Monday, 2 September 2013

The grave nearest their home

On Radio 4 yesterday Samira Ahmed asked, "What can we learn from a broken teapot?" According to legend, when a 15th century shogun smashed his treasured pottery, Japanese artists repaired it with gold. Kintsugi, as the practice is known, gives new life to damaged goods by celebrating their frailty and history. Samira considered how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the 'cracks' - whether it's the scars showing how we have lived, or finding new purpose through loss.

Today was a beautiful day for a joyous memorial service, the send-off for a grande dame, who had been blessed with eleven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Eleanor had hosted many wonderful parties at her South Warwickshire home over 60+ years, so it was entirely right that the field by the house should once more be filled with cars: considering the few friends one might normally expect to have left at the age of 94, a huge crowd assembled.

Her youngest grandchild spoke of the emotion that in her final years her grandmother (happily never lady gaga) came to display - such a contrast to the twinkly, warm smile and stiff upper lip characteristic of the person I had known. Eleanor had herself lived through painful, kintsugi times.

Another granddaughter, Francesca Zino, read this most appropriate quotation, attributed to Emerson, the 19th Century American writer: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

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