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Thanksgiving, Artful Ashes, what I am thankful for

Artful Ashes

Artful Ashes artisan at work

Thankful For

Artful Ashes, you made a huge difference for me in 2016, and this a post of thanks to Greg, Christina, Minhi and the crew there in Ballard Washington. Readers of this blog know that 2016 was a tough year for Mr. and Mrs. HRNasty.  

In 2015, Mrs. HRNasty was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a partial and then a full mastectomy, radiation then declared a survivor. In 2016, the cancer had returned to her lungs and after having 1 lung removed, she passed in July of this year.

Glass half full

It sucked then, it sucks now and there isn’t a night that goes by where I don’t question the meaning of life. Despite that, I have a lot to be thankful for and if I can be thankful, anyone can. This post is thanks to Artful Ashes and looking at the glass half full.

What am I thankful for? Here is an incomplete list.

  1. We had 20 years of marriage that only got better. We became stronger in the last year and I am proud of what we did together both personally and professionally. I couldn’t be more proud of Mrs. HRNasty.
  2. All the friends that helped and continue to support the both of us. I tried to thank folks here. 
  3. Well wishes and support from the readers of this blog. Longtime subscribers who email regularly, and folks I haven’t heard from. Thank you for the support.

I am putting one foot in front of the other and putting a smile on my face. Mrs. HRNasty wouldn’t want to see me moping around or feeling sorry for myself. If the situation were reversed, I WOULD be raising my voice if I saw her giving up. No one wants to be around “The guy that gave up” and I don’t want to become “that guy”.

Compassion

What got me through and continues to be the game changer in my life moving forward?  Simply put, a compassionate group of folks at Artful Ashes. For those of you who are not familiar, Artful Ashes creates glass art with a very small amount of the ashes of loved ones. Mrs. HRNasty was related to the owners Greg and Christina and her wish was that her ashes be made in glass art. (It takes a VERY small bit of ash) 

I wasn’t familiar with the process or the group, but when I saw they had 500K + Facebook likes, I took notice.  

So why was working with Artful Ashes so important to me? It was important at a lot of different levels and a few are listed below in an effort to help others that have lost loved ones.

I didn’t know what I was missing

Per Mrs. HRNasty’s wishes, she was cremated. Her ashes were presented to me in a nice wooden box with the standard brass plate. My mother was cremated when she passed of ALS so I was familiar with the process and knew what to expect. I like the wooden box, I have the box in a prominent place in my home office, and I get good juju from her presence. But I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I took the journey with Greg, Christina, and Minhi at Artful Ashes. 

Greg and Christina are the owners and Minhi is one of the artists working with the glass. For the record, they did not and are not paying me for this post. In fact, they didn’t want me to go through the effort on their behalf. As much as I am trying to articulate how grateful I am to them for the experience, I am trying to share how this helped me so that it may help others.

We all deal with grief in a different way and Artful Ashes was instrumental for me. The biggest difference is that I can see, touch, and hold the creation from Artful Ashes. This is much more personal than looking at a wooden box. They provide a lighted base that the glass sits on which makes the sculpture come alive at night. I feel much more connected to the glass and see something different in it each time I spend time with it. You can literally see the ash in the glass. The experience for me is much more personal and the feeling of connection is much greater. 

It’s all about the people

But it isn’t just the “thing”, it is the experience. A great meal at a restaurant sucks if the waiter is a snob. I hadn’t met Greg prior and had only met Christina briefly years ago but they both made me feel as if I were immediate family. Greg is a soft-spoken individual and knows how to make you feel comfortable at unfortunate times. Christina is the outgoing personality that gives you the confidence you are going to have fun. Minhi is a real artist and I appreciate all the effort she took to make sure everything was done right.

Minhi creating glass sculpture

Minhi creating glass sculpture

I was fortunate enough to meet the folks that work with the glass in the studio and watched as the ashes turned into a beautiful piece of glass art. I watched in awe as Minhi took the shapeless glass and created the perfect heart. There were probably 4 people on the crew working the glass, all with art degrees, a few post-grad degrees and over 50 years of experience. This team took the job seriously and the thing that struck me was the respect shown for the ashes and the glass.

Artful Ashes, respect, and sincerity

The respect was emphasized when I gave Minhi the ashes. She looked me in the eye, smiled and said: “I will take good care of her for you”. I hire people for a living and feel I can see through the bullshit. You don’t present yourself this way unless you are serious about your craft and her sincerity really stood out for me. In their spare time, all the artists work glass projects. You know how I like to hire people who don’t stop their craft after 5:00? This was that crew.

They engraved the glass with Mrs. Nasty’s first name. When I asked about adding the year she was born and passed, Greg schooled me and I am glad he did. He explained that engraving years into the glass puts a start and a finish to the name, and that Mrs. Nasty isn’t finished. She is still with us. He explained he would add the years if I wanted to, but I really appreciate his perspective and the glass just has her name. I am not a religious person, but I literally think about her differently after learning about this perspective. Yoda he is.   

Healing

Over the course of going through the process with Artful Ashes, I saw a lot of families drop off ashes and pick up finished glass sculptures. I initially said to Greg and Christina that I thought they had a very hard job because I initially only saw folks dropping off ashes and based on experience it isn’t easy. There were a lot of tears of joy when I saw the glass picked up and I felt the same. I didn’t think this would have as much of an effect on me and yes, I cried. When I saw families picking up the finished glass, I realized quickly why Greg and Christina do what they do.

They are literally healing individuals and families. They are reuniting, and giving loved ones a way to work through the loss. I thought I had a good job because I offer folks meaning via their work and a job offer. These guys have it good.

Don’t feel bad for me

So, this Thanksgiving, I am sad, but I am also grateful for the friends and experiences I have had with Mrs. HRNasty. Don’t feel sad for me or Mrs. HRNasty. I and Mrs. HRNasty had 20 great years and the last 9 months were our best work together.

Finished glass

Finished glass

I was able to hold her hand when she was scared and she held my hand when I felt helpless. I am proud of what we had and thankful for the memories she gave me. I think Dr. Suess said it best,  

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

No matter how hard things are, try to find something to be thankful for, and have an extra helping of stuffing for me.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

 

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  • Kaitlyn Smith

    Best quote at the end. You, my friend, are a total warrior.

    • I was not in the service, and have the utmost respect for the folks that did serve. To me personally, the term “warrior” is the highest compliment in any field. I am humbled. Thank you!!!!

  • J-nean

    HRN, thanks so much for sharing this story and all the other great stories and blogs and advice, etc. You are truly one of a kind, and I appreciate you. You’ve got a great attitude and even though my job hunt is over for now, I continue to learn from you when I read posts like this. It’s hard to know what to say sometimes so I’m going back a “few” years and will just say ” keep on truckin’ ” & take care.

    • J-nean,
      Thank you for your trust in me and the blog. I know you took a risk, and glad it paid off in the end. I think today is your “first day” at your new job. You stuck with it, you kept on “truckin” and you landed the gig! Congrats and thank you again for your support! HRN