Watching a butterfly flutter from flower to flower, gently brushing its wings over the edge of a window or even fly into the sun is a memory that unites us. A simple memory, but one that all of us can recall or even somewhat understand, no matter where we come from. This universal symbol has a myriad of meanings across cultures, representing luck, loss, love and change to name a few, but the butterfly’s connection with spirituality is what it is most associated with.
In the Irish culture, there’s a Celtic saying that states, “Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.” Conversely, butterflies symbolize rebirth after death, which is largely connected to the metamorphosis and stages that it goes through. The butterfly exists in four distinct forms. The fertilized egg is planted in our mother’s womb. From our day of birth we’re like the caterpillar, which can only eat and creep along. At death we’re like the dormant pupa in its chrysalis. After that, our consciousness emerges from the cast off body, and some see in this the emergence of the butterfly, symbolic of rebirth after death. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that sometimes you have to lose someone you really love to truly recognize the impact they have had on your life. Often, we might not understand why, how or even what, we are losing. But, nonetheless, loss is loss and it has a monumental impact on the human condition, even if we aren’t exactly sure what has been lost.
Take, for example, the loss of a loved one. Don’t we always say and hear the best stories or memories about someone after they’ve passed? Is this done with purpose or are we truly unable to realize their redeemable qualities. In the past month, I’ve been told that I will lose or have lost a number of people who are very close to me. Fortunately, writing has always given me a sense of reflection and purpose so if I don’t understand how I feel about something, I can always take to my computer and come to a renewed sense of acceptance of the state of things.
Although that sense of reflection can assist in understanding, it comes at a price. This weekend, a month after the loss of my grandfather, I broke down crying while getting ready for a wedding. I had not cried throughout the entire month leading up to his death, but when I was getting ready, I suddenly remembered his nickname for me: glamour girl. No matter what I was wearing, how much weight I had gained at school or how tired I was, he always greeted me with a kiss and a “Hello my glamour girl.” And it wasn’t until I was engaging in that act that I truly felt the magnitude of his loss. The tears started to fall, until I looked out the car window… and at that moment, a butterfly flew over my windshield. I smiled through my tears. I knew that he was just watching, visiting for a while and encouraging me not just to fly, but to soar.
Have you recently lost someone you love? Read GOOD GRIEF: Finding happiness when mourning the loss of a loved one for more>>
image: Image Stock (Creative Commons BY-ND-SA)