In Japanese Studies, you may come across the term, wabi sabi, which roughly translates to “beauty in impermanence and imperfection.” A broken cup that is glued together with gold filling, showing its cracks and mishandling, is considered wabi sabi. The crookedness of an ikebana arrangement or bonsai is considered wabi sabi; however, can death be wabi sabi?
I recently heard the term “collateral beauty” while watching the movie of the same name and whose premise follows the main character’s, Howard’s, grief over the death of his only child. Similar to A Christmas Carol, Howard meets the personifications of Time, Love, and Death.
Later in the film you realize Howard’s wife, Madeline, is the first to meet Death. At the hospital, Death, in the guise of an elderly woman, asks if Madeline is losing someone. When Madeline replies that she is losing her daughter, Death responds with, “Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty.”
Let me tell you: if someone were to tell me to “notice the ‘beauty'” while grieving someone’s death, I’d punch them in the face. Nevertheless, the following eloquently defines “collateral beauty:”
It may take a lifetime to understand that within that dark and ugly place there was a beauty and love so strong that not even death could dishevel it. That in fact, the “beauty” is the love that continues even after death, the impact of that trauma brings us closer to the love that we shared for that person, and all the ways that individual has affected our lives and the lives of others….Life is a teacher and love is the reward in all its forms. When we can see love where darkness used to reside, we can finally turn our lives into something glorious. – Alex Milosev on Quora
I understand collateral beauty when thinking of my best friend’s, Omar’s, passing. I will always feel inexplicable sadness when I think of Omar, but I also smile when I see his photos, laugh when I watch his ridiculous videos, and feel immense love when I’m with his family and friends.
Have you ever noticed the collateral beauty?