A warning. A gentle caution is what I come away with when reading “Snow beneath whose chilly softness”, by Emily Dickinson. It’s a simple tactic, really, of avoiding direct speech in order to reassure me while I eavesdrop.

Snow beneath whose chilly softness
Some that never lay
Make their first Repose this Winter
I admonish Thee

Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor
We so new bestow
Than thine acclimated Creature
Wilt Thou, Austere Snow?

If you’ve ever had to bury a loved one in the dead of winter, you know that it can seem an added insult to have to surrender soft flesh to frozen elements, “Some that never lay / Make their first Repose this Winter”.

As I listen in, the poem’s admonishment aimed at the snow, to “Blanket Wealthier the Neighbor / We so new bestow” beneath its “chilly softness”, generates in me a slight lessening of feelings of doubt, discouragement and inadequacy.

Death of a child always brings confrontation with thoughts of past actions and, in my case, consequences I’d hoped would go away. My daughter died instantly in a car crash on November 30. Her birthday, December 2, had always ushered in Christmas celebrations in our family more than Thanksgiving. After more than two decades I don’t consciously feel the heavy sense of doom I did in the first years, though I am challenged to confront guilt; without caving in and surrendering to hopelessness. 

While at other times of the year I more consistently go about my routines like the “Acclimated Creature” of the long-time residents “beneath the snow” in the poem, I am, toward the close of this holiday, more prone to question my actions. 

As I weigh the knowledge that I am all too capable of making mistakes and attempt to balance this against the poem’s austerity in the face of death’s terms, I sense a challenge not to be discouraged.

I must act on my own terms, not someone else’s and decide if I am going about things in the right way.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes  Your Way