The Butterfly In Mom’s Garden

by Mark on September 23, 2010

When a loved one dies, grief is mixed with doubts. Is there life after death or heaven? Do our loved ones simply deteriorate into dust? The fabulous fragile wings of a butterfly answered my questions.

My mother-in-law, Bette, passed away in her eighties. She and Kathy, her only child, were bonded soul-to-soul. Kathy’s father died when she was 15, so Mom devoted herself to be all things for her daughter. After our marriage they frequently visited or spoke by phone. Bette adored her grandsons so much, she moved nearby when we relocated in Rochester, NY. Her eventual health decline occurred over five years and ended in a hospice situation at her assisted living facility. My wife was devastated. While the end was expected, Bette’s death ripped the bond from Kathy’s soul. It was tragic, sad, and empty.

A year later we returned to the assisted living facility for a celebration. Donations at Bette’s funeral, along with those of another family, paid for a garden to be created in an empty courtyard. Sun light peeked through the gray skies of early May. In addition to plants, flowers, and benches, butterfly houses were posted in each corner. At the entrance lies a stone painted with ‘Mom’s Garden’ and a blue butterfly. Kath spent a few moments above the rock remembering her Mom’s love of flowers and nature. We moved to the middle of the garden for the ceremony.

Each of us received a tiny bag containing a butterfly. On command dozens of butterflies were released. Imagine a kaleidoscope of flying flowers fluttering around the audience. Kathy was so amazed by the colors that her bag remained unopened. After a gentle nudge, she released the butterfly. It circled around us, like it was trying to get our attention. We stared at its golden monarch wings as it slowly soared across the flowers and bushes. We chose to follow as the butterfly glided toward the entrance. All of us were just a few steps behind when the butterfly promptly arrived at its destination – plopping onto the Mom’s Garden rock and landing on painted blue butterfly.

The butterfly remained on its perch, flapping its wings every so often. I captured the photo above. Warmth moved through Kathy’s body. Smiles and tears poured out. Mom was okay. It is time to move-on. Kathy did, but she always wears a butterfly necklace to remind her of Mom and the miracle.

The butterfly is the symbol of resurrection. From a caterpillar it morphs into a winged beauty, we are reminded this life is only the first step. After death there is more. We just have to believe. I am reminded of a quote from St. Augustine, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Zagorski September 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Mark, That was beautiful. I often wondered if Bette was still alive. George’s mom passed away unexpectedly this February and it has been hard on all of us, especially his dad who is 97 and Jen and Ben. Thanks for writing such a moving memory. Sue

Cindy lehman September 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Mark, I have to believe that our lost loved ones are near us and occasionally they give us a sign to let us know that they are OK or have come to visit us. It is obvious that your mother-in-law was giving your wife a sign. Awesome! We have built a garden in our backyard in memory of our daughter Sara. And I wear a frog necklace, pin, or ring each day in memory of Sara as she collected frogs. I hope your wife gets some comfort by wearing her butterfly necklace.

Jo Ann Nolan September 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Thank you again Mark for words that can heal, warm,and find you smiling after a week of seeing cousins whose visits now are few and far between, but, when you do get back to celebrate a wedding or funeral we remember how close we were growing up. FAMILY is the MOST important thing and I consider you …. a member! Thanks!

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