Wednesday, March 25, 2015


                                                            by Laura Crum

            My life is up and down right now. Ever since my husband died I have struggled so much. But I wouldn’t expect it to be different. I have moments where I feel him guiding and protecting and just being a companion to me, and I am comforted. I have moments where I realize that I am getting everything done and I feel stronger. Our son, our animals, our garden, and our little life here on our property are being taken care of just as Andy would want.  But sometimes I miss his physical presence so much that I can hardly bear the pain. I imagine it is the same for all those who have lost much-loved others to death.
            The other day I had one of those very sad moments. I literally cried out to Andy for help. And then, as I tend to do, I went outside and began doing something “useful.” I pulled some old, aphid-covered kale out of the veggie garden and fed it to the chickens, in preparation for planting new seedlings. While I worked there, a butterfly came and landed right next to me. It was a beautiful black and orange butterfly (I think a Red Admiral, but I am no expert on butterflies), and it was a foot from my hand. I stared at it, unable to resist a smile, feeling sure it had been sent as a messenger by Andy (and yes, this is the sort of fanciful thinking that is automatic to me now—seeing magic in the most every day things). I moved to another part of the garden, and again the butterfly lit on the ground very close to me. I watched it for a minute and then it flew up the hill toward Andy’s greenhouse.
            When I was done in the garden I went to the greenhouse to water the plants. Only to find what seemed to be the same butterfly trapped inside, fluttering against the glass, trying to escape. I can only assume my friend from the garden had flown in the open greenhouse door. I did my best to shoo him back out the door, but the butterfly resisted my efforts, determined to fly out through what appeared to him to be openings, which were in fact unyielding glass. I had to be very gentle in my efforts to coax him toward the doorway for fear of damaging his fragile self. Every time I had almost got him to freedom, by waving my hands…etc, he would fly back towards a pane of glass—away from the open doorway.
            I was almost crying with frustration, saying out loud, “Please let me help you. Please let me save you. Please.”
            And finally I was able to encourage the butterfly out the open door and it flew away into the spring afternoon, free at last.
            I felt so relieved, and I had the momentary thought that I had “saved” Andy. And then suddenly a very powerful thought came rushing in and I stopped dead in my tracks. What if it was the other way around?
            What if I am the butterfly and Andy is “me?” What if I am spending my life, like most humans, moving toward what appear to me to be logical ways to find happiness and freedom, but which are in fact completely unworkable dead ends—unyielding panes of glass. They look like you can go that way—but you actually can’t. It will never work. I am like the butterfly—I can’t see where the way to true freedom lies. Like all of us who are still in our human bodies.
            And perhaps Andy is now “me,” someone who can see the big picture and is trying as hard as he can to guide the butterfly (the still-human me) toward the only doorway to freedom. He can’t push me too hard or he will damage my fragile self—remove my ability to choose. He can only encourage me as much as he can in subtle ways. But he is trying so hard to help me. He is begging me to let him help me. He wants me to find happiness and freedom, and he knows the way.
            As a butterfly, I can’t perceive him as anything other than a big force, like an especially animated tree in the wind. He doesn’t seem like a visible “being” to me. I would only recognize another butterfly (read human being) as a proper being. But in fact he is very much a being, one who sees the big picture much more clearly than I do, and is trying to help me—and CAN help me, much more than another butterfly could. I just have to respond to his guidance.
            This concept hit me so hard I had to stop what I was doing and go lie for awhile in the hammock that hangs in a big oak tree at the top of our property, and think it over. The hammock is a place that is special to Andy—not only did he lie there in life, but he came to me in a dream and invited me to lie in the hammock with him. So now when I really need to feel our connection, I often go lie in the hammock.
            Lying there, looking up at the oak tree branches against the sky, I thought about the notion that I was the butterfly, and that Andy’s presence as he tries to guide me toward freedom and happiness might appear to me as some arbitrary happenings that push me one way or another, or a random force, like wind moving a tree. And as I had this thought, a wind sprang up and began to blow. It blew like crazy for about five minutes, rocking the branch that held the hammock, scattering leaves on me, ruffling my hair. I lay in the swaying hammock, as leaves fluttered down like kisses, somewhat amazed. And as quickly as it sprang up, the wind died away completely.

            When I finally got up and walked back down the hill, I had one simple thought. “Let me be open to this guidance.”

            So, anyway, I’m telling this story not to convince anyone of anything. My tendency to find magical guidance in everyday events may be nothing more than my imagination desperately trying to find a “story” to comfort my sense of pain and loss. But I really don’t care if this is so. I’m hoping that perhaps a few others out there (especially those who have lost someone they very much loved) may find that these thoughts resonate for them and perhaps will draw some inspiration for their own lives.  And I would love to hear your own magical stories.


Promise said...

I've seen more butterflies since my grandmother passed away in December of 2011, than ever before in my life. And, at some of the most random times (like taking the Christmas tree off the truck...granted, I live in Florida, but it almost flew into my face!).

She always said she wanted to come back as a butterfly, and I can't help but believe that she's succeeded in doing that many times!

Mrs Shoes said...

This entire post moves me to tears Laura, but I welcome the tears as they are so cleansing.

Frankly, all the writing that you've done here since losing Andy has been beautiful & romantic & reading it has brought me much needed solace.
I feel so gladdened that you are able to share your stories with us; sometimes I feel as though you are guiding me personally to a lesson that I need.

I embrace everything that you've been saying - asking for signs, recognizing their appearance, analyzing & being grateful for them seems perfectly reasonable & right to me.

But this one line especially is so evocative... So poignant...

"leaves fluttered down like kisses"

Thank you so much Laura, you cannot know how much you help me with your words.

Unknown said...

I have become totally open to these sorts of things and I love reading your posts like this, I hope you can understand what I mean by that..I am entirely sad for you, and yet as a reader and thinker, am loving the content that's emerging.

Before my mom finally married her long distance love of 20 years and moved us across the country to be Californians, she and he would have these sorts of connected the time she mailed him homemade bread the same day that he had mailed her a hand carved bread board, without discussing any of it..among other stories. :)

Stilllearning said...

This is beautiful, Laura.

horsegenes said...

I am so happy that you are finding these gifts. I believe in what you are saying. I believe that even though our loved ones are not physically here they still give us guidence and gifts everyday. We just have to be open enough to see or feel it. I think it comes to each of us in a different way. Your writing about your journey is a gift to each of us from Andy as well. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to write a comment several times and either didn't send it, or found it got lost in the air. It's a terrible feeling to know someone is suffering through this and to know there isn't anything I can do to help. If I lived closer, or was part of your real life I would try. I know you're doing the best you can, but I know it still hurts.

I know when I've lost people I loved I found myself remembering every minute I spent with them, almost obsessively, not ever wanting to give up a second of our time together. It hurts, but I can't stop myself. I'm sure Andy is OK with where he's at. Maybe he just wants you to know that.