There have been two instance in my life when a butterfly surprised me, the first time when one landed upon my shoulder, hovering there quite contently for what seemed like an eternity. The second time, one circled just inches away from my face until I acknowledged its presence before darting off with the wind in its wings. Both encounters came upon the heels of the deaths of my parents – first my father, who died in 1985 following a painful, six-month battle with cancer and most recently my mother, whose four-year struggle with Alzheimer’s ended with her death at home with me on July 4th– 91 years young.
I would never describe myself as a superstitious person nor am I one who fears the presence of spirits. Truth be told, I ascribe to the belief that the doorway between this world and the next, the spiritual realm in which the ancestors dwell, infrequently opens – sometimes to provide us with answers, other times to make room for needed solace in moments of loneliness or despair.
These butterfly visits have not been the only experiences I have had that gave me the strength and courage to go on. For example, there have been times when the pungent aroma of my maternal grandmother’s powder has invaded my space, giving me the same kind of peace and feeling of being loved that she always provided when I was a little boy.
As for my two, very special butterflies, I’d like to believe that the essence, the spirits, of my mother and father were in those two fragile insects – essential contributors within the Creator’s garden. In fact, I don’t just believe it – I know that is the case. And so, I remained quiet and as still as possible during those two powerful moments in my life so they could “speak” to me.
Have you ever listened to the wind during a raging storm and heard a voice from afar or discerned the drummer’s message that accompanied a torrential downpour as the rain pelted against your windows? What about those times when the sun’s rays were so intense that you wished you were in a cool river or lake – and then a breeze came out of nowhere to give you needed relief?
That’s what I felt when my two butterflies visited me.
I was fortunate – no blessed and favored – to have parents whose love was so fierce that I would have never wanted to replace either of them for someone else. Come hell or high water, as the saying goes, I knew without a doubt that whenever I called them or needed them, they would be there – no matter what.
Even when I had done the worst, embarrassed them and the family beyond belief, or taken the road that I knew would lead to nowhere, they individually and collectively showed me that love is a “verb” – a word that calls for action rather than a description.
I will never forget my butterfly encounters. One day, when I have joined my parents and the rest of the ancestors, I hope that when and if my children, or my grandchildren, are in search of answers from me, or desperately long for my touch, that I will somehow be able to let them know that I am still and forever with them, albeit in a less discernable form.
Take it from me. If ever a butterfly visits you, let it speak to you.