by Cindi on August 26, 2016

It was early September when my Daddy died, September 8th to be exact. It was four days after my 47th birthday and four days before my year round school took a three week intersession break. Because of the timeliness of that break, I did something unheard of: I left my family at home and went to the beach by myself. By myself!

I graded student journals by the ocean and kept glancing over at the pier, thinking I’d see my Daddy there as I had hundreds of times, fishing for something…but catching nothing…and happy to be there anyway. I didn’t see him, though. What I did see, over and over during my days there, were thousands of yellow butterflies. In my delirium of grief, I thought every one that fluttered by me brought a message: my Daddy was watching over me.

When I left that week, I took a detour home. I drove across the state headed for the cemetery I had seen only days before; I wanted to visit the finished grave site, my first trip since the funeral.

Once on the road, I saw them again.


Small and yellow, there were hundreds of them floating around my car. I started counting them and had reached over five hundred during the four hour drive when they finally dwindled down. The last twenty miles to the cemetery included only the road and me. No tiny flashes of light darted in front of my windshield.

When I arrived, I noticed the still quiet of the place my parents had chosen to be buried. I stood and looked at the adjoining horse pasture. I had noticed it during the funeral and saw the horses staring over at me again. That gave me comfort somehow.

On this day, I spoke to my Daddy as if he were there…told him about my trip to the beach that he loved…and then I saw it: one little flicker of yellow light hovered over the newly disrupted dirt. After counting hundreds of them, and then none, I watched one lone butterfly dancing above the grave that day.

“Hey, Daddy,” I said out loud. The horses snorted in my direction and kicked up clouds of dirt with their hooves.

I read a story recently about a little boy who was sitting watching a cocoon. He watched as the wrapped contents seemed to struggle getting out. Losing his patience, he eventually grabbed some scissors and gently cut the cocoon to help the butterfly out. It didn’t fly, though. Its wings were shriveled and moist. In fact, this butterfly never flew. It walked around dragging wings for a short time…and that was it.

The little boy’s mother explained to him that part of the butterfly’s process was the struggle of getting out of the cocoon. Had it been able to do that, it would have eventually flown.

Sometimes it’s the struggle that makes us fly. My struggle with grief that year, and many years since, has made me stronger and more empathetic than before. I certainly understand more deeply and feel the implications of losing someone as I reach out to friends and family experiencing grief, and my relationships with those still here are stronger: I don’t take small moments (or big ones, for that matter) for granted.

The yellow butterflies are back now. I read that this is the time of the year they migrate south. That’s why there are about ten of them in my yard right now.

But there’s one lone one sitting beside me in the grass.

Hey, Daddy.


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