Broken China

I have an older brother by thirteen months, so we are really close to being “Irish Twins.” As a parent and now grandparent, I can’t imagine having two boys this close in age and I am sure we were a handful.

One day mom went to the basement to do laundry and my brother and I got into the china cabinet. We began to break the moss-rose adorned china. It was those delicate dishes that were often given to young couples as wedding gifts in the day – the kind used only for special occasions. Mom came up to find two boys happily breaking dishes, cups, and saucers.

Our family was living off a pastor’s salary, mom not working and taking care of two hooligans. We didn’t starve, but the budget was pretty slim. When you don’t have much, losses feel greater. I can’t imagine mom’s reaction, cleaning up shards of glass and memories, and the miracle that we weren’t both cut to pieces.

Years ago, a pastor gave a sermon that has stayed with me to this day. He replayed a funeral where he felt he just went through the motions. Afterwards, the pastor was reflecting on what a holy privilege it is to commit a person to God and that this opportunity should not be taken lightly. It was such a raw and honest admission, but also left me with this sense of awe in the pastor’s role in dedicating people to God.

In my role as a Chaplain, we get asked to be part of many end of life situations. Some are unexpected, some are tragic, some are gradual, some happen quickly. Recently, I responded to a page in the middle of the night, to be with a family. As I was walking to the unit, this sermon came to mind. This situation may be somewhat routine for me, but it is not routine for this family.

This family is watching their fine china being broken. Pieces that aren’t going to be able to be put back together again. At this moment, it feels like their life is being shattered.

My conversation with the family, my prayer for the patient doesn’t change the situation. But we grab the broom and dustpan and begin the process of helping with the brokenness by our caring presence, lifting the person and family before God, and as much as possible, to make sure no one gets hurt in the process.



5 thoughts on “Broken China

  1. Your mother could never have dreamed that broken dishes would result in such a good story, or be a story so widely told.

  2. Glad to see these again Bruce!
    We all ” go through the motions” so often in our everyday lives. This serves to remind us that all that we do should be done for God’s glory.
    Thanks for sharing from your heart.

  3. Such a beautiful writing. I am stirred in so many deep ways. I know this happened because mom told us about it. But I have no memory of it; which means I didn’t get beaten or abused, I got love in the form of her cleaning up my mess even if it cost her precious things. Such love!
    And, as you say, we all touch people in ways that is just routine for us but it isn’t routine for them. How to bring the precious to the routine is what we are called to do. Thanks so much for this.

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