In this excerpt from Guideposts' new book Mysterious Ways a family receives comfort from heaven.
- Posted on Jun 1, 2016
Every family has its own folklore and superstitions. In our big Italian Catholic family, it's said that the souls of the dead come back to visit us in the form of a moth. Crazy, huh? “That could be Aunt Ray!” Mom would say when one flew inside, and my younger brother, Charles, and I would laugh.
We were 12 years apart, but close. He always wore black and white. I teased him that they were the only colors he knew how to match. At 23, Charles passed away suddenly in his sleep. Part of my world died too. I yearned for a sign that Charles was at peace. I finally understood my family’s strange belief.
Three days after Charles died, Dad called. “Get over here!” he said, his voice urgent. I drove to my parents’ house and found my family crowded by the front door. “Look!” my sister Natalie whispered. It was perched on the door handle. A moth with black-and-white-speckled wings. . . . exactly like the pattern on the tie Charles had worn at our cousin’s wedding, the last time we had seen him alive.
We watched the moth until it vanished into the house. Dad found it the next morning on Charles’s pillow. The very spot where he’d drawn his last breath. It stayed there for 12 hours, then flew away.
A year later, the entire family gathered at the cemetery for the anniversary of Charles’s death. Natalie and I made a moth-shaped wreath out of white carnations and roses we’d dyed black. I laid it on his headstone. Afterward, we sat on the deck at my parents’ house sharing “Charles stories.” I tried to join in, but it was all too much. I got up from the table with my sister Connie and wandered over to the memorial garden that Dad had planted in the backyard for Charles. “I miss him so much,” I told Connie. She put her arm around me.
Just then I spotted something fluttering by the edge of the garden. I knelt down to take a closer look. A white moth! I pointed—and it leaped onto my finger. That’s when I saw the white-and-black stripes on its legs. “You guys gotta see this!” I called to the rest of the family. They formed a circle around me, all wanting to “pet” the moth.
It was the oddest thing. The moth wasn’t afraid at all. Connie squatted next to me and it moved right onto her knee! There was a 14-year age difference between Connie and Charles, but they had always been as thick as thieves. Especially after Connie’s divorce. Charles would stop by her house to check up on her kids and make sure they weren’t falling behind in school. On the weekends, he’d take Connie on mini road trips to keep her from feeling lonely.
The moth flew to my three-year-old niece, Ava, next. She squealed in delight. Charles had been close to all the kids in the family. But Ava—the baby of the bunch—was his favorite. She was spunky and mischievous, like him. He even had her photo as the background image on his phone. Ava was too young to understand the tragedy of his death, but she asked about her uncle Charlie and prayed for him every night before bed.
“Can I see?” my 10-year-old, Victoria, asked and the moth hopped over onto her index finger. The rest of us looked on in awe. This little creature was so friendly! Charles had been like a big brother to my three kids. A rock star who could do no wrong. They would hear his car pulling into our driveway and rush outside to greet him. Whenever he babysat for us, my husband and I would come home to find the house a mess, candy and toys everywhere.
Next the moth visited Fran, Charles’s childhood friend. She was his first love—his girlfriend from middle school to junior high. Even after they broke up, they remained close. In the months after his death, we all became friends with Fran. She’d check in on my parents, shovel the snow in front of their house, and call my sisters and me just to chat. She became like another sister. It made sense the moth wouldn’t leave her out.
I loved the black-and-white stripes on the moth’s legs. Totally Charles’s style. He’d probably laugh at us all going crazy over a moth. But then again. . . . Charles always made me smile. I couldn’t think of any better way to lift our spirits than a visit from the object of family folklore. By the end of the evening, the moth had landed on every one of us. It flitted back to me and rested on my dress.
It was time to go home, but the moth wouldn’t say goodbye. “Take it with you,” Mom said, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. So that’s what I did. I climbed into the car with the moth still on my shoulder. It stayed there the entire drive home. When it was time to get ready for bed I carefully changed out of my dress and hung it up. The moth didn’t budge.
I was disappointed the next morning to find that the moth had finally flown off. I sat on the edge of my bed, a little teary-eyed. Just as I was about to leave the bedroom, though, I saw a flutter of white wings. I held out my hand and the moth landed on me again. It accompanied me downstairs for breakfast, much to the delight of my kids, who couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the two of us.
The moth didn’t stay forever. But the wonder and comfort of its visit lingers with me and my family. And so does the message that one day we will see Charles again, a message delivered in a way that only God could have done.
View the amazing photos from the above story in this video!