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A Representation of Grief & Gratitude in a Beautiful Fire Red Glaze: The Story of the Red Orb

grief grief support loss non-linear journey our words Jan 12, 2022
Red orb in front of a waterfall

By Ilana Shapiro Yahdav

My parents were avid collectors of all types of ceramics. They loved to go to big crafts fairs (and sometimes drag my brothers and me along). But usually, they would go just the two of them. That was their thing.

Right after my father was first diagnosed with brain cancer, they went South to see a specialist, visit my little brother and go to some of their favorite craft fairs and stores. My dad saw what we call the Red Orb and was enamored with the color, the way the artist fired it, and all the details that I couldn't possibly accurately relay. 

The story as I remember hearing it, is that he told the store owner that he needed the Red Orb. The store owner told him that he would have to wait about 6 months as the artist only fired that type of glaze once a year. My father, who was already in a wheelchair at this point, and sporting a biggish hole in his head from the biopsy, calmly informed her that he would be dead by then. He explained how much it would mean to him to be able to look at that gorgeous piece of art while he was bedridden and dying. 

The store owner, very likely at a loss for words at the moment (I mean you can't really argue with that one) must have told the artist this story. A few months later, luckily a few months before my dad died, the Red Orb arrived with a note to my father. I guess the artist was also very moved. I don't even know if he charged my parents - not that it matters. But I do hope that the artist knows that he helped give a dying man some comfort.

My dad loved that Red Orb. And this is why I have such a love-hate relationship with this object. 

I HATE IT for what it REPRESENTS. To me, it represents my dad's death, my dad facing his death. 

 On the same note, I love it for what it represents. I love how it symbolizes his bravery and looking death right in the eye, “take that, death, I'm still going to enjoy the little bit of time I have left.” I love that it gave him some joy and comfort in his last days. I love that he and my mom got to buy it together and that she still has it lovingly on display in her home. 

 I must admit, as beautiful as it is, it still stings for me to look at it, even after all these years, and I do try to avoid it. Perhaps this is another opportunity for me to delve deeper into more aspects of my grief that may still be lingering. 

 When I first started working with grieving clients, my mom had the idea to take the Red Orb to Levi Plaza (SF) to take branding pictures for my practice. There's a beautiful water fountain that has an uneven path. This picture is one of the many that my mother took. We’ve used a lot of them across our website and marketing materials.  She’s the creative genius behind these beautiful pictures. 

 She felt it truly embodied the non-linear grief journey, namely, my non-linear grief journey.

And she was right.

 That Red Orb fully represents grief and gratitude in a beautiful rare red glaze.


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