we went outside where we all received tiny envelopes holding live butterflies. At the sound of a bell, we all opened our envelopes and encouraged our butterflies to emerge. It was a cool, windy day, and many stayed in the open envelopes slowly fanning their wings like children dipping their toes in cold water. Three of my grandsons and one little granddaughter (the protagonists of the Tarantula Wasp Expedition) came along with their parents, and the butterflies sat on their hands for a lengthy period of time before they flew away or were delivered to the tender embrace of a nearby flower. Ignatius, the middle boy, pointed out the tiny balls on the very tip of his butterfly's antennae, and giggled unrestrainedly when the butterfly slowly uncurled his long proboscis and tasted his finger. Adults as well as children smiled in delight when a butterfly landed on a shirt or skirt or shoe, and everyone helped the slow ones who drifted to the ground to get to a nearby branch or leaf. It was a lovely metaphor for the way The Elizabeth Hospice helped my husband lift off from this life into the next, and now gives us new wings for the next chapter of our lives.
This transformation of a gray day into a fluttering mosaic of orange, coral, burgundy, and black refreshed my realization of how much I can change my perspective as I learn to live in my new circumstances. In Healing after Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman, she quotes Daphne DuMaurier:
"Look upon each day that comes as a challenge, as a test of courage....the bereaved, the widowed, will find new strength, new courage, new vision, born of the very pain and loneliness which seem, at first, impossible to master." Hickman's resolve for the day is, "I will walk through the center of my sorrow and I will emerge--proud and strong." All these things came together when I arrived home, to an empty house, exhausted from another late night, and the rain which had held off for the butterflies, came dripping down. My first thought was how lonely the house seemed, but then from somewhere perhaps outside of me, the thought floated down, "How peaceful it is!"
I reflected on how we can only find God in the circumstances we are in now, not the ones we would prefer, the focus I had presented to our Christian Community two nights ago--three couples who journeyed with my husband and me for two decades as we worked to live out the Sacrament of Matrimony in the context of our Faith, and I now seek to fill in the outlines of my new vocation as a widow. I closed with some lines by the poet Christian Wiman, who has faced a serious battle with cancer. Beginning with
O the screech and heat and hate
we have for each day's commute,
Wiman goes on to imagine a lone commuter at the end of the day
who has lived so hard
he jerks awake
in the graveyard,
where he sees
coming down the aisle
a beam of light
whose end he is,
and what he thinks are chains
In many of my earlier poems when our children were little and my parents lived with us, I drew images of imprisonment often subconsciously, yet there were keys all around. My favorite is still
Birds paying morning calls
light the blowtorch of sunrise
in these stuccoed walls
I fly free.