A Life Never Lived

There are many butterfly plants in my garden. Growing wild and planted by dropped seeds from busy birds, they proliferate by the end of summer. Being the “nectar” for hundreds of Monarch caterpillars, their green leaves come and go as the hungry, crawling “to be” butterflies prepare to spin cocoons.

Time seems to fly by, excuse the pun, if I see a small caterpillar and then find a freshly spun cocoon. One year, I photographed the constant changes as the creation of this safe haven came about. One minute I saw a caterpillar hanging upside down from a branch or fence partition and in a few hours turned into a green capsule sealed with a thread of gold. Talk about a miracle!

Over time, the majority of such cocoons unfold to release a perfect creature ready to fly in minutes. However, I have also witnessed newly hatched butterflies with broken wings or tangled feet. These new lives will be short because they will never fly. Their lives will end in 24 hours even though they struggle the entire time trying to right them and take off. Usually, I will find their motionless bodies encased with folded wings laying quietly on a cushion or sidewalk.

Though I have witnessed this many times, it still makes me sad. I always pray over the little body trying to project the “what ifs” of a shortened life.

butterflyOnce the sticky wings have dried, the legs have straightened and a launch taken place, a new butterfly has many adventures. Probably finding a source of water from rainfall, a dripping hose, or a birdbath will be on the agenda. Practicing flight, perfecting high and low swoops through the air will fill part of the day. Drinking nectar from a waiting bloom could also be experienced. Citrus fruit, honeysuckle, and parsley are all sweet favorites of the Monarch butterfly.

At night, rest will be had in the branches of a palm tree perhaps caressed by a waiting palm leaf. Morning will arrive with the new butterfly spreading his wings soaking up the warm sun. Similar to us as we stretch upon waking, the butterfly must feel like he is in paradise. The joy he must feel as the world becomes his…for whatever length of time given by God.

There is disparity as to how long these creatures live. I have read statistics all the way from two weeks to two months. Once we had fourteen butterflies encircling our home. Our neighbors stopped to see the magic of the fluttering wings considering us blessed with their presence. I always receive such beauty from God as His gift. Truly, the butterfly is a gift to us and the world.

As time passes, the butterflies go from flying high over the house to flying lower and closer to the grass. Then one day, I will find a slowly moving, fluttering mass of beautiful wings on our warm sidewalk. Often, I remove the dying insect and place it on a soft surface hoping to “cushion” any pain. Eventually, stillness takes over and life…is gone.

So I have shared two examples; one of butterflies who never experienced life and one of those who did. I try to rationalize that both were loved by God and shared with us…just in different increments of time.

Life is truly a gift!

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

Comments (1)

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  1. Nancy Stevens says:

    Beautiful observation