I sat with Joy on the back patio on a sunny afternoon in May 2017 as we talked endlessly about our sons. Her son, Kekoa, passed over to heaven in July, while our son Ian passed in October.
We had met each other only weeks prior at Griefshare, a grief support group we attended at a nearby church. Joy is a deeply spiritual woman with a solid footing in her faith. We grieved together with hope, knowing that our sons are now among the Lord’s saints in heaven.
Nonetheless … there were tears and pain.
When two butterflies suddenly started to dance on and around our hedges that afternoon, we chuckled about it. It was tempting to say these two dancing butterflies were our sons visiting us, but we knew better than that. Our children did not turn into butterflies, black moths or angels. They are still the magnificent souls they were here on earth but in a new and improved physical state in heaven.
Yet, as these two butterflies brought smiles to our faces long into the afternoon, Joy suddenly asked, “Do you see two butterflies hanging around like this very often?”
“Not really,” I replied.
We stared at those butterflies in silence for a bit of time, and then we laughed.
It felt good to laugh.
Something felt very special about those butterflies.
“Take a photo,” she suggested. I tried several times, but they were just dancing too fast. My photos showed nothing more than my green and purple hedges.
When Joy departed we spoke no further of the butterflies.
The next day, I was out running errands before returning home with arms full of groceries. As I threw the bags onto the counter, I noticed a butterfly in our patio. It made several large loops right outside the window.
“Are there two?” I wondered. I peered out of the window but there was only one. “Only Ian today,” I carelessly thought to myself.
I stepped back towards my grocery bags, giddy about another butterfly visit but conflicted about what I felt was a lack of Biblical rationale for the feelings I had. Precisely at that moment, I felt something under my foot. I looked down and saw a tiny paper butterfly. Yeah, that’s what I said — a paper butterfly.
It featured soft hues of pink and yellow along with a gold trim outline. It was precisely the kind of little colorful paper that would have delighted my heart as a little girl.
We have no young children in our home, so I could not fathom where this beautiful, slightly torn paper butterfly would have come from.
Clearly, there was a butterfly conspiracy.
When Zach and Dave came home, I showed it to them. “Have you ever seen this before?” I asked. No, they had not.
When Zach’s girlfriend came over, she claimed to have never laid eyes on it before either. My mom? Nope.
Whaaaaat is going on?
At our next Griefshare meeting, I shared what had happened with the butterflies on the afternoon of Joy’s visit and about the mysterious paper butterfly found on my kitchen floor the next day. Many in our group are heavy-weight saints, true Bereans of the Bible, so their opinions about this experience would mean a lot to me.
I came to the end of my story, shrugged my shoulders and simply asked, “What do I do with that?”
I looked around the room for a reaction. They smiled and practically cheered! They overwhelmingly saw the butterfly events as a very real and tangible sign of God’s love, presence and assurance in the midst of our sorrow.
Indeed, our loved ones don’t turn into butterflies, moths and angels. But, when the appearance of any part of God’s creation, whether beautiful dancing butterflies or a raging red sunset, brings a flood of love and memories of our cherished departed into our hearts, this is a true Gift of God.
Early on, I often prayed for dreams of Ian. God, however, has chosen to comfort me in a different way that requires my eyes to be open.
In previous blog posts A Smile to Remember, The Yellow Notebook, The Message, and Our Little Yellow Flower, I shared about signs and messages that literally helped me continue to live when I really just felt like dying.
Each of these signs happened in moments within pain-filled days that so easily could have been missed. In fact, in some cases, the Lord had to repeat himself before I actually caught the blessing (e.g. placing the mystery paper butterfly under my foot!) Ian’s fiancé Lei later reminded me that there was a gigantic butterfly in the dining hall following Ian’s Celebration of Life and that one followed her for blocks while she was jogging soon after.
It’s been several months since the last distinct sign I received and that made me wonder:
Will there be more signs for me?
I don’t know … but I sure do hope so.
Until Ian passed away, I only saw things of this world. Now, I know that there is so much more to see than first meets the eye.
2 Kings 6:16-17 (NKJV) So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Our family marked Ian’s 1-year heaven birthday on October 8, 2017, by releasing 12 butterflies in our backyard. The next morning we awoke to find that about 6 or so of the butterflies were still with us. The photo featured at the top of this article was taken on the morning of October 9th … the day after.
God is always with us and Ian is forever safe with God.