Butterflies have become a symbol of the continuance of life, love, and connections of the heart for me. Caregivers often need symbols of hope to help carry them through the difficult times. Have you found yours?
On an October day the year my father died in March, I was having a particularly hard day. I started talking to God. I told Him I knew Dad was with Him and of course was happy for that, but that I certainly did miss him and wish I had some sign... some reminder... that would touch my heart again just the way Dad's presence did.
Soon I was called back to the duties of life at hand and started to head out of the house to pick up the kids from school. There, in the flower bed just outside the door, wilting from the first cold snap of fall, were butterflies. There were perhaps a dozen all fluttering around - AFTER the first cold snap. God gave me that sign and I knew it was that because immediately the memory of the giant Luna moth my father had shown me years before came to mind. That one magnificent moth inspired my respect of butterflies and moths and had stayed with me long past childhood. And there they were, a reminder of my father's love for me and a special moment we shared.
But now for the rest of the story....
I told my mother of the sign. She said she wishes she could see a "Dad" sign. I told her that I felt that a person had to be open to the idea and, as I did, ask God to send them.
A few years passed and my mother was diagnosed with a second cancer. She had survived the first and regained her health. We were hopeful. But unexpectedly God called her home a few days after her November 2008 surgery. I was devasted, but tried to move toward the holiday season with a brave face, particularly for my children. One task awaiting was to clean out my mother's gift basket. I knew she'd tucked away a few Christmas presents there and she'd have wanted me to make sure they were given. Each item and recipient name had been listed on a sheet of paper at the top of the basket. Having sorted everything out, I reached down and pulled the last item, not on her list. It was a glass case, framed in wood. Inside the case were six butterflies, perfectly preserved.
Whether she knew her days were near and end when she bought the case or when she packed her basket, there is no doubt that she knew that gift would have meaning. She knew the sign I needed. Her act of finding and giving that to me was reminder of our love for each other that had grown so much during the years she allowed me to help care for her. It remains a reminder of the continuance of our family bonds despite the fact that my parents are no longer with me.
Our family's journey in caregiving transformed our relationships. It changed us all in ways we never expected. Because of that, I continue to dedicate myself to supporting and encouraging other caregivers in the hopes that one day they too, will find their butterflies.