Watering Life with Loss

Coming back to Kevin Kling (see 5/22 blog post). He told a lovely story of when pots and pans could talk. I’m paraphrasing, but here is the essence of the story: A man had two pots. Every day he would take his two pots down to the stream and fill them up with his day’s supply of water and carefully walk home along the dusty path. Over time, one of his pots became worn and cracked and began leaking water. By the time he got home, over half the water would have dripped out along the path. The pot said to the man, “you need to replace me with a new pot. I am no longer serving my purpose.” The man said to the pot, “Look back down the path. See, there are wildflowers growing where your drops have fallen.”

I find myself hearing this story through several lenses depending on where I am on my journey. A couple of thoughts from my work as a chaplain: For many of the elderly I work with, they struggle to see how their lives still have meaning and purpose especially in a society that often relegates them to the shadows, paying lip service to their designation at the “Greatest Generation” but not harnessing their wisdom. They only see that their flowers have been cut and put in museums, no longer thriving.

For those with terminal prognoses, finding places where they are allowed to water new dreams, complete life reviews, grieve, even simply acknowledging their pot has a leak can be a challenge in a medical system that focuses on “cure” and not healing. On patching the pot and sealing the leak with temporary fixes. Gratefully Palliative Care and Hospice are slowly educating society on new ways of viewing end of life, of shifting from "fixing" to healing, but it is coming at a snail’s pace.

My sense is it is natural for us to be drawn to the full pot, the one that gives us what we expect day after day. Reliable. Not changing. Except in reality that pot, too, will become worn, eventually either disappointing us or drawing us back to ourselves to see where we really find sustenance. Allowing us the grace and courage to see where we are starting to crack and wear.

The image of the worn pot, dripping drops of revitalizing water, returning life to the earth is what resonates with this earth woman. I am not sharing any new wisdom when I say it is in our brokenness that we grow. But oh it is painful (I was going to add a modifier like “it can be painful” but I’ll be honest—growth from brokenness experiences are painful.) And honestly, you can read about others going on their healing journeys and how they survived, grew and came out the other side and think "I can do that." You can even anticipate you’ll have one or two of these experiences in your life and think you are prepared, but until your pot starts cracking, leaking, cascading water everywhere, you can’t know…you simply can’t know how your world will be changed. And it is possible you won't even notice the wildflowers on the path behind you until someone points them out, comments on the beauty and you realized they are part of you.