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May’s Cottonwood Snow: A Blanket of Hope Amidst the Pain of Loss

The fifth anniversary of my daughter’s death approaches, and despite the warm May sunshine, I feel a chill in my bones. What appears to be snow covers the ground, but […]

May's Cottonwood Snow

The fifth anniversary of my daughter’s death approaches, and despite the warm May sunshine, I feel a chill in my bones. What appears to be snow covers the ground, but it’s cottonwood fluff. This is the time of year when cottonwood trees release their seeds into the air to be carried off by the wind. As the fuzzy, white seeds litter the ground, my mind drifts back to the day after Emily’s death. My living room was suddenly filled with people coming and going. I cannot recall everyone who was there because of my shock, and my attention was fixated on the scene outside my patio window. The cottonwood snow was thicker than I had ever seen before. Michael, my friend, followed my gaze. “It’s like a snow globe out there,” he exclaimed. “I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” Every year around May 16th, the cottonwood snow falls, but never quite like it did in May of 2018.

“Cottonwood Snow” that falls each May

Was it a sign from the heavens or from my girl? I will never know. But now, when I see the cottonwood fluff piling up, I am immediately transported back to those first few hours and days following Emily’s death—the agony and the sense of being lost, adrift on a boat in a sea of confusion without a compass or oar. How would I find my way back to the shore of life and those who stood by my side? I’m not entirely sure how I managed to avoid sinking into the pit of despair, or at least staying there permanently. Instead, I strive to commemorate my daughter’s life and art as I heal.

Five years later, my focus is not on what I have lost, but on what I must do to save others. Though my heart may have been torn apart, through my brokenness, I have discovered a gentleness that endures. It has been said that those who are most broken on the inside are the ones most willing to help others, and there is nothing more human than empathizing with someone else’s pain.

Recently, I met two mothers who lost their sons to fentanyl poisoning just a few months apart in a small Minnesota town. I wish my own pain could have shielded them from theirs. Unfortunately, I have learned that it doesn’t work that way. Their journey toward healing and reclaiming their lives won’t resemble mine exactly, but at least I can provide them with a beacon of light on the broken road they now traverse. We must honor our children’s lives as we fiercely fight for those who are still with us.

Two young men died of fentanyl poisoning in Pipestone, MN

In this journey of grief and healing, I’ve come to realize that the pain of losing a child never truly dissipates. It becomes a part of who we are, etched into our souls. Yet, within the depths of our brokenness, we find strength, compassion, and an unwavering determination to make a difference.

As the cottonwood fluff continues to fall year after year, I am reminded of the fragility of life and the interconnectedness of our experiences. While I cannot change the past or undo the pain, I can extend a hand to those who walk a similar path, offering them solace, understanding, and the warmth of companionship.

So, as I mark this solemn milestone, I choose to honor my daughter’s memory not only by cherishing the life she lived but by channeling my grief into a force for good. With every step forward, I carry the torch of hope, illuminating the shattered roads of others who have been touched by loss.

May the cottonwood fluff serve as a poignant reminder that amidst the deepest despair, there is resilience, love, and the relentless pursuit of healing. Together, let us navigate this broken world, hand in hand, and create a future where no parent has to bear the pain we have endured.

Faith, Hope & Courage,


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