My mother was a self-professed “recovering Catholic” - my father, a self-professed atheist. As parents they allowed their children the freedom to find their own path. My own spiritual journey led me to the realization that we get what we give. But Karma works on its own schedule.
I still question the fairy tale we were told as kids, about a magical place where we all are reunited, free of pain and worry. My father however, was convinced that once we die, that’s it. That there is no heaven – that there is no hell – just the end. He even wrote, “My only comfort is in knowing that once I’m gone, I won’t have to miss you.”
That was the last sentence of the final letter that he ever wrote. For moments later, he went out to our backyard, shotgun in hand, placed the barrel in his mouth, and ended his life. Though tragically my Daddy is gone, I am left behind with an overwhelming sense that it wasn't the end for him, that his indomitable spirit remains deep inside of me, keeping watch and guiding me towards my own separate peace.
The absolute horror of finding him that day will never leave me. How could it? It’s now an integral part of who I am now and who I will always be. But it started me on a fresh journey - a journey out of the depths of terror, pain, grief and loss - a journey that has given me the gift of a new spirituality and a powerful enlightenment. And now, my spiritual guide has been personified by a majestic creature, brightening even my darkest days. The butterfly.
Roughly six months ago, I stepped outside for a breath of fresh air, and my father had left me a glorious gift. Laid out in all its perfection was an exquisite, bright yellow butterfly, precisely positioned on the arm of my deck chair. It was as stunning in death as it had been in life. I feel the same about my Daddy. So now, since my mascot first arrived, butterflies seem to find me wherever I go.
My mascot has taught me about new beginnings, about rebirth, about essential change. We begin life inching forward, slowly and carefully. But Life can be a cruel and sadistic taskmaster. Without warning, life will grab you by the hair and jerk you around 180 degrees. Life will violently intrude upon your careful progress and break you in an instant. Unimaginable circumstances force us to shed our old comfortable skin, let go, and finally…to transform. We alone control whether we end up crushed and broken or whether we end up transformed into our own majestic creature. It is our choice. And the cruel taskmaster no longer holds the power.
Since my Father’s suicide two years ago, I have been wrapped in a cocoon of protection, trying to save myself from excruciating pain and grief. The butterfly has taught me that it’s now time to spread my wings and search for beauty. It’s time to start again, to shed the skin of my past hurt and anger. Simply put - it’s time to live again, time to appreciate the beauty of life.
I encourage everyone to do the same. Take your past and shed it. Let it go. Allow yourself to transform into the magnificent creature that lives deep inside of…You!
My Daddy and the majestic yellow butterfly