I remember vividly when I was twenty-two years old, standing in a quaint little duty-free shop while on vacation in the Bahamas. My eyes were instantly drawn to a delicate Lladró figurine of a young girl with long, flowing brown hair and fair skin. She looked just like me, and her cocker spaniel resembled my beloved puppy, Brandy, complete with its floppy, long ears. Something about that porcelain statuette spoke to me, and I knew in an instant that it would be the perfect gift for my mom, Carolyn.
I carried it home to her, tucked lovingly in my suitcase, and when she saw it, her eyes lit up and as she held it in her hands she said to me, “Oh, Cheri, that looks so much like you and Brandy! I will cherish this forever.”
The Lladró I gifted my mother became more than just a figurine to us
Over the years, that Lladró became more than just a decorative piece on a shelf. It held a deep significance for both my mother and me, serving as a tangible reminder of the bond between a daughter and her furry companion as well as the love between parent and child. She kept it in her curio long after I had moved out to start my own family.
It wasn’t until three years ago, as my mom’s valiant battle with breast cancer was coming to a tragic end, that I even considered moving it from its home. She was on hospice at her home and the weight of her impending departure hung heavy in the air. I knew that I needed to take the Lladró with me. I hoped that having it close would bring me solace and a profound sense of connection to her, even when she could no longer be physically present.
As her final days approached, I carefully cradled that precious figurine in my hands, feeling its smooth porcelain against my fingertips. Its delicate beauty seemed to mirror the fragility of life itself. I wrapped it in two towels from my mother’s linen closet and gingerly packed it in my bag before heading home.
One day I was exhausted and I accidentally dropped the Lladró
But on this particular day, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, both physically and emotionally. And as I unpacked my tote, I accidentally dropped the Lladró. It shattered into pieces on the floor. The devastation I felt in that moment was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I cried uncontrollably—it felt as if the broken figure symbolized my own shattered state of being.
Unable to bear the sight or touch of the broken Lladró, I pleaded with my husband to clean it up and hide it away somewhere I couldn’t see it. I believed that by avoiding it, I could somehow escape the ominous sign it seemed to represent. My mom would be gone; my life would be shattered. Sadly, I was right. My mom died just a few days later.
As I started seeking ways to cope with my grief, I read countless books including Steve Leder’s, The Beauty of What Remains. In it, the rabbi reminds us not to dwell on what is gone, but also remember the beauty that remains. I then found an article about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.
Kintsugi teaches us that our broken places can make us stronger and more beautiful than ever before. It encourages us to embrace our scars and view them as integral parts of our stories. Rather than attempting to move on from our grief, it suggests that we learn to live alongside it, allowing it to shape us into stronger, more resilient individuals.
After my mother died, I decided to repair our Lladró
So, three and a half months after my mom’s passing, I decided I wanted to repair our Lladró using kintsugi. I watched Youtube videos to teach myself the process, and I purchased the items I needed. I came home from the store and set up the epoxy, gold dust and paint brush at my dining room table.
I laid out the broken pieces in front of me on a paper towel. With determination and a newfound sense of purpose, I carefully gathered the shards, treating each piece with reverence. I understood that this process was not just about restoring a cherished object, but about restoring myself.
As I mixed the epoxy with powdered gold, I saw the potential for transformation. I found solace in the repetitive strokes of the brush. It became a meditative, cathartic practice. With a steady hand and a heart full of love, I carefully applied the gold adhesive to each edge and firmly held them together. I marveled at how what was once broken became whole again.
The figurine is whole again but not the same as before
I realize now that the broken pieces of the Lladró represent the shattered fragments of my old self, while the golden seams symbolize the growth I am undergoing. That beloved figurine is whole again, but it is not the same as before. The cracks and mended lines now enhance its beauty. It is different, but stronger.
As I placed the restored Lladró on my dining room buffet table next to a photo of my mother, I realized that it is a tangible representation of my journey through grief. It reminds me that even in the face of death, there is still love, beauty, and hope. Just like the glue I used to repair my precious memento, the bond between my mom and I is equally strong and permanent.
I know that I will forever hold on to the lessons learned from her, my grief, and the art of kintsugi. I will embrace my brokenness, piece myself back together, and find joy and gratitude in the beauty that remains.
More Great Reading:
Finding My Way Through the Grief of Losing My Mom
Cheri Golub is the Executive Producer of the award-winning, dance movie franchise, High Strung. She is the mother of two incredible, college-age young adults (a daughter who is a sophomore and a son who is a senior) and has been married for 23 years to the love of her life. Her passion is working in the field of special education, which she has done for the past 30 years. She works as a Learning Disabilities Teacher – Consultant in New Jersey. She still remains a girl with a dog and is the proud dog-mom for her beloved, Cooper, the cutest maltipoo ever!