According to The World Wildlife Fund, "Of all migrations by small creatures, few are as astonishing as the one performed by the Monarch butterfly. The embodiment of fragility, these insects travel between 1,200 and 2,800 miles or more between their starting and ending points -- a feat without parallel. ...dangers including bad weather, predation by birds during hibernation, and big losses in the population due to winter storms,” are endured and overcome by this delicate creature. It seems that Monarchs are a marriage of 'delicate' strength, with the ability to fly away...and return.
Following my mother’s death, I sat on my porch where she and I had sat for many evenings, several months before. Through my tears I looked up; several Monarch butterflies were hanging around the area near me. I had seen some before, on our farm, but not this many. They stayed for several minutes...until my tears were dry.
My mother was a strong, yet compassionate woman. She raised her five children alone, refusing any outside help. We well knew her toolbox was off limits to any childish endeavors, just as many kitchens are the charge and territory of other mothers. She built houses, fixed wiring, sweated pipes, as well as accomplishing all the household duties that kept us healthy and cared for. I recall her soft, beautiful voice as a young child when she would sing my favorite song – in French. She made a pea, pickle and celery salad to die for! We struggled financially though not for her lack of long hours and extra jobs to keep us afloat. My sister recalls the time we could only afford one chocolate candy bar – a rare treat! She carefully cut it into five equal pieces, making sure the division was a fair one. I recall a conversation we shared when I was a young teenager: “Go out each day and find three people to which you can give an honest compliment.” Her Love for us was strong and instinctual, yet delicate, when needed.
A few years after her death, my husband and I built a barn. We noticed a lone Monarch wandering through every afternoon for several months, spending her few moments of rest amongst the tools and building paraphernalia lying about. For whatever reasons, my mother came to mind and I recalled her love and expertise with building things. I smiled as I imagined her inspecting our project, making sure it was strong enough, that she approved.
The following year our 22 year old Arabian, Gabby, whose old and injured legs finally gave out, was lying in her corral for the last time as we waited the vet’s arrival. Sitting on the ground with her, I watched as a Monarch slowly came to rest on her neck. It stayed a few seconds, then continued on her way. My mother had been an avid horsewoman, with a particular affinity for Arabians. “It’s okay, I’m waiting for Gabby, I’ll take good care of her,” was the thought that ran through my mind. It assuaged my grief just a little, helped me cope. My Love and understanding of "butterflies", was deepening.
Last year as I walked toward the car to take our old, dying German Shorthair for her last ride to the vet, a large Monarch butterfly flew quickly towards me from around the corner of our house. It flew in place about 5 feet in front of me for several seconds, then slowly went on its way. Understanding that my mother supplemented her income when we were young by raising Shelties - that she Loved her dogs, I again rested in the understanding that my mother had a special place waiting for our tired puppy, whose time here was over. I thanked her in my heart and I went on to finish my nightmarish task.
My sister and I reunited this year following a long separation that began when our mother died. During the initial phone call to my sister, as I recounted my series of butterfly events, she told me one of her own. A few days before our call, her daughter had called her from Germany to say a Monarch butterfly had sat for several seconds on her young son’s hand while he stood in the back yard. My mother dearly Loved children; they were an important purpose in her life.
We visited this past weekend. Within the first hour together, as she came into her living room where I was standing, Elton John was singing Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Butterflies are free is the chorus. My sister and I looked at each other; at that moment we instinctively recognized that sometimes, other forces are at work in our lives, that life is a bit more complex than what might initially meet the eye. We warmly realized that we just might have a special butterfly in our lives that occasionally wears a protective pair of angel wings.
This weekend was warm and Loving and filled with ‘Mommy’ stories, laced with butterflies. We shared gifts with each other. One of these gifts will continue to remind us of the family gift we share. It will help us in our healing, it will remind us that some things in life may transcend our physical reality. My sister now wears a delicate, gold and silver butterfly necklace; I wear the matching earrings. The silver is strong; the gold is delicate.
Butterflies really are free – free to fly away...and free to return.
Are there "butterflies" or another special part of Nature in your Life?