A Sad Song for the Blue Butterfly Girl
I am devastated. I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. I have cried for so long and so hard, you'd think I'd have no tears left. Dear friends, my oldest sister Barb, my angel, my hero, has left this earth. I knew it would hurt, but I had no idea how much. I am broken; forever broken.
I have told you the stories about my big sister on these pages. And you will, no doubt, hear a few more before I am through. My sister and I did all kinds of things together; had all sorts of wonderful adventures. We went to the Arts Festival together. We took bus trips to Atlantic City. We ate out. We had fun.
A few years ago, my sister became very sick with liver failure, and was placed on the transplant list. In an amazing recovery, she became so well that she was rejected from that process. Such joy! How we celebrated!
I did not know that it was not the end of her battle. In the past year or two, she became sick again. Last fall, she went on the transplant list again. She became progressively worse. And on this day, I received the sad news that she had passed away.
I will tell you more stories in the coming days, but here are just two for now. But first, I should tell you this: she has always loved butterflies, and the color blue. Barb had a blue butterfly tattooed on her back. I always think of her as The Butterfly Girl. You need to know this, or these stories won't make any sense.
It has been my habit to call my sister about every other weekend and chat on the phone; often on Sunday mornings. The last or next-to-last time I spoke with her, she talked about all the medical tests she was being subjected to. She hated all the doctoring and medications. She told me, "This is no way to live," and I had a foreshadowing of things to come. I worried and stewed over those words. I was afraid she was giving up.
Last weekend, on the morning of my uncle's funeral, my husband called out to me to come to the garage. A beautiful orange butterfly - a comma or a question mark - was beating its wings against the window. It couldn't get out.
My husband was afraid it would get trapped in a spider web. So I ran down with my bug-catchy-thing (also known as the mercy jar) and captured the poor butterfly. I ran with it to the front porch and released it into the sky. She needs to be free, my heart suddenly said; and it wasn't about the butterfly.
Here is the second story. My husband and I went walking on Spring Creek on this morning, one of the hottest days of the year. We saw a number of butterflies, including some red-spotted purples in the parking lot; they are very friendly butterflies. That's what you see in the photo above.
But there was also an appearance by a very special guest: a giant swallowtail. If anyone tells you they are common around here, they are wrong. They are most certainly NOT. I have only ever seen a handful in my whole lifetime. They are huge and glorious and beautiful.
The butterfly flittered around the trail and disappeared. I was wistful; I had my camera; I wanted the shot; I did not get it. As we walked back to the parking lot to our car, the butterfly appeared again. Again, I chased it. Again, it disappeared. "It's teasing you," my husband said.
In the end, I was left standing by the creek, my camera in my hands, crying, "Come back! Come back!" I felt like Rose calling for Jack at the end of Titanic. (She could holler all she wanted; he wasn't coming back.) I felt very, very sad. I didn't know why.
The phone rang shortly after we got home with the sad news: my beloved sister had passed away sometime Saturday morning. I thought of the two butterflies. I remembered the one butterfly's happiness as it climbed into the sky, toward freedom. But my heart kept calling: "Come back! Come back!"
Truth be told, I have been very sad and worried about my sister for a long time, but my sister is a very private person and I was not really allowed to talk about her health issues. She didn't want to worry anyone. So I kept it to myself, but I cried sometimes in the middle of the night.
Between the situation with Barb and the recent issues with my parents' health, there have been many, many sad and sleepless nights. It may or may not be true, but I like to think my sister sent me that huge butterfly. Are you well now, dear sister, my blue butterfly girl? Are you free now? Can you fly?
I recently came upon a cover of a famous song about grieving written by Emmylou Harris, sung beautifully by the Wailin' Jennys. This is the song whose words come to me when I am sad and worried in the middle of the night. Here are the Wailin' Jennys, with Boulder to Birmingham.
(And the hardest part . . . is knowing I'll survive. . . . )