How to Be Lacquer with Gold Dust


“kintsugi” by martinjhoward2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form where lacquer combined with silver, gold, or platinum dust mends broken pottery. A shattered plate that’s more beautiful after being glued back together — ah, a delightful metaphor for resilience. In the world of human emotion, the concept of Kintsugi exemplifies the beauty of a human who is put back together after life’s challenges, cracks, and chips — resilience.

“It symbolizes how we must incorporate our wounds into who we are, rather than try to merely repair and forget them.” -David Wong.

My son, Mark, died 27 years ago. Five days after his first birthday. He had one of the 40 different types of muscular dystrophy. After surviving the chickenpox (before vaccines were available for Mark) he contracted pneumonia and died. It was not unexpected, but it was shattering. This story is not about him or me. It is about my friend, Theresa. My older son (then 5-years old) and her son attended the same school, and after Mark’s death, I was the pottery pieces on the floor. She was lacquer combined with gold dust.

What did she do to put me back together?

* She called me. She did not wait for me to call her.

* She did not leave it at “Let me know if you need anything.”

* She asked me, “How are you?” “Can I come by for tea?”

* She invited my 5-year-old to her house for a play date with her kids.

* She forwarded all the phone numbers I needed to get him on the soccer (it’s not soccer at that age, it is herd ball) team.

* She made sure I was at the soccer practices and introduced me to other parents.

* She got me a spot on the neighborhood women’s bunco group.

She remains a dear friend. She is lacquer combined with gold dust to many. Not because she performs a kind act once like filling a chip. She is there for the duration, aligning the pieces, fixing them together, making sure they were stable. When a bunco friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, Theresa was there every day; a smoothie filled with antioxidant vegetables and yogurt in hand. Not just once, but every day. Our friend enjoyed it. Theresa was able to check in and see how she might mobilize others to help our friend.

I can be lacquer combined with gold dust for someone, as can you. Just take the extra step from, “Let me know if you need anything,” and take the time to think about what the struggling person might need and do it. Struggles are not always external to the person, like a death. Sometimes they are internal, and a person needs help. Think of as many ways as you can that might be helpful. Select those that will help you create a bond that will strengthen your friend in need. It is likely it will strengthen you, too.

I mentioned to Theresa how important all those little things she did were to me. She was surprised I remembered. It made a difference. Humans are fragile; they chip and sometimes break. I was broken and broken-hearted. Shards were scattered. Each had a place where it once belonged. Fixed with the kindness of my friend, my pieces are back in place.

She was lacquer and gold dust, others were lacquer and silver dust, and my husband was lacquer with platinum. Each played a role in putting me back together. I am imperfect, I am beautiful, and I am whole again.




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