Golden Repair

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Years ago a friend told me about the traditional Japanese art form of Kintsugi, where a precious metal brings together the pieces of a broken pottery item and also enhances the breaks. “Kin” means golden and “tsugi” means repair. Together it means “golden repair.”

Golden repair.

Bringing together the broken pieces and enhancing the breaks.

On the day after Thanksgiving last year I got a call from California informing me that my dad had fallen and, when admitted to the hospital, was diagnosed with last stage leukemia. Since he lived alone on Medicare, his only choice for care was an assisted living facility where he could get the care that he needed. I could feel the fear rattle inside of me, “How in the $(#&$ am I going to juggle my life and kids in Colorado and also take care of him from another state?” We asked him to consider to come and live with us instead so we could care for him in home hospice. I was shocked—and beyond relieved—that he said yes.

A week later, we transported him here and tucked him safely into a room we cleared out on our main floor and adjusted to a new life of hospice nurses, wheelchairs and a new roommate at our house.

Golden repair.

My parents were divorced when I was almost 5 years old. He always did what he could to stay in touch with me, his only child, by sending a few bucks to my mom when he could, writing me letters, visiting me, and sending his love. A true 1960-70’s wild child and life-time alcoholic, he also couldn’t provide for me in the ways we think dads are supposed to. For many years, despite knowing he loved me, I felt a brokenness and emptiness, a longing for the kind of protection and care that I thought would have changed everything.

I’ll never know if that would have been true, but what I do know is that years ago, as I navigated my healing journey of making peace with my past and integrating the broken parts of my story, something began to shift in me and I stopped wishing my dad was something else for me and started accepting his love for what it was—as pure and beautiful as he had the capacity to give it.

Golden repair, bringing together the broken pieces and enhancing the breaks.

The past four and a half months of my dad living with us is the most time I have ever spent with him. We laughed every day (he was hysterically funny). He told me stories I hadn’t heard. My kids got to spend Christmas with him, the first for me since I was a little girl. He got to play with dogs almost every day (ours and the menagerie that come through our house every week between our neighbors and The Refuge community). His nurses fell in love with him. He was safe, loved, and in Colorado with us. He told me almost every day how being with us was one of the best decisions he ever made. For me, asking him to come was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Some would wonder how hard the time was, caring for someone who is dying of cancer and needs our help. How did we manage? Wasn’t it so hard? Aren’t you so tired? Yes, there were parts that were hard and it shifted so many things in us for that short time. However, on the whole, because his joy and acceptance of death was so contagious, we didn’t feel a constant heaviness. Instead, we experienced a lightness that comes with a strange peace of knowing things are exactly where they are supposed to be.

Golden repair, bringing together the broken pieces and enhancing the breaks.

Grief is weird, and only a few weeks out, the hole in our house is great. Tears come in weird moments—opening the refrigerator and seeing his favorite food, getting a piece of mail, or stumbling onto one of his shirts in the laundry. But as the waves ebb and flow, I am left with this incredible gift—through the last four months, without talking about it, processing it, forcing it, therapy-ing it, or working on it, the last few broken pieces of my relationship with my dad came together, filled in with gold and silver and tenderness and ache, and the most beautiful vessel remains.

I have many other Kintsugi pieces of my life over the years, beauty from ashes in all kinds of other ways. Shame, pain, failures, flops, shattered dreams, and the hard ugly things that real life brings that over time have been pieced together through golden repair. They have become integrated into my story, not neat and tidy or wrapped with a tiny bow. Rather, broken, shattered, beautiful and whole at the same time.

Golden repair, bringing together the broken pieces and enhancing the breaks.

Today my heart is with all of you, brave SheLovely friends who are grieving different losses and finding your way, sitting with broken pieces of life wondering if we’ll ever be whole again, longing for beauty to emerge from the rubble.

I don’t know how it will all work, what will come together and when, but I do believe this: Over time, the cracks will fill in with gold and silver and the vessel that remains will be stronger, wiser, and more beautiful than ever.

We are all Kintsugi.

Golden repair, bringing together the broken pieces and enhancing the breaks.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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