By David F. Rooney
The grey sky might have matched the emotional state of some participants in Sunday’s Snowflake Ceremony but the annual Hospice Society ritual doubtless helped many men and women cope with the loss of their loved ones.
The annual ritual, held at the Circle of Life tree in Queen Elizabeth Park, is a comfort as it eases people’s grief and metaphorically bridge the gulf between this life and the next.
After a brief greeting by acting Hospice Society president Robyn Abear, former president and long-time member Vivian Mitchell read this lovely prayer, which was used to dedicate the Circle of Life tree in 1997:
May the prayers of each of us and all of us
make this a special and a sacred place,
a place of peace — a place to cherish precious
memories and the gift of life.
May those who come here in the gentle breeze
of springtime find hope and consolation in the
new leaves of another season of life.
May those who come in the heat of summer
find shade, a cool and quiet moment in the
heat of life’s journey/
May the blaze of autumn colours take away
the fear of winter cold for all who visit here
with cherished moments.
For all who come in the stark of the winter of life may
this place hold out the promise of spring and the
bright promise of immortality as we remember
those we loved and those who have loved us.
We trust our prayers of rededication will be
heard and so continue to make the Circle of Life
a consecrated and holy place. May all who
come here to remember gestures of friendship
and happy times shared with family and friends
find true and lasting peace.
Gary Sulz is no stranger to death and its profound effect on individuals and families. And he often has something simple yet profound to impart at this annual ceremony. Here’s what Gary shared:
“November 30 was a significant event in my personal life. The 9th anniversary of a loved one’s return to spirit or return to God if you will. Events such as these are significant in all of our lives because they help us to remember, and in remembering we are keeping our loved ones alive in our hearts. Remembering validates who we are and allows us to draw close to one another here on earth.
“Events such as this Snowflake Ceremony allow us that same gift. The time and place to quietly connect with others who have experienced loss and to remember those who have exchanged their physical appearance to one of spiritual existence.
“We are all connected in this world – we are all one, yet individual, just like the snowflakes that are falling all around us. We write the names of our loved ones on these snowflakes, individually, and yet they, and we, are all connected.
“There is one word in the spiritual movement today that signifies all this – “Namaste,” which means, “My soul recognizes your soul. I honour the light, love, beauty, truth and kindness within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things, there is no distance and no difference between us. We are the same, we are One. Namaste.”
“Thank you all for coming today, may you be blessed in your memories and our time together.”
Gill MacLachlan shared a prayer she said helps her get through black days:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Similar prayers and thoughts were expressed by Gill MacLachlan and Rev. Matthew Carter of the Alliance Church helped ease the stirrings of sorrow with this prayer:
Let us pray
“Heavenly Father, we have gathered here with the expressed purpose of remembering our loved ones. So with that as our starting place I would humbly ask for a heightened awareness of Your presence bringing comfort and strength to us
today. Some of us here have lost loved ones at an
obvious end of a life lived full and well, and
others here would see their loss as one that came to soon and without notice. Regardless of how our loved ones passed away, the common
denominator we all share, is that we have
become more deeply acquainted with grief. So I ask Lord, for mercy for our hurting souls, that somehow in someway we could know the warmth of Your healing presence, just like the sensation we feel of the warm sun embracing our face on a cold winter’s afternoon.
I would also like to pray for those who work with the Hospice Society and give of their lives to walk with families as they journey with their loved ones in their last days. I pray for their strength as well and for the ability to bring care and
comfort to people like us who are hurting.
We thank You Father for this place that we can come and gather together and remember.
I ask for Your blessing upon our homes as we leave this place. May we all know the warmth of Your unfailing love this Christmas season.
Thank You for hearing our prayers,
In Jesus name, Amen.
Afterwards we inscribed the names of our dead friends and loved ones on paper snowflakes that were hung from the Circle of Life Tree’s bare branches.
A cup of hot cider completed that short hour of fellowship on a grey Sunday afternoon and when we left the park the gloom that had stalked us earlier on had — as it always seems to do — eased and left us with somewhat lighter hearts.
Here are some photos from this year’s Snowflake Ceremony: