There are times when words or speech simply cannot adequately express the groaning of the heart and it is in those times that we pray our actions may truly speak for us. How do you comfort a loved one in sorrow? What words can console someone who is shattered with grief? Everything you say ends up sounding hollow and foolish, lacking substance and meaning. It is then that I look to my hands to speak for me.
I found a short section of tigerwood stock in the remnant section at our local hardwood store and re-sawed it into 1/4" widths that I could book-match into one board, 11" wide by 4 feet long. I loved the pattern in the grain of this wood - the contrast between the light and dark - so characteristic of the joys and sorrows in life, all swirling and weaving together to become a beautiful, sacred mosaic.
The box joints added to the symbolism, each "finger" interlaced with another, very much a representation of two hands folded together. These where very much the hands of Florian; either folding in prayer, or walking beside his wife, helping one of his four children, or being involved with his community.
The base took shape from a piece of Honduran mahogany, the edge routed to soften the transition and add interest to the overall shape. This particular piece of wood had been left over from a cradle I had built to celebrate the birth of our first grandchild - a lovely girl yet to see her first birthday. The paradox of life and death, held in tension within a human heart that can celebrate life yet at the same time grieve another that has left us so soon. Joy and sorrow - two primal elements tumbling through my world within my quiet workshop.
I adorned the lid with an inlay of a simple compass rose into the face; a symbol of a voyage that charted its way through many waters. His commitment, his faith, and his loyalty kept his course sure, be it through calm water or storm.
The date of his death was carved with simple Roman numerals into the front base, then finished the piece with a beautiful application of shellac and a final buffing of wax.
Every part of this project, every step and every cut was led by my heart, brimming with memories and shaded with sorrow. As the box began to take shape, an understanding also began to emerge from within the wood, for this wood had also once lived and now had somehow found its way into my shop; into my hands. These small pieces were a small part of something bigger; a quiet nobility that spoke of being at one time majestic and strong. For that is the way of things - even the mightiest among us will also arrive one day at the end of our own path that so many before us have found.
It lies before us now to decide how our journey to that inevitable end will look.
For my good brother-in-law, that journey was one of an honorable man.
And the honor is mine to be able to create the urn that will hold all our memories of that man.
You are loved and missed.
Life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only a horizon;
and horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight
~Rossiter Worthington Raymond
Tigerwood on mahogany base, maple and jatoba inlay, amber shellac and paste wax finish.