One year ago today, we lost our little girl, Hope, before we got a chance to know her. I’ve written about that day and the days of hurt that followed already, but I’d like to share a couple of poems that I carry in my heart for my little lost girl.
The first is my own adaptation of one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. My daughter’s name was Hope and as soon as we gave her her name after we had already lost her, this poem came to mind and has “perched in my soul” ever since.
Hope is a girl with feathers
Who perches in my soul -
And sings her tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash my little Bird
Who kept my heart so warm -
I’ve heard her in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet – never – in Extremity.
She asked nothing – of me.
The second poem is one that found me before it fit me. Years ago. It is one that I found in my grade 11 textbook in my first year of teaching and always struggled to share with my students, but I always felt compelled to because, despite its sadness, it has always been so beautiful to me. And now so heartbreakingly appropriate as so many of the kisses I give to my daughter Madelyn are meant for her sister Hope.
The First Snowfall
- by James Russell Lowell
The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.
I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.
I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.
Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.
Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.
I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud-like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.
And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!”
Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.