Wednesday, January 06, 2010
This has been a long hard day. Last night, I received a phone call with the news that one of my students had suddenly died. I went to school knowing that I would need to try to help my students through a very sad day. My job as a teacher was hard because, like my students, I was also mourning.
It is true that each person approaches loss in a different way, but I wanted to give my students an opportunity to step outside of spinning disorientation that came with the unexpected loss of a classmate and friend. So I told them, for homework, to make a snow angel and then write about it for 5 minutes.
The assignment had been easy to think of. All day I watched the snow gently filling the air and softening the view. I longed to leave the ordered desks and rooms and go into the clean cold space that the trees seemed to hold waiting for me. It was evening when I realized that I too needed to complete the assignment.
I put down my purse and shopping bag, found a clean patch of snow by the garage that the dog had not pranced through, and lay down (sans hat). The snow was still sifting down, powdered-sugar style. I remembered that some of the fun of making a snow angel was looking up at the sky while doing it. There was an obvious break in the low clouds. As I looked straight into the sky’s night face, it seemed to open a bit of goodness-knows to me.
I could feel an ice crust under the 4 inches of powder that I swept away into wings. As a kid it had always been important to have your friend pull you up so as not to disturb the angel too much. But I was alone, a grandma in her heeled boots and long down coat (sans hat) who had placed herself in a cloud of snow, between earth and heaven, to make a snow angel.
Such is wonder and awe at the fragility of life. Such is breath and prayer and pulse of awareness. This is how one prays joy to muffle the pain of loss, with the awareness that snow and death are between earth and heaven.
I pushed myself up, and one hand crunched through the left wing. Brushing snow from my hair, I looked at the shadowed marking realizing that in the morning it would be no more than I ripple under the new snowfall. My snow angel would exist for a very short time.
There had been a time when I would have swished my nylon-padded legs all over the yard to place a multitude of angels under the sky. Later, there were the times I watched my children giggling – tongues out to catch the falling snow – while their arms and legs fanned joy. Tonight, I used one short-lived impression as a prayer for my student.
Fragile as a snow angel. We did not know how fragile she was.