101: On Butterfly Wings

101: On Butterfly Wings

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

On Butterfly Wings

Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes.

~Author Unknown

After the motorcycle accident that claimed the lives of my daughter and son-in-law, my husband and I moved our grandchildren into our home. Overnight, my husband and I went from being retired grandparents to full-time caregivers and legal guardians for our heartbroken grandchildren. Cari was ten and Michael only six when they lost their mom and dad. While we all were grief stricken, Michael took the loss especially hard and withdrew into himself.

Not long after the accident, I ran into an acquaintance who offered her condolences and then asked if I’d received a message from Julie from “the other side.”

I asked what she meant.

She confided that after her mother passed away, her mom’s spirit visited her in her dreams and made its presence known to her in unexpected ways.

I must’ve appeared skeptical because she smiled knowingly and patted my hand. I don’t recall her exact words, but I do remember her look of certainty when she told me that someday Julie would send a sign to let me know she was nearby.

Nodding, I mentally noted the woman’s comment. Although I hoped one day to get a “sign” from Julie, raising my daughter’s children kept her memory alive every day.

Staying busy helped put my sorrow and self-pity on hold. My husband and I focused on creating a stable, loving home and familiar routines for Cari and Michael. For the remainder of the school year, I drove our grandchildren back and forth to their schools — Cari to her fourth-grade elementary class and Michael to kindergarten at a cross-town campus.

By the end of the summer, we enrolled both children in our parish school so they’d be closer to home and able to spend their school days in the same building. I volunteered in the cafeteria, on the playground, and in the library to reassure them, as well as myself, they would have someone who loves them close by.

My days were filled with carpooling, helping with homework, and taking our grandchildren to sporting events, practices, birthday parties, and other activities. If a note came home asking for field trip drivers, I signed up.

A year after the accident, I chaperoned a group of Michael’s first-grade classmates to the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House. Dressed in matching bright red casual-day T-shirts and blue jeans, Michael and the handful of boys in my group entered the Butterfly House with a sense of wonder and adventure.

Swarms of multi-colored butterflies greeted us as we meandered through the lush garden. While most of the lovely insects flitted around briefly before darting off to the garden’s fragrant tropical flowers, an orange and black Monarch anchored itself on Michael’s shirt and clung there.

My grandson’s big brown eyes grew wide as he checked out his colorful passenger. While we continued our garden tour, the other boys waved their arms, trying to get the Monarch to fly away; it refused to budge. Word spread, and even more classmates and chaperones gathered around to see Michael and his determined hitchhiker. Uncomfortable with all the attention, my shy grandson quickened his pace and wiggled his shoulders, but the winged wonder refused to abandon him. It wasn’t until we headed for the exit that the magnificent Monarch finally fluttered away.

In church one Sunday some time later, our pastor talked about how butterflies are symbols of resurrection and renewal. With a jolt, I recalled the bright and beautiful Monarch that refused to leave Michael’s side and remembered the woman’s words of assurance that I’d one day receive a message from my daughter. A sense of serenity spread over me with the belief that Julie had sent a sign during Michael’s field trip to the Butterfly House.

Although Julie’s physical presence is gone, her spirit lives on. On the wings of one of God’s most delicate creatures, my daughter sent assurance that she will always be close by, watching over her beloved family, helping us find peace and grace in life’s special moments until we’re reunited again.

~Donna Duly Volkenannt

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