In the fleeting passage of a butterfly, hope for all those who are grieving

In the fleeting passage of a butterfly, hope for all those who are grieving

It’s hard to watch your mother grieve.

Her crystal-blue eyes fill with tears when you least expect it. We pass a storefront advertising Dad’s favorite ice cream. An elderly gentleman opens the door for his wife. A butterfly, so symbolic of life’s necessary changes, crosses our path. A memory lands at just the right moment and the carefully contained grief spills.

“To love deeply is to risk hurting deeply,” my father often counseled me.

When I was a teenager breaking up with my hometown honey, he comforted my tears, telling me it was part of the price of allowing ourselves to love.

Although at the time it brought no relief, in time and with experience, I came to know the wisdom of his words.

There were times during my college escapades I vowed never to love again. It hurt too much to recover. The ups and downs of chaotic relationships left me seeking a safer life, one free from heartache.

But love prevailed.

There’s nothing like that tingling excitement when you’ve met someone new.

When a caring relationship emerges, there’s nothing more special than discovering that part of your heart that yearns to share your life with another. Then there’s that little buzz deep in your mind that wakes you up before the alarm goes off, that makes you smile before you open your eyes, that makes you want to share the smallest details about your day with the person who matters most.

And you take the risk to love.

As I watched Nancy Reagan endure the ceremonies of her husband’s death, I was struck by not only her strength and stamina, but by her grace as she allowed the public to join her on her journey. Her steadfast love and commitment to her husband washed over each step of the goodbye process.

She had taken the risk to love and keep on loving in the most trying of circumstances.

During my father’s battle with cancer, we also had time to prepare for his death, creating ceremonies befitting a man who pastored 20 years in a community where he was beloved.

“I want to honor his life,” my mom kept saying as we scripted the services.

Remarks were crafted, processions choreographed and services recorded. And the structure of preparation helped us push our raging pain to the side.

Nothing, however, prepares you for life after loss of a loved one.

Although I miss my father daily and deeply, watching my mother grieve the loss of her soul mate is the most painful experience of all. I want to make it better for her, to help her through it, to make the pain go away.

But I’ve learned that just as we allow ourselves to love, we must allow ourselves to grieve.

As the butterfly moves through its necessary changes, so must we move through our process where heartache is the ironic indicator of well-placed love.

As St. Augustine said, “Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.”