These Butterflies Brought Comfort from Beyond

Three stories of grieving people who all found solace from butterflies that flew into their lives at just the right time.

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- Posted on Jul 24, 2020

Butterflies/ Illustration by Jim Tsinganos

Anne Bardsley from St. Petersburg, Florida

It would be my first day back at work since Mom’s funeral. In the stillness of my car, I was overcome with grief. I missed her so much. I slowed to a stop at an empty intersection. I couldn’t help but long for a way to know that she was at peace. No sooner had the thought entered my mind than I felt something touch my cheek. It was warm and soft, like a gentle hand laid against my face to comfort me. Then, just like that, it was gone. “Mom, was that you?” I said out loud. Instantly, I felt foolish. I’d probably just imagined it. I kept driving.

But when I turned a corner, I was suddenly enveloped in a flurry of white. Hundreds of butterflies circled my car, a blizzard of fluttering wings. I smiled and watched in complete awe until they dispersed and moved on. My question had been answered. Ten years later, I was at my son Michael’s wedding rehearsal. Michael and my mom had been close. “I wish Mom could be here with us,” I said to my husband. Then I noticed something up by Michael and his fiancée. A white butterfly, hovering in the space between them.

Luann Tennant Coyne from Naperville, Illinois

I sat on my deck, looking at the memorial garden I had planted for my baby granddaughter, Eliana. She’d recently died from a genetic condition at just two months old. Devastated, my daughter Liz and her husband, Chris, had joined a family trip to a lake house to start processing their grief. Liz waded into the lake one day and took a moment of silence to grieve Eliana. Just then, two monarch butterflies made their way across the water and circled her head for several minutes. On the beach, two more monarch butterflies were with Chris, fluttering around his head. My other daughter, Shannon, saw the whole thing. “Mom, it was Eliana,” she told me. “I just know it.”

Now it was summertime, and Eliana’s memorial garden was in full bloom. It was so beautiful, I had to take some photographs to send to Liz and Chris. I snapped a few shots of the flowers.

Afterward I looked through the photos and saw something that made me catch my breath. A single monarch butterfly had managed to find its way into every picture.

Julie Sobolik from Tucson, Arizona

After my father died, I flew back home to Arizona to arrange his funeral and organize the house. Mom had died 17 years before, and Dad hadn’t changed a thing since. So in a strange way, revisiting all their belongings felt like losing Mom all over again. There was a lot to sort through, on top of organizing a full military funeral for Dad, a veteran, and planning a memorial service for the family to attend afterward.

My friend Kathy came over to help me clean up Mom’s old garden, which had become totally overgrown. “This was Mom’s favorite spot,” I said to Kathy as we stood underneath a willow tree in the back corner of the yard. Mom had planted it herself. As good as I felt to be home, I was overwhelmed. I wished my mom could be there to help me plan the kind of ceremony my dad deserved.

I noticed something. “Kathy, look,” I said. A single white butterfly was flitting around my head. It circled me for several minutes.

I heard a clear voice that seemed to float in the air, following the butterfly’s path. “I’m so glad you’re here,” it said. A voice I’d recognize anywhere, giving me the support I needed, even from heaven. Mom’s voice.

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