The bell project
by Rebecca Axelrod, HPCCR volunteer
On an ordinary day last fall, an extraordinary thing happened. I received a phone call from Crystal England, HPCCR Volunteer Program Coordinator, asking me if I would be interested in inscribing some of the Commemorative Bells that HPCCR releases each year during the holiday season. Initially, I was flattered that I had been singled out as one who had proven her skills at writing and calligraphy! I told her that I would certainly be interested in finding out more about this “project” and what it entailed. She gave me Nancy Cole’s number and encouraged me to call her and discuss the particulars.
And so began this extraordinary experience . . . .
My initial meeting with Nancy Cole (HPCCR Director of Special Events) was more of a “show and tell” as she explained how the bells were inscribed and that each one would be different depending on whether it was ordered “in memory of” or “in honor of.” My first reaction was wondering whether or not I could successfully space that many letters in a circular area with only a 2 1/8″ opening! Never one to shy away from a challenge, I agreed to “give it a try,” and left having no real idea as to what I had just committed to!
After inscribing 712 bells, the answer to my wonderings came to full light. I had embarked on a very spiritual practice. I had once heard that the art of calligraphy was a link to meditation. Up until this point, I had not experienced that; although I had hand-addressed all of my niece’s wedding invitations, it was more a devotion of love than a meditation.
My experience with the Commemorative Bells began to turn the formation of letters into a contemplative practice. The first time I realized the connection to the mindfulness aspect of this endeavor was after a particularly large order had been completed. I turned to look at the stack of boxes, each holding an inscribed bell, and the mere quantity of them astounded me. I felt no time had passed at all! I became so deeply attached to each name, some with very moving additions to the format “in memory of” that as I held each bell, I felt almost a solitude and a grave responsibility to the memorialized or honored person.
It is said that the link to meditation happens in a moment. As I held each new bell and read the inscription I was to pen, I realized that I was creating a lasting tribute; and although I did not know the person I was memorializing, I did nonetheless feel an intimate connection and reverence to them.
I think most people who create something with their hands feel a satisfaction in creating something beautiful. Inscribing these bells goes beyond that; there is also an aspect of soulfulness. They touched something inside of me that was very precious. They became blessings. What’s precious and meaningful for one might not be for another, but each message held something very personal and dear to the giver. There were some very touching words, nicknames only used by loved ones, a few which could only be understood by the giver and the receiver. There were even pet tributes and an order for a beloved cat complete with a paw print! I never tired of seeing what the next order would bring, even though my body ached as my shoulders and hands overworked themselves in an effort to meet deadlines.
The spiritual meditation of this work fed me in a way that allowed my body to continue through all 712 memorials and tributes. This “Bell Project” had revealed to me the incredible responsibility I had to so many remembered as I realized the spiritual practice that this had become. Edward Johnson, a calligrapher who has written books on this art form and has taught calligraphy professionally made the following profound statement, “Our aim should be to give letters life that we ourselves may have more life.” I think anyone who has received a HPCCR Commemorative Bell would fully understand this statement as their loved ones continue to have life in remembrance.
What seemed to be an ordinary task for which I would devote hours during my own busy holiday time became an extraordinary blessing.Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, hospice, Light Up A Life, spiritual care, volunteering comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.