09 December 2009

The Gift of the Monarch

I've wanted to put this story into words for some time now. I've always hesitated because it is so personal and because I thought it might bring sadness to others. But, at this time of year, so close to Christmas, my thoughts are with my sister-in-law Susan and how much myself and my family miss her. These words aren't meant to bring sadness but simply as a reminder of the joy of having had her in our lives. It's my way of thanking her for all she did for me.

When Susan died in May of last year, her loss was profound and devastating to my family. We all struggled to find a way to come to terms with her death and still do to this day. We all searched for signs, for affirmations, something to assure us that our world would stop tilting and right itself again. We wanted signs that the Susan we remembered was still present in some form, that we hadn't lost her completely.

I asked the same questions, looked for the same signs. One cloudy day while taking my daily walk, I remember talking to her and asking for something, anything to reassure me. Before the words could fully form in my mind, a ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and out of nowhere a Monarch butterfly flew so close to my face that I had to stop suddenly or run into it. It took my breath away and a feeling of peace the likes of which I had never felt before settled over me. Was this my sign or just a coincidence. I hadn't seen a Monarch in years but from that moment on I saw them in the most unusual places all that summer.

Later that summer at my family reunion, one of my cousins stopped me to ask how my brother was coping. As we talked, I mentioned that once or twice during the day, I had thought I'd heard Susan's laughter. Just as the words came from my mouth, a monarch flew between us and landed at my feet. I could do nothing but smile and think, there she is.

In October of last year I was walking with my nephew to the bottom of my parents yard, down to where the pine trees form the "cave", as my nephew has named it. He was five years old at the time. He was and still is extremely sensitive to the fact that Aunt Susan is gone. When we reached the cave he told me about how he had her picture by his bed every night and how much he missed her. I caught a flicker of something from the corner of my eye. Brushing by my shoulder was a Monarch, in October, in the chill autumn air.

When summer came this year, I expected to be bombarded by Monarch visits, but to no avail. My disappointment was great but I told myself that Susan knew I didn't need her presence as much as I had the year before and that perhaps she had moved on to help someone else find peace. Late this summer while I was sitting on my porch in the sun, thoughts of Susan suddenly came into my mind. This time with a little less sorrow and more smiles. I got up to go into the house for something to drink. As I came back out to the porch, there on the chair in which I'd just been sitting was a Monarch. Just sitting on the book that I'd left lying on the chair. Just a quick visit to say, I'm still here and always will be. I didn't see another one all the remainder of this last summer. But I didn't need to. I had my affirmation.

Whether the people we love have passed away or they're just far away from us, we have to believe in the hope that they know we love them and will always be looking for them, always holding them in our hearts. Whatever the reason for the Monarch, I will always think of it as a gift from Susan, her way of saying hello and an assurance that the world would right itself once more. And it has, because when I think of her now, it's with more smiles than tears. Thank you Susan.


  1. Bittersweet for you to write I am sure. Very thoughtful.


  2. You have told me these stories over the last year and a half & I am so glad you finally wrote about them (and so gloriously). You are so blessed to have had these moments.


  3. It is early morning here with my children still sleeping...adults now and visiting at Christmastime. I have waited for complete quiet time to sit and read your blog this time. Tears are flowing...as I knew they would but also a smile as I remember Susan. Time passes...life goes on...it has to doesn't it? I just hope and pray her husband and children continue to heal and remember the joy she brought to all of our lives.
    Flutter on, sweet angel!


  4. Janie and Sharon:
    Thank you sisters for reading and commenting. I didnt cry when I wrote it but I cried when I read your comments, in a good way :) Love you both

  5. Love you too sis! XOXOX