I was not always fascinated with butterflies. Yes, they were these unique creatures that inspired beauty and displayed such resilience in their life-spans. But, they only came to my attention and admiration during a particularly difficult and sad time in my life:…the passing of my sweet mother.

A Simple Story:

Although she only passed a little more than two years ago, it always seems to be more recent. Life has moved on with its daily business, but there are many moments when I really miss her advice, her visits, and her just–“being there”. I remember that it was the evening before her funeral, just after the gathering for her rosary. A family friend approached me and my sister with a story about her son, who had been tragically killed in a car accident quite a few years ago.

The story was basically about how the family had worked through their grief by noticing small instances or events that would remind them of him and reassure them that he was “okay”. Since his name was “Patrick”, they would often find or notice shamrocks in odd places. After I returned to Oklahoma after the funeral, I couldn’t for the life of me narrow down a specific “thing” or instance that reminded me of Mom….Actually–I couldn’t stop thinking of her…I was just–painfully–trying to adjust to the fact that she was no longer with us…

Until my sister called me one day and happened to mention that, whenever she thought of Mom, she noticed….butterflies. And not just one or two… lots and lots of butterflies. Like magic, I noticed butterflies everywhere: At the kids’ swimming lessons; in the backyard; and one time, even hitching a “ride” on my finger while my husband and I were out running errands one afternoon. It was then that my love affair with butterflies began.

A Symbolic Change:

Even so, what’s the symbolism associated with butterflies? What is it about these amazing creatures that continues to fascinate young and old alike? Is it their dainty, wistful flight that always seems to elude us? Is it the various colorful masterpieces of their beautiful wings? Or maybe even the behaviors and odd forms of butterfly larvae–caterpillars–that are a curiosity in themselves? They are constantly searching for food, and constantly at the risk of becoming another’s food. It is a small miracle that these colorful and defenseless young insects ever survive to adulthood.

Actually, it is not only the extraordinary beauty and design of these amazing insects, but the gradual metamorphosis of their life-span. A person should carefully observe this amazing event at least once–to fully appreciate its significance. This event–the emerging of a butterfly from it’s cocoon–or chrysalis–is what appears to be so mysteriously significant. And events that take time–and struggle–are the most significant and meaningful in our lives…and also, the life of a butterfly.

This was the story that landed one day in my inbox–from my sweet brother, after hearing our “butterfly” analogy in remembrance of Mom. I researched, and found many versions of this same story, but I never found it’s original author.

A Butterfly’s Struggle:

“One day, a man, walking down a path, saw a butterfly cocoon that was about to open. As he watched, a small opening appeared in the cocoon. The man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

“So, the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a withered body; it was tiny, and its wings were shriveled. The man continued to watch, because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand, to be able to support the butterfly’s body.

“Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings. It was never able to take flight.

“What the man, in his kindness and his goodwill, did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into it’s wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.”

A Lesson Learned…

Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were allowed to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. Never able to fly.

“I asked for Strength…and I was given difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for Wisdom…and I was given problems to solve.

I asked for Prosperity…and I was given a brain and brawn to work.

I asked for Courage…and I was given obstacles to overcome.

I asked for Love…and I was given troubled people to help.

I asked for Favors…and I was given opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted…but I received EVERYTHING I needed.”

When my mother was on this earth, she struggled with almost everything…Everything from her brief marriage to my father, to her nursing education and career, to raising her children and providing for us, to her weight, and finally…to her failing health. Nevertheless, she had Faith and courage to move mountains, teaching her children and grandchildren to always keep trying, and never, ever, give up. And with every passing butterfly, she seems to say, once again:….

“Live life without fear; confront all obstacles; and know that, with God’s help, you can overcome them.”

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