This year, we chose the snowflake for tonight’s memorial, and I’d like to share a little bit about that. To start, I’ve written a poem:
Behold the tiny snowflake
So fleeting, so fragile
Appreciated for its beauty
Though it lasts only a short while
Notice the tiny snowflake
So small when it’s alone
Yet its power is magnified
As they gather and appear as one
The snowflake is like my child
As well it is like my grief
Both singular and personal
Universal and yet unique
You cannot behold my child
For their stay was far too brief
But perhaps you can appreciate their beauty
As it takes form in my grief
Rabbi Simon Jacobson of The Meaningful Life Center wrote about Mysticism and how it “teaches that everything in the physical universe has a spiritual counterpart.” He explains that a teardrop is a manifestation of human emotion. Anger is an expression of repressed energy. And snow is also channeled energy. He suggests it is a spiritual voice appearing so that we can experience it with our senses.
(You can read his whole article on the subject here. It is lovely and has changed the way I think about snow.)
To paraphrase Rabbi Jacobson: Water is a symbol of knowledge. Falling water represents the transmission of knowledge from a higher to a lower place, from teacher to student. On a cosmic level, rain and snow represent the different ways in which divine energy flows to us from a higher spiritual plane. A snowflake needs at least two components in order to form: water droplets and a nucleus made up of dust or other microscopic particles in the air. A snowflake is formed when water takes shape around these microscopic particles and the cold air turns it into ice. He goes on to say that a snowflake, because it has two components: water and earth—is also symbolic. Earth being the material world and water being knowledge of divine energy. Thus snow, being half heaven and half earth provides the perfect intermediary between these two worlds.
One of the most difficult aspects about coping after losing someone is the wonder. Where are they now? Where did they go when their body died? Are they in heaven? Are they still here? Do they watch over us? Do they see how deeply we love them? I think this is why we seek things that represent them to us in the world around us.
The idea that snow could symbolize something more than the scientific creation of water freezing around a particle of dust appeals to me. In the same way we see our children in a butterfly, a dragonfly, in the trees, and in the stars… I see so much of my child and my grief in the snowflake.