“Seeing a butterfly is one thing, but to have it land on you… That’s a sure sign it’s a message from the heavenly realm. Most of the time the message from your deceased loved one is, ‘I am alive and well and have not forgotten you. I love you.’” -From “Butterflies Meaning & Messages” by Blair Robertson
She came to me. After 40 years, she came to me. I was gathered with 6 friends (socially distanced, of course) at my friend, Nancy’s. We were sitting on her beautiful deck that jutted out over the Fox River. She landed on the calf of my right leg which was crossed over my left leg. She sat for minutes and minutes. She opened and closed her wings. Her antennae moved back and forth. She sat and sat and sat. Nancy, a survivor of her son, Joe’s death, knew from following my daughter Jen on Facebook what this meant. “Grandma Butterfly” has come to Jen for years. She’s also come to her greatgrandson, my grandson, Ryan. She’s landed on both of them. For at least 7 years, Grandma Butterfly has arrived at Jen’s at sunset. She’s kissed her forehead. She’s sat on Ryan’s arm. She’s sat on Zack’s arm (Jen’s boyfriend.)
As she sat on my leg, I put my sunglasses on to hide the tears as this was a book club/knitter’s gathering and not all knew what this meant. My friend, Kathy, to my right, noticed me just staring. I asked her to take some pictures which she did. Nancy also took pictures. She sat on Nancy’s shoulder for a bit and then left. Soon she came back and sat on the edge of my phone, inching down the side. I knew what this meant. “Call Jen. Let her know.”
I could FEEL that this was her. AND….I know why she came now. Mom took care of dad for 7 years from his diagnosis of emphysema to his death. The last 2-3 years he was unable to work while she continued to work, care for him, and take care of all that goes into owning a home. His death was the beginning of her spiral toward her own.
Four months after he died, she tried to kill herself. She lived and was not at all happy about living. From her first attempt to her death 2 years later, she faced loss after loss after loss. She learned from that first attempt how to” get it right the next time”. I believe that she struggled every single day from that first attempt to her death.
Five years ago, I learned that “Ellen” was “the ghost at Bardwell School”. I visited the school and went to all the places where she was “seen”. The Learning Center Director and the Principal confirmed sitings. But she didn’t come to me. It made me happy to know that she was in a place where she had been so happy. She appeared to Jen and Ryan. Why did she come now?
My own husband has faced a few serious medical challenges these past few years. Each challenge that has occurred, at some point I think, “This is what mom experienced for the last few years of dad’s life.” I could feel her saying this to me. I would think, “Now I get it.” That’s just part of it.
We are in a pandemic. I, too, face almost daily losses of an unexpected nature. Her job change (not something she wanted and, in fact, was the final straw) and managing a big house became overwhelming. Her favorite daughter and the one closest to her, had moved out of state 9 months prior to her death. Loss after loss after loss… She came now because I needed her.
Maybe I didn’t know at that precise moment, but I’ve known for a while. “Mom, where are you?” “Mom, I get it.” “Mom, I have the daughter you should have had.” “Mom….I’m sorry…” September 5 marks the day she was found. She died somewhere over that Labor Day week-end. The 5th was a Wednesday. She was to start her new job on Tuesday. She was to have gone to her sister’s for Labor Day weekend but my aunt told her that she “couldn’t handle” mom’s depression any more.
Suicide occurs when the burdens grow beyond a person’s ability to manage them. I truly believe that mom tried every single day to keep going. Her capacity to keep going simply left her… Survivors often ask, “Why?” Am I one of the ‘lucky” ones because I know why? When all is said or done, it really doesn’t matter does it? The grief and pain we carry grows “easier” as the years go on.
But our hearts are broken. Like a broken leg, an x-ray would still show the now-healed break. I think an x-ray of our hearts would show the same thing. We survive. We have one another. We cope, we ask “why”, we move forward… We never forget them. They are always with us. Now, more than ever, I’ve had the visit. I knew why then and I know why now…