From Heartbreak to Hearts Full of Joy

originally posted February 21st, 2013

You may have heard this before, but I’m going to repeat it here for a second:

“Kintsugi” is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a resin sprinkled with gold. The effect is that the cracks and imperfections of the piece are made to shine and become instead beautiful. So it is with our hearts: when they become cracked, God seeps in to make them shine.

Last year there were two heartbreaks that shattered not only my heart but the hearts of many.

In May of last year my cousin’s little 16 month old son Avery died from an abdominal infection that spread to his brain. It was devastating. 16 months on this earth, 16 months to brighten the lives of my cousin and his wife and all he met, and then he was gone. My cousin’s wife was pregnant with their next son who was born the following month. (Blessedly healthy, Praise Be.)

My cousins had already lost two children, one in a miscarriage and one to stillbirth. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak and sadness that they have been through.

And then, at the end of the year, there was Newtown.

Hearing the news was quite a shock and I think it took a while for it to really sink in. All of those children, the teachers, Adam Lanza, his mother. Gone. No Christmas, no birthdays, only sadness and anger and hurt. And questions.

I didn’t realize how deeply these two events effected me until I was at my parents’ house December 15th celebrating Christmas with my family. My brother and his new wife were there, my other brother and his wife and their four children were there. My mother begged me to do ‘something crafty’ with the children to keep them entertained and occupied while our Christmas lunch was prepared.

I cherished every single glue and glitter moment of that day.

We made handprint wreaths, we decorated ice cream cone Christmas trees (the three year old kept asking, “Can we eat it?!”), we colored. We opened presents and the sheer delight on their little faces was almost unbearable. I thought about the little children that wouldn’t be opening presents this year. Kind of depressing on Christmas but it was bittersweet.

At the funeral for Avery there was much weeping. But there were also smiles, and laughter, and fond memories of his favorite things. We sang songs, we hugged, we prayed. My cousin and his wife have a deep faith and love for God, and while I know there was some anger and confusion and sadness, they know God suffers with them. The love from family and friends all over the world buoyed them up, and I know it was hard. We let balloons go out in the parking lot of the church and sang “Jesus Loves Me” and I almost couldn’t choke out the line “they are weak/but he is strong” for all of the tears.

This all lead me to my New Year’s Resolution. I have been an aunt for 8 years now and due to many circumstances I have not really been in their lives. They have lived kind of far off to make a day trip not feasible, I lived in another country, so on and so forth. I resolved to be more present in their lives, to cherish and honor their youthful innocence, and to be the best auntie to them that I can be. That Christmas was only the beginning.

This past weekend I went up to Louisville to play hostess to my oldest niece’s 8th birthday slumber party. It was just her and one other friend, and she had a whole agenda planned out. She, her little friend, my sister in law, and the littlest niece and I all spent the afternoon and evening painting our nails, watching movies and eating pizza, making beads with a bead making thingie I had gotten her, and playing with the toys she had gotten from family members. It was a blast. Arguably one of the best birthday parties I’ve been to. All of that precious, precious time spent with her that I will cherish.

She told me later that it was the best birthday she’d had, and her friend agreed, and they loved the little bead-making set I’d given her. I hope they have many happy afternoons making jewelry together and being silly little girls. I pray they enjoy every minute of their lives, full as they are, and I pray that I get to be there as much as possible. I pray we have lots more birthdays and summers and fun times ahead.

So the cracks in my heart from the sad events of last year have lead to it being filled up with love for my precious nieces and nephews. That is what I took away from those tragic events last year–not an agenda of gun laws and school security, or anger at God for things I don’t understand, but to love more. To let God’s love for little children shine through me.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

May we all open our hearts, cracked as they might be, to love one another more fully and deeply, and to cherish the time that we have and the people we share it with. Amen.


4 responses to “From Heartbreak to Hearts Full of Joy

  1. Wow, Kathleen. A quiet, heart filled wow.

  2. Thanks Debi! I have some great memories with those kids from 2013. Baseball games, Family Olympics, going to the movies, magic shows, watching the youngest grow into a toddler. This past Christmas we had a great time making ornaments together. My mom is already planning our crafts for our annual fourth of July family get together. Oh, and not to mention the puppet shows. My dad and brother did a great rendition of The Night Before Christmas. It was precious. Can’t wait to see what fun happens in 2014!

  3. How wonderful! Sounds like a lot of fun! I’m hoping that Jeremy and his wife and Jason and his partner can come next Christmas. We will be celebrating in a new house and I plan to make it a great season! Blessings to you.

  4. love this, love you!

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