‘The cup is already broken’. Ever hear that saying? In my mind, it is a mental nudge away from getting too attached to stuff, because at some point the stuff will break or otherwise be lost. There is an impermanence in the world that it is best to make peace with sooner than later.
This saying flashed in neon in my brain this morning when I dropped my brother’s coffee cup that he got on our trip to the Big Island when my teenager was just a baby boy. It is one of the few personal things of his I still have since he died unexpectedly in 2013. It has served as a cherished though melancholy reminder of him and our fantastic trips to Hawaii together and I had just broken the handle clean off. Damn.
I guess I could have just kept the cup on a shelf over the years, safe and protected from potential harm, but I didn’t. The risk of it breaking was acceptable for me to keep using it and enjoying it in my daily life. Every time I made my tea in it or saw it sitting in the cupboard, it was an opportunity to remember Mike.
I thought I might freak out when it eventually broke, because I knew it couldn’t last forever. My brother didn’t. Nothing does. But I didn’t freak out and I didn’t whip out the super glue and desperately try to fix it either. I was surprisingly calm. Briefly wistful maybe, but totally ok. Those memories are still there and those will never break. Even though it is broken and no longer suitable for daily use, I’m still going to keep this cup because I like all of the things it symbolizes: Mike, Hawaii, impermanence, treasuring memories and people over stuff. Like many things, it is still beautiful even broken.