugi. Taking broken pieces of pottery and mending the cracks with gold dust, kintsugi art make pieces more valuable after having been broken. A kitsugi bowl will look cracked, but the cracked areas are golden and bright. The common analogy is that we, as humans, can still be strong and valuable after being broken, sometimes even more so than before.
She discussed the loss of her sister when she was a young mother. Again, later, the loss of her adult son in a plane crash. Both losses are life altering. The loss of one’s best friend and life-long partner, a sister, would be devastating. The loss of a son? Irreparable. She discussed the pain, but then she quoted the recently-passed Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem.” He sings “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” In this quote, it is clear she attempts to illustrate her mending by hinting that these broken pieces, the areas of loss in her life, have become a part of who she is; it is those fragments that let the light—grace—inside.
And this is the portion of the night when I feel no regret for the broken pieces of myself. I’ve had little regret in the past, but after this I feel that the broken parts of my life have always worked in my favor. My broken idea of what college would be like was rewarded with the best part of my adult life—my son. My broken relationships are continually rewarded with a better, stronger version of myself who truly understands what commitment and loyalty mean. I have lost those I have loved–both by design and by choice–and I have learned from it every time. My cracks have all provided so much grace, and I truly don’t want to know where I’d be without them. I miss my friends, my family, and my idea of what should have been, but here I am, still keepin’ on. I definitely don’t like the breaking, but I sure do love the golden cracks.
Thanks, Lois, for novels well written, and life lessons well delivered.