This morning my son poured himself a nice big bowl of Cheerios, filled the bowl with milk and then dropped it on the floor. Had it been any other bowl, I probably would have just thrown out the shards with the Cheerios, but the one that got dropped was one that a friend had given me a few years ago. She passed away from cancer about a year and a half ago and this bowl has served as a reminder of her, so I dutifully picked every shard I could find out of the mess, rinsed them off and set them aside before mopping things up.
There are a lot of memories in that bowl for me. When my friend was dying I struggled between wanting to pack this bowl away and protect it from harm, just like I wished I could pack my friend away and keep her from harm, and wanting to keep using the piece because she had made it to be used and would want me to use it. I finally decided that the best way to honor her and her memory was to keep using the bowl, even though it meant the possibility of losing it. After she passed away, it was a little hard using the bowl at first, because it was a reminder of her, but, over the months since her death, it has become a beautiful way of remembering her and keeping a piece of her in my daily life.
Oddly enough, when the bowl broke this morning, I was, in many ways, OK with it. I did make sure to keep all of the pieces, though, thinking that the bowl could perhaps be mended. This evening, as I was looking over the shards again, I was reminded of the work that I am currently doing in ceramics, incorporating unfired clay shards into sculptures made of many slip cast forms. It was then that the idea came to me that, perhaps I could incorporate these shards into a small sculpture, sort of a post-humus collaborative piece with my friend. I'm not sure how well it will work to join fired and unfired clay together, but I think it is a fitting next life for this bowl.