thepurplebutterflyblog


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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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pushing my edges

It’s been eight years since my mother passed. While I miss her physical presence every day, I have countless stories of purple butterflies along my path, whether live in nature or painted on someone’s face in a grocery store or on a card, and always when I least expect it. One of the most memorable was a few years ago when my children and I ventured to Asheville, North Carolina. We went for a hike along the great smoky mountains trail. We randomly picked the hike, or so we thought. As we approached the opening of the trail, we came upon some bright yellow and black butterflies gathered around something on the ground in a pool of water. Maybe that was to draw our attention to be present on the trail, in the moment. Maybe a coincidence. As we continued on the path, our hearts and edges were expanded as we saw a swarm of tiny purple butterflies appear almost out of nowhere. There were at least 15-20 butterlies flying around so effortlessly, following along with us as we walked. Everytime we tried to take a picture or a video to capture the moment, the iridescent little treatures barely showed up to a naked eye. Evidently we were meant to experience only and not take a momento with us. Our hearts filled with warmth as we shared our hike with these purple butterflies, connecting us to mom and pushing our edges of belief further that she was with us.

The other day I went for a walk around Richland Creek, something I do every week with my chocolate labrador. I was feeling unsettled in my heart, exhausted from a couple of crazy weeks with school starting and work struggles. As I started on the loop, I paused for a moment and decided to break my pattern of always turning left first. I changed my normal routine for a day and turned right instead. As I did so, I became very focused on the trees and flowers, as it seemed liked a brand new trail for me, something I had never done before. I became more connected and present in my surroundings and explored every turn with wonder, not sure what might be around the next corner. Completely focused in the moment and aware of my surroundings, my heart started to calm a little as the beauty of nature took over my focus. As I walked along, I was welcomed by a surprise around the next turn. A tiny iridescent butterly, flying above a bush at eye level. When I had tried in the past to watch this type of butterfly, I was not able to see the color of the outside wings as it landed on something. Every other time the butterfly would appear to vanish, until it took flight again. This day was different. I stopped and allowed myself to feel my mother’s presence from the inside out, connect with her at such a deep level like I had not done since she passed. The butterfly landed on a leaf and as I stood quietly, I could see the outside wings. Mostly white, with some specs of grey and black. A calm feeling poured through every cell in my body. A belief that mom was there with me in that moment. She was helping me release my struggles and return my focus on what matters most, connections of the heart.

I have been reminded lately of how precious life can be with several personal experiences. A friend discovering that her husband has cancer. A lifelong friend loosing her mother suddenly in the night. And for me, results from a preventive screening that surprised me. While it turned out ok, it was something that caught me off guard, an opportunity to give me pause and connect with what is most important. To push my edges of illusion that tomorrow will come just as yesterday passed.

What is your symbol of connection to those you have lost?


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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.