thepurplebutterflyblog


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Newly released book with more details

All,

Thank you for reading my blog. It was the launching pad for my recently released memoir, The Gift of Goodbye: A Story of Agape Love.  The book is an expanded story from this blog and covers the three-year period from my mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis to her death.  The book provides ideas on how to handle difficult conversations and ways to show your love, for those also going through similar situations with their loved ones. The story also covers my own growth through discovery and this loving relationship and the lasting gift of this process for me, a choice to live my most authentic life now, not wait for another day.

More details about the book are available at the following website: http://rebeccawmunnauthor.com/

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

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what a difference a year makes

here I sit nine years after saying goodbye to my mom, I am more settled and grounded than ever, even when she was alive. why, I wonder, would that be the case? probably because of two things: 1) the far-reaching impact she had on teaching me by example to live each day to the fullest, to not sweat the small stuff, and showing me visibly by example how to give from a bottomless heart full of love and 2) my choice to continue my lifelong passion for learning, expand my edges, and believe I am worthy of a continued connection with her spirit. it is that belief that continues to surprise me when I least expect it.

today, as I walked my chocolate lab around Richland Creek, thinking of the many stories I had just heard from my two teenagers about the profound impact of the past week they had spent giving of their service and talents to special needs children, allowing those children to experience as close to a normal camp experience as feasible…I paused from my thoughts and stared up at the trees to see if I could discern what might be transpiring with the bird who was speaking out loudly, making beautiful sounds as it spoke…as I brought my eyes back down to the hiking path, there it was…one of those sweet little iridescent purple butterflies, flying across the path from left to right at eye level, making sure I would see it. It warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. As I processed this surprise and reflected on my children’s experiences at Camp Barnabas, I realized my mom had been a powerful and busy angel the past week, working through my teenagers to expand their hearts as they served other children and to remind my precious children how fortunate each of them are.

while I have seen many instances of purple butterflies since the first time three days after mother passed from this physical life, whether on cards in the store or on boxes of Scotties tissues or painted on a cookie in a Starbucks recently when I stopped in to meet my friend Brad or on a sponge-bob float that my massage therapist saw at Disney this past week, I have been amazed with how I am no longer caught off guard by these experiences, the continued proof of mom’s and my connection beyond time and space. these purple butterflies are something I have come to believe will show up when I need it, either to help me celebrate the many joys of life or provide support in times of challenges.

one such challenge that cut me to my core, yet again, was experiencing the impact of the past two years, watching my teenage son be affected with central nervous system damage, a side effect from the HPV vaccine…it has taken almost two years to have his body return to a somewhat normal state, sans some permanent scar tissue in a scary place…and to think his case was mild compared to others I have seen on CNN…somehow I had the strength and courage to put one foot in front of another every day that he missed his 9th grade year of school, every day that the pediatrician refused to admit my son could be experiencing adverse reactions to the vaccine and take action, every day that my son would wake up and crawl to the bathroom because he said his legs wouldn’t work, and every day that went by without treatment as the virus caused more damage…I know it was my belief and my faith in something bigger than myself, my connection to my mother’s spirit that kept me going. and here I am, delighted that my son is strong and healthy again, finishing his 10th grade year with flying colors, and knowing the purple butterfly made an impact…what a difference a year makes.


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evidence of the symbol of connection, a first

Back home, the reality of mom’s passing smacked me hard. I could feel a deep wall of grief similar to quicksand taking over my presence. And a pervasive pain in my upper body so strong it felt as if my chest was cut wide open, with a deep ravine carved through the middle. I struggled to make it through an hour without crying. When I ventured out to feel normal, going to a grocery store I shopped at many times a week, I found myself paralyzed. I walked in the store with my list, only to feel like I didn’t know where I was and not sure what to do. When at home, I walked around in a daze, I would start one task, only to end up focused on something else and not able to account for the time in between.

As I wondered around in what felt like darkness, I felt lost. Gone were the daily calls with mom, feeling connected to her in a physical way. I would pick up my phone some days to call her, only to remember she had passed. I wanted most to touch her, wrap my arms around her. I began to grasp for any physical representation that connected me to what she loved. Magnolias were one of her favorite flowers. She would always have cut magnolias in the house when they were in season. One day I felt more lost than most. I walked into my backyard and wondered around a little aimlessly. As I turned towards my neighbor’s backyard, a flash of light caught my eye, a beautiful flower blooming half way down on the magnolia tree. I found an ounce of energy, grabbed some clippers and cut the flower off, leaving several leaves on the stem, just as my mother had done countless times. As I walked back in the house holding the stem, feeling the roughness on the back side of the leaves made me feel close to mom. I stopped and rubbed the leaves, closing my eyes and imagining mom was standing next to me. Silly maybe, but it calmed my heart for a moment- something I longed for each day yet rarely felt.

In an effort to find peace amidst the darkness, I went to the neighborhood park to take my lab for a walk. I walked around the park loop a couple of times fairly briskly and saw several white butterflies fluttering near the trail. Being outside in nature seemed to calm the deep pain in my heart for a little while. On the fourth time walking around the loop, I saw something that caught my eye in one moment and was gone from sight the next. I walked closer to see if I could discern what it was. I sat still and waiting for it to reappear. As if appearing out of nowhere, there it was again, fluttering about three feet over the creek. Moving ever so quickly, I could see it was clearly lavender and almost iridescent in color. I stopped to watch this very special gift in hopes of seeing it land on something. It landed on a leaf, and disappeared almost instantly, virtually invisible to the naked eye. So amazing to me, this little butterfly.

