I saw my first butterfly of the year yesterday. A sign that summer is on its way, but also a reminder for me of my husband – who died nearly two years ago now – and how life changes.
Butterflies are seen as a symbol of reincarnation, rebirth and renewal because of the way they transform themselves from tiny caterpillars, then through the chrysalis stage to a delicate flying being.
When Roger died, I always wondered if I’d experience anything that felt like a sign that he was still around. In the weeks after his death, every time I went out into our garden there were one or two cabbage white butterflies flying around and they always made me smile and wonder if that was my sign. I knew it probably wasn’t, but I liked to think that maybe it was, if you know what I mean, in the way that we often look for things where we want to see them.
In the months before his death we had our own caterpillars at home which we watched transform into butterflies, setting them free at the end of May outside Roger’s room at Wirral St John’s Hospice, where he was being looked after. I remember as we tried to set them free the weather was slightly too cold for them to want to fly away, so we had to coax them out, holding them in our hands before practically forcing them out into the world.
Looking at the photo of that day now (above) we kind of look pretty together and like a normal family. Flo looks tiny and Sam had had a particularly bad haircut, but it’s a snapshot of that day and a lovely memory from the hospice.
I think what I’m trying to say is that every time I see a white butterfly now I think about that and probably always will. I sometimes stop and say ‘look, there’s daddy!’ before realising the kids probably think I’ve got a screw loose somewhere.
As for signs, as time passes I get more of a sense that Rog is still around me and when things are going badly and then suddenly sort themselves out, I wonder whether there’s a guardian angel there looking down on me. What I think it’s more likely to be is just that new perspective you have on things after loss, and that connection with someone that will never go away.
I think we’ll try some more butterflies this year, maybe when we get back from our holiday so they’re not left fending for themselves in an empty house!
I’ll keep you updated on that plan.