When I was very young, my mother used a large blue pottery bowl to make biscuits or corn bread or any kind of food from flour that needed stirring. Mom was a big woman then, with powerful arms. She would hold that bowl in one arm and stir the ingredients with the other, as she moved around the kitchen floor, almost dancing, singing Yiddish songs learned in her long-ago childhood.

I loved watching her, and although I was only 6 or 7, I would dream about a future when that blue bowl would be mine, and I would stir and sing, connecting my childhood with a hazy, as yet unknown life to come.

But one day as Momma worked her magic, stirring and singing, readying the bread to feed four little girls, the bowl slipped from her grasp, fell to the floor and was irreparably shattered. With it went my childhood dream. The bowl haunts me to this day, though I am 70, not 7. It was solid and beautiful, large and perfect in form and function. But like life, it was also delicate and fragile as a human spirit.

We read in Psalm 90: The days of our lives number seventy years, and if in great vigor, eighty years; most of them are travail and futility, passing quickly and flying away. … Teach us then to reckon our days, that we may acquire a wise heart.

The lesson of the blue bowl was that we cannot hold permanently to anything in our lives but G‑d’s love. Though our souls may be tested and our hearts shattered by events in our lives, unlike the bowl, our hearts and souls can mend and once again be whole and perfect.

The second bowl in my life lessons was one I discovered in a general store, high in the mountains of West Virginia. The bowl was old—blue sponge on cream ceramic and 15 inches across. It came to represent a short time in my life when I lived alone and took care of myself and my needs without parental or spousal help. It also came to connect my childhood with my young adulthood.

I made all kinds of bread with that bowl. Though it was too large to hold in my arms, it became part of the way I fed my young family, and it taught me patience as the dough rose in the bowl. Though my first marriage was difficult and ended with the suicide of my husband, I held on to that bowl in all its age and beauty as a connection from one phase of my life to the next. It always had a prominent place in my home, reminding me of how I came to find it, what it meant to me and how I treasured it.

Of course, as everything but G‑d is ephemeral, that bowl, too, cracked, and I cried for the loss of a piece of my life, a treasured memory of freedom and joy.

Shortly after that, because my second husband and I are much older, we decided to move from our large home in Alabama to a smaller one near one of our children and grandchildren in Florida. The move was very difficult, and two of our dogs inexplicably died immediately upon our arrival. Because we have been adopting animals for years, our grief was all but unbearable. In addition, though we were glad to be near grandchildren, we left behind three sisters and my mother in Alabama.

As we unpacked dozens of boxes, I looked forward to finding a blue-and-yellow hand-painted bowl given to me by my beloved sister, Barbara. When I finally found it, it was shattered beyond repair. It seemed, in my sadness, to represent my severance from the family I left behind. And yet, as the Psalmist pleaded, I asked G‑d for that wise heart—for the peace only He can offer.

And so, the lessons of the bowls have come full circle. From the big blue bowl that held my childhood dream to the huge bowl that held my time of self-reliance to the bowl that linked me to a sister I was loathe to leave—all broken now. Still, they were pottery, and I am embarking on a new life broken away from the old, a chance to be made whole in a new way as a parent and grandparent.

Throughout the many journeys of our lives, sometimes G‑d allows our hearts to break because we are human and that is part of the human experience. But each of the shattered bowls reminds me that G‑d is the only constant in our lives. G‑d is there when we decide we need His loving care to remake us in a new and better way and give us a wise heart.