I stood in shock, amazed of this evidence that my mother was connecting with me. Just as she had said she would before she passed. Tears rolled down my cheeks and chills spread through my body. I closed my eyes and imagined mom was standing there with me. I could feel her warmth and comfort that I had counted on for so many years. A calm filled every inch of my heart. When I opened my eyes, the purple butterfly was gone. Happily, the calm remained for a while and I felt a new feeling of expansion, of my edges being pushed beyond anything I had experienced before. In this moment, I was fully present to experience this deep connection of the heart, transcending heaven and earth, and validating my willingness to be curious, my choice to believe, and my journey to expand. And to think only one year earlier, I did not believe purple butterflies existed in nature.


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a new chapter unfolding

I made it to Austin in early March 2005 to celebrate Mom’s birthday with her. We were able to go hear the live music she was enjoying and spend quality time together. I was able to share the exciting journey I was on with work.  One of the sales leaders in another state had asked me to take on a certain role, a valuable strategic consulting role, in another state. The reality of my life situation would not allow for consistent weekly travel and facing a move for a one year job was not a value equation I was willing to consider. However, it gave me pause for thought. The role was intriguing enough for me to evaluate and I ventured to push the edges a little in my mind, wondering if the role could be expanded into something more, something that was worth a move to a new state. I realized in that moment as I was sharing the story with mom that facing the disappointment of losing the previous job opportunity actually had furthered my practice of letting go of outcomes and following the process of my life experiences, asking questions along the way.

Mom was delighted for the promise of a new chapter unfolding for me and we agreed to meet for spring break in the city where the job could be based, in Nashville, TN. My children and I met mom and dad in Nashville in mid-March, sharing a wonderful and yet emotional time together. I was grateful to have the gift of mom and dad helping my children and me explore Nashville together, grateful that mom felt strong enough to travel and healthy enough to be playful with my children. We went for a walk in Centennial Park one day and went house hunting another. Mom was strong until the third night. She became very sick, unable to leave the bathroom. With all the excitement and activities of my big life change unfolding- a new job, moving to a new state, a new home- I was managing to stay somewhat in my detached state. It was a rude awakening to experience mom being so sick all of a sudden, kind of like one of the deep lows of a rollercoaster ride. We had enjoyed moments of highs- pure joy and love, celebration of this new place we were discovering and excitement of mom being able to be here with us. That night, mom’s body reminded us all that cancer was spreading through her body and our joy quickly transitioned to deep sadness. My heart grew heavy as I struggled with how to help her, how to be supportive. The reality was I just needed to be patient, and hopefully she would regain her strength. Mom awoke the next day strong enough to explore some more. We visited a church and enjoyed lunch at a locally owned restaurant. As we flew home to our separate cities, I put my sadness in a box and started to make my list of all the things required to move my children and me to another state.

As I reflected on this new chapter unfolding for me,  it held so much promise, such expansive joy of a new start personally, and the exciting chance to awaken my strategic mind again. For the first time in my life, I chose to be fully engaged in the process of the transition, asking questions and seeking to understand more details, while trusting that the best outcome was unfolding for all. And while I was busy going through the motions, the universe moved some very large mountains to clear the path for my new chapter to begin. Mountains that my friends and even my lawyer said could not be moved. I convinced my former husband to let me move with the children to Nashville- yes I was capable if I allowed others to help and influence. And I convinced a couple of executives at my company to create a new position for me, pay for my move to Nashville, and allow me to start a new advisory services consulting practice, with me as the leader. I knew I had help in all of this, and much of the help was unexplainable in words. It was an expansion of my faith, a journey beyond the edges of all I knew- at least that is how I came to explain the clearing that unfolded over a mere month’s time.

Over the next month, I started my new position and traveled back and forth as I looked for a new home. I was blessed with some valuable advice from a co-worker Don, a Nashville native, on where to look for homes and how to navigate the city. After many tours in several neighborhoods, I finally landed on the house I wanted, one that did not fit my ‘criteria’ but that filled my heart with peace and felt like home the moment I stepped onto the original hardwood floors. I closed on the house in early May and mom agreed to come share mother’s day with me, in my new house, just the two of us. I knew she was not strong enough to help with boxes. That was not important to me at the time. Being able to share the beginning of my new life chapter in this lovely new city with my dear mother and enjoying each experience without any other distractions was the treasure I was after.

I felt in my heart that this might be one of those moments in life that would never be repeated, no real idea of what the experiences would bring, but sure they would be etched in my memory forever. And how deeply moved and touched I was with what unfolded that weekend. Mom and I were able to talk about what it felt like for her to wake up each day, not knowing if it would be her last. Before she came, she asked me what I wanted of hers, preparing for the day when she would pass from her physical state. What I wanted most were things she wanted me to have, something special to her. And she so incredibly touched my heart in a way that words could not express with what she chose. She brought me some special jewelry pieces that she wanted me to have, and shared the stories of each as she handed them to me. It was way more special that anything I could have thought of, anything I could have chosen on my own.

Over the weekend, mom helped me unpack and arrange my kitchen, something she wanted for me to feel settled, to be prepared for the children moving in after school was out. Somehow when we had gone to the store on mother’s day, she had snuck away from me and bought me something. I guess I was a little distracted with learning a new city, navigating new roads and learning the layout of stores that I didn’t notice. When we got home, she handed me a present. It was a coffee mug, with the inscription ‘The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.’ The thought was so deeply touching to me, so loving, and straight from her heart. The words on the mug reminded me of one of the most valuable perspectives mom had raised me to believe: that I should embrace the challenges in my life as opportunities for personal growth and to always trust that difficult times yielded new beginnings and blessings. And how true those words would ring out over the next year.