We released butterflies in the air the Sunday before she died. Our neighbor invited us over to their home to release the butterflies they raised. It was our first Sunday without mama, our first Sunday full of despair, full of grace to bear all we knew we had to do to. Angie had woken up after-all. There was hope, though we feared the end, dared the end, even as we tried to bear the end. Her breaths were shallow. The end was near. She saw mama. She spoke when mama spoke and cried when mama cried. It was all to much to bear, to much to see, the rare sighting of the end. Cancer had the upper hand. The tumor had spread, but our God was more than any spread, even could outspread. So we stayed close, reliant on his word for what God cannot do, does not exist. We screamed it for anyone who cared to hear us. We remained confident, hoping she would defy the odds, hoping even for hope itself. It was in these desperate moments, that our neighbors pierced through and reached us in our despair, stroked us with care, as if to dare death and all it leaves behind, the tears, the sorrow, the never ending pain, we are all forced to bear.

It was in this moment that my neighbor saw me, saw us and asked if we would like to bring our kids over to release the butterflies they were raising. From the depths of our sorrow, the depths of our souls we said yes. When you release butterflies, you release fear. We learned so that afternoon. You also release love which opens its wings and spreads out to the skies.

Nothing is taking for granted. The fluttering of wings, the uneasiness, the missteps, the tensions, the fear, all of it disappears, the moment butterflies fly, the moment you choose to fly, the moment you choose love. We choose to fly that afternoon. We choose to release all that weighed us down since this ordeal began. We choose love too. We loved and desperately wanted Angie with us. We knew heaven loved and desperately wanted her too. Every butterfly stepped out in fear, but moved with easy, the moment they took their first step, moved in love. We stepped too in fear, in love. Death was knocking. Ready or not. We were blocking. Hands up in protest all summer. Death knocked louder. We kept blocking, until the week before she passed. We stepped out into the field and one by one released butterflies. One by one, each butterfly helped us release Angie, to a place of love, a place of peace, a place for us to release our fears. Keep releasing butterflies whenever you can. I was so moved by this experience that I wrote a short poem after we returned home that day. It’s called ‘When neighbors release butterflies.’ See it for the first time below.

When neighbours release butterflies,

They release love which spreads and flies.

They begin by welcoming you to their home,

To their gardens full of sunflowers which feeds their butterflies.

They show you their larvaes,

Tiny little larvae’s munching through leaves.

You will see their milky weeds,

With tiny little larvae’s still munching through leaves.

You will see their caterpillars,

Big brown caterpillars now crawling through leaves.

You will see a net filled house full of chrysalis,

Tiny green chrysalis hanging around the nets.

You will also see caterpillars on the nets,

Big brown caterpillars slowly building their chrysalis.

Then they will show you their butterflies,

Twelve brown and orange monarchs spreading their wings.

They will place the monarch on your open palms,

The monarchs spread their wings open and are ready to fly.

You’ll hold the monarchs tightly in the palm of your hands,

And watch as they discover how to fly.

So that when neighbors release butterflies,

Through you, they release love which spreads and flies.

One of my 3year old’s first assignment as a junior kindergarten student was to make a butterfly. His teacher sent the video of Eric Carle’s The very hungry caterpillar. We also read the book. It one of my kids favorite books to read. His teacher shared how caterpillars start as eggs, then into a pupa, then a caterpillar. Then they build a house for themselves called an cocoon, spend some time in their house before turning into a butterfly. This lifecycle of a butterfly was eloquently portrayed in Eric Carle’s book.

As I read the book to my son again and we made our butterflies wings with watercolors, I was struck by how caterpillars do not adjust to their environments on their journey to becoming butterflies. They infuriate many as they look for food. They refuse to be defined by their small stature. They build and nurture themselves first! Imagine something so small building their own home so delicate, all to nurture themselves, their whole being in their own safe spaces, their way. They then guide their homes through treacherous landscapes until it’s time to display their beauty. In the midst of rough terrains, in the middle of uncertainties, they emerge light and beautiful, stunning and sterling, like a baby coming into the world for the first time. They fly away almost immediately, living life courageously, still through treacherous landscapes and rough terrains. This courage has been on full display from the beginning.

Our butterfly!

Courage is heightened for every pupa who seeks to become a caterpillar, every caterpillar who seeks to become a butterfly. Courage demands swift action, sometimes infuriating, but always on your own terms, at your own time, like a new baby coming to the world for the first time. Courage involves building safe spaces, your own space, where you nurture yourself, until it’s time to display your beauty to the world. The condition of life from the beginning, from being pupa to caterpillar is courage. Without it they never become butterflies, they never fly. Like butterflies, we all have the same courage, to live through treacherous landscapes, through rough terrains, but most importantly, to fly. So keep flying like butterflies!

Fly butterfly fly!