My daughter, Autumn, like all children I imagine loved to catch fireflies at dusk and butterflies during the day. The butterflies is what amazed me the most. Especially, my father, who would watch her from the front porch swing. It was on those beautiful spring days when it was just right not too hot that her hunt began. She stalked those butterflies like a tiger approaching its prey. She would sneak ever so slightly and catch not just one but a handful. Never to harm them but she longed to marvel at their beauty. Each one was unique just like every person is unique to her. She would catch a handful, and they would climb all over her tickling her with their small legs. She would let them go with a throwing out of her arms and then with palms up releasing them from her hands. My dad was always intrigued at how gentle she was with them. She always caught them by ever so slightly picking them up by the wings. You ever tried catching butterflies by hand with no net? It's hard, at least, it is to me. But this entertained dad for hours on end. He was the happiest I have ever seen watching his granddaughter do this.
The time came at the end of his life while he was in the ICU and the children couldn't go back there to see him. Eventually, he was sent to ICU step down when they could do no more for him. But the time he was there in ICU he longed to see them. So I had the idea to go outside his window, it was on the ground level, and take the kids. He could look out, but they couldn't look in. They played outside his window. He looked on and to his surprise Autumn saw a butterfly. She started chasing and snuck up on it. Catching it by the wings as she gently let it go. Holding it in her hands long enough to take it to the window to show my dad. He clapped for her seeing the excitement on her face. Not being able to see back at him cause the window was tinted, she blew him a kiss and released the butterfly. Her little 1 year old brother mimicked her and blew a kiss. He watched that butterfly continue to rise higher and higher until it was out of sight.
The time came when his condition worsened and he could no longer speak so he wrote things out that last week. I'll share the things he wrote and saw later. The oxygen mask was so cold it had frozen to his face. But he always tried to smile. He was writing about how he loved seeing his grandchildren. He mimicked Autumn how she would sneak, grab a hand full of butterflies, and release them. He showed with his hands how she released them like someone releasing doves and he smiled. I couldn't take it so I left the room.
With tears welling in my eyes I went down the hallway so he wouldn't see me crying. I sit down by a window surrounding what looked like a courtyard on top of the building. We were 5 stories up and as I sit in the hallway looking out the window. I noticed there was nothing in the courtyard anymore. At one time there had been plants, trees, flowers, and other things. But all that was left was cobblestone steps. It was barren. The rest of the hallways 4 stories above us had their windows turned to see this once alive landscape so far up on top of the building. The hallways surrounded the courtyard with what looked like no way for anything to get into it. I looked up and saw sitting outside the window where I was, a monarch butterfly. Nothing special about it. Except it was 5 stories up in a barren courtyard on top of a building with no flowers or any reason to be there I could phantom. But there it was right beside me through the window where I sit in my despair. Why are you here I wondered? And then it occurred to me. My father was delighting in the simplest of memories of a little girl catching butterflies. I, on the other hand, was feeling sorry for a loss that hadn't happened yet. I had little time left so I needed to make the most of it with my dad. I needed to enjoy the simple things in life. My dad always took time to enjoy what really mattered. At the end of his life, in the transition to the next, he knew what really mattered. I thanked God for the time I had with my father, and I got up to go back to be with him.
The moment I stood up that butterfly started flying away. Ever rising in a fluttering pattern it went touching each window every story up. Birds sit all around the top story but not one offered to bother that lone butterfly. It flew until it went across the top of the building. I just watched in awe. The sun started to shine across the top of the building after it left. It's beams lighting where the butterfly had just been.
Was this the Holy Spirit taking that form to comfort me being sent here by prayers for me or just simply a well placed butterfly? I am not sure. I like to believe the first myself. The butterfly was a symbol to the first Christians representing The Resurrection. I like the thought of that. All in all a person has to walk this journey called life with others. Some seem good to us and others bad but we're all traveling the same road. Along that road we are given signs if we just look for them of a fellow traveler who will be your guide.
Read more articles by Lance Gargus or search for articles on the same topic or others.