Now and then I have a series of emails with someone who has been shopping or breathing in circles on the Jizo & Chibi website. Sometimes they write about a technical problem or they have a question about a piece of jewelry. With Julie, our communication began on Etsy. She liked my work and I wrote to thank her.
She sent a note mentioning that her process of choosing a Jizo was a “harrowing” experience. No one had ever told me that and I wanted to understand more. I asked “why harrowing?” Her answer touched me so deeply, I asked her if I could publish her Jizo Journey on my blog.
“Hi, Valerie. Narrowing my selection was ‘harrowing’ because though the Jizo figures are ostensibly identical, the meaning behind the various gem stones and the decision of silver or gold… mentally and emotionally taxing! Choosing the best Jizo pendant for me was particularly important because it will be a memento of my life long friend, Bridget, who died in February of 2011. I’ve been contemplating and intermittently searching for some small item I could carry or wear that would keep her close to me. She died in her home in San Francisco and was cremated there but I had hoped her family here in town would put up a headstone for her next to her mother’s. Unfathomably, that hasn’t happened. Thus, while I think of her nearly every day and can certainly visit our old hangouts here in Lansing and in Ann Arbor, there is no grave site where I can visit and place flowers. I’m in no way a religious or even spiritual person but remaining *mindful* of her means a great deal to me.
“When I saw your pendants on Etsy I immediately realized that I’d found the right memento or totem. The clean, modern lines appeal to my sensibility. The Buddhist nature of the figure is particularly appropriate because Bridget had been exploring Buddhism for several years and because I *think* Jizo – forgive me for my clumsy and largely uninformed grasp of this material – declined the ascension he’d earned to the ultimate level of Buddha in order to stay on Earth protecting and keeping company all souls until their eventual ascension. Does that sound even vaguely accurate? In any case, it sounded exactly right because in some way I think Bridget and I continue to keep one another company. I chose vermeil because Bridget was allergic to silver and wore only tiny gold earrings and I chose emerald because that was her birthstone and she was of Irish ancestry.
“I apologize if this reply to your brief inquiry has become somewhat verbose and self-involved! I am glad, however, for the chance to talk a little bit about the loss of my friend and to let you know that your creations are beautiful, unusual (combining modern minimalism and age old South and East Asian traditions) and calmly, quietly, singularly meaningful to me. Thank you, Valerie! I am so very glad to have found exactly what I was looking for and I can’t wait to receive and wear your beautiful jewelry.”
I wrote back to reassure her that I treasured her words; that her journey to find Jizo had touched my heart and that sharing grief with someone is an honor we must extend to one another whenever possible. Then, I thought that her journey could help others, as I hope mine does.
If you have a story of how Jizo has touched your life, share it with someone. You may be surprised that it helps them on their own path, especially in a society where grief is so often ignored or hidden.