The story of my mother's return as a yellow butterfly after her untimely death.
|This is the story that is on my heart and must be written. It is a tribute to my mother who survived so much, yet died way before her time. In the story, I am Tammy and the memories are true. The thoughts of the yellow butterfly are my own hopeful imaginings. It is very much a work-in-progress and needs much polishing. I appreciate any and all input you can give me.
I looked down upon my daughter as she knelt at my grave. Watching from the passenger window of a little red car, sat my mother. I watched as Tammy pulled dry grass from the mound of dirt where my body now lay. I watched her slumped shoulders shutter with the pain of losing me and wanted to cry myself, but tears were no longer possible. I could sense her pain, hear her crying, and feel her longing to touch me. What I wouldn’t give to be able to reach down and hold her.
My desire to touch her was overwhelming. I wanted so badly to reach out to her, to hug her, to tell her I was okay. More than okay, I was happy, peaceful, and free. If only I could put my arms around her again, feel her broad shoulders and the wisps of her soft blonde hair move against my cheek. Until now, I’d been content in my new life, I had wanted for nothing, until this moment.
I could see my daughter’s suffering and it cut to the core of my being. The sensation of pain surprised me more than frightened me. I had not felt physical pain since my transition, my passing, to this new life. The realization washed over me, the pain I was feeling was not my own, I was feeling the intensity of my daughter’s pain, the pain of loss, of losing me.
With the pain was coming another sensation I had not felt since my passing. I could again sense a form surrounding me. What was happening? My daughter’s anguish and my desire to comfort her were somehow transforming me.
For the first time since my death I could actually feel a body around me. I looked at myself and was startled to find four long spindly legs where my arms and legs had once been. I turned my head from side to side and I could see two delicate, yellow wings. My wings were huge but light as feathers and coated with a fine, almost silky, powder. I was no longer merely a vapor, I had a body, a very different body indeed. I tested my new wings and felt myself gently lift from my perch. What a lovely feeling, much like I’d always imagined a bird experienced in flight. I was so light it took no effort at all to fly. I could easily hang in midair, hovering. I was a butterfly, a beautiful lemon-yellow butterfly.
How fitting that I was a butterfly, I’d always been mesmerized by them. I’d collected many through the years, picking up their lovely, lifeless dried shells and adding them to flower arrangements and such. I’d never intentionally killed one, couldn’t bring myself to do that. I just love them, was intrigued by their delicate strength, so much so that I wanted to preserve and enjoy their beauty. I chuckled to myself. My husband had always complained that I flitted around like a hummingbird and he couldn’t ever find me when he needed me. No, I thought, when my mother passes to this side, she will be the humming bird with her nervous energy. I was always just busy, in constant motion, seeking freedom and driven by the desire to move.
I looked back down at Tammy and knew why I had become a physical form, so that I could take a trip back for a visit with my child. My descent was rapid. One quick spiral and I was there. The chilly West Texas wind was gusting and made hovering a challenge, but there I was face to face with her.
She looked up at me in surprise. I made a figure-8 over the grave site before her. I stopped again and looked at my mother, who was also watching me with keen eyes. Wow, I had their full attention, now what? I couldn’t speak. I wanted so badly to hug them both. Could I land on Tammy? Could I touch her? Was physical contact out of the question? Before I could give it a try, I felt myself being pulled back. As quickly as I’d been transformed, my new physical form vanished.
*********MAKE THIS REFLECTION THE CLOSING CHAPTER?****
The day was typically West Texas cold and brisk. This was my first visit back to Mom’s grave since her funeral the previous January. It was February now, so cold and bleak. The setting was as bleak as my life felt without her, making it an appropriate setting for this first visit back to her grave. I’d brought my grandmother with me for what would become a regular trek for us. I felt horrible that it had taken us so long to visit, but it had been an extremely difficult year. Adding to the guilt was the condition of her unkempt grave. The dry year had prevented the caretakers from leveling the mound over her final resting spot. The apologetic caretakers had explained that the dirt needed to settle around the casket before they could level it. With that not yet accomplished, I couldn’t even put a headstone on the grave.
Today I had brought a small stone angel to set at the head of her grave. I knew she would approve of the angel, she had collected and created many throughout her lifetime. This one was two feet tall and the blue-green color of tarnished copper. I was sure that she would have loved the innocent little cherub that now gazed peacefully into the distance.
Kneeling at her grave I began to pull the dried grass and thistles that had sprouted then died there. I was oblivious to the tears streaming down my cheeks. “I miss you so much, Mom. I’m sorry I haven’t been back to visit, I hope you understand.” I choked back the unfinished thoughts. What was I saying, she wasn’t here. Could she hear me from wherever she was now? I hoped so. “I love you, Mommy.” If she could hear me, I wanted her to hear me calling her Mommy, she said it gave her warm fuzzies to hear me call her that, as if I were still a small child. She got a kick out of the first card I had written to her using that title, for I had misspelled it Mommie. They were such random thoughts, but so endearing. We’d shared so many private jokes, so much joy, in spite of so much pain.
The memories of her rushed over me as I gazed toward the horizon. I was pulled back into the present suddenly as a lovely yellow butterfly appeared. As if from nowhere it was there and hovering in my face. It mad a quick figure-8 over the grave, jutted to my right, paused and hovered again looking past me at my grandmother. As quickly as it had appeared it darted off and vanished.
I could have dismissed the butterfly sighting, but the goose bumps on my arms wouldn’t let me. How odd, here it was a cold blustery day in February. There was no vegetation to speak of and nothing in bloom to draw a butterfly. The wind was gusting to 25 miles an hour, hardly a good day for flying, especially if you were light as a butterfly. I turned and looked at Mamma, who I’d left sitting in my little red Miata parked a few yards behind me. She had seen the butterfly too and I could tell by her expression that she was also struck by the strangeness of it.
“Mamma, did you see that butterfly?” I smiled over my shoulder. “I think it must have been Mom.”
As the words left my mouth, I wondered what her reaction would be. Mamma was extremely conservative, her belief system firmly based in the bible. Would her no-nonsense, black and white thinking be open to such an idea? She might think I’d lost my mind. Instead, she nodded and smiled at me through tear filled eyes. “I think she approves”, was all she said. She had changed so much through the loss of her youngest daughter. Losing Mom had been one of the hardest challenges she’d ever faced. I was so relieved that she read the scene as I had, as a wonderful gift, a visit from my mother, her daughter.
I mulled over the butterfly sighting as we made the long drive back to the assisted living facility where my grandmother lived. I could not get the image off my mind. If that were Mom, the butterfly made sense. Of course she would come back as a butterfly.
I remembered reading somewhere that the butterfly was a universal symbol of death and rebirth. Due to the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly it perfectly mirrored the metamorphosis or passing between lives. A passing from life on earth to a different life, the afterlife. A hospice nurse once told me that they hung a butterfly over the doorways of the terminally ill to alert the hospital staff to the status of a dying patient.
Little did we know that the yellow butterfly would show herself again and again through the coming years. She became a comfort, as sign of hope, of a metamorphosis to a life beyond this one.