Facing the Loss of a Loved One

Some little kids feel nervous around mascots, clowns, and Santa. Others understandably resist haunted houses, amusement park rides, and leafy vegetables. For me, the one place I dreaded every summer was Butterfly World.

Butterfly World was a haven for butterfly enthusiasts to stroll around an enclosed botanical garden. Intricately winged insects fluttered freely around a man-made flowery habitat. Despite the classical music, giggling kids, and the fact that there were decorative butterflies sticky-tacked on my own bedroom wall, Butterfly World outings as a family had me feeling like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. The scuffling sound of wings by my ears, a pair of butterflies darting at my face, and a particular type of butterfly that had a pattern resembling menacing eyes, provoked a shaking fear within me. I knew how much my family looked forward to this little oasis each year, so I nervously grinned through the experience in order to assure my parents that my shaking was just, you know, from the excitement. I remember my mom contently “Oooing” and “Ahhing” at the ranging hues of the butterflies, their wings like little stained glass windows of the Lord’s own design.

When we eventually stopped our summer trips to Florida, I had forgotten about Butterfly World and my anxious memories of it. I never thought that one of my most massive fears as a child would be entirely transformed within my heart as an adult.

A difficult aspect of grieving I have experienced has been the inability to feel the presence of my loved one. After my mom’s passing seven years ago, it can be scary to struggle with recalling the sound of her voice, remembering her gentleness, and simply sharing stories of her memory.

For some strange reason, a passing butterfly here and there throughout the years of my mom’s absence has consistently reminded my sister and I of our mom’s nature. The way their wings slowly dance by so elegantly mirrors the way my mom carried herself every day. She was humble and peaceful and the beauty of her faith captivated others.

This summer as my sister and I were taking a walk on a sunny afternoon, we passed a large bush on the outside of a house in our neighborhood. Popping out of the bush as we passed was a large Monarch butterfly, its orange and black wings bold and stark. It landed on my arm for a couple of seconds as if kissing me and then fluttered quickly away. My sister and I immediately looked at each other and knew that it had been my mom who had just said “hello” to us. The brief and unsuspecting moment of that butterfly landing on me was the reassuring presence of my mom that I often recklessly search for on a daily basis.

It is truly a gift to feel a touch of our loved one within God’s vast creation. Whether you associate a certain flower with your grandmother or a swaying tree as a wave from a friend who has passed, never doubt that the one you are missing is too far out of reach to feel close to. When we feel completely alone in our grief we can always turn to the love of the Lord whether in prayer, in nature, or by living out a little piece of the light that your loved one brought you.

As the Holy Spirit ever-presently hugs and holds you, so too does the lasting presence of the one you so dearly miss.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4