We buried our 20-year old daughter, Elizabeth, on a bright, sunny, warm September day.
If only that sun would break through the shock and disbelief of what that day brought. Why God, why? Elizabeth was supposed to bury me. A parent should never have to bury a child.
A year earlier, we had packed her up and taken her to her dream college, the University of Minnesota. We had never seen her so happy. She was living in an exciting metropolitan area, she was getting good grades and she was making many diverse friends … all goals she had set for herself.
All of that was gone now. An early morning fire had broken out in the duplex that she shared with six of her closest college friends. Within the span of a very few minutes, three young lives were lost, along with the hopes and dreams of their families.
Where was my girl? How could I be sure that the promises of my faith were true? Was there any way to make sense of something that seemed so senseless?
The pain of that day will remain a part of me for the rest of my life. Life as we once knew it no longer existed. How could we go on?
A day after the funeral, my mom was back at the cemetery. It is very close both to where we live and where my parents live, and Mom was there. As she stood and stared at the overturned earth and all of the flowers strewn upon it she thought to herself, “Liz if you’re okay, please give me a sign.” And then, after a few more minutes of contemplation, she began the short walk home.
Somewhere on that walk something miraculous happened. Three monarch butterflies flew up right in front of her, seemingly out of nowhere. It was perfect because the butterfly is a symbol of rebirth and new life. Mom had been insistent that we needed to release butterflies as a final parting gesture after the committal service at the cemetery.
We all thought it was a wonderful idea, but no one knew where to find butterflies. But Mom would not be deterred. She went on the internet, found a company in Florida that could supply butterflies, and she ordered them and had them delivered in time for the funeral. It was quite a feat for a woman who even on a good day had difficulty remembering how to check her email.
So the three butterflies flying up in front of her was a validation of Liz’s new life. And, my mom understood that that was her sign and it brought great comfort not only to her, but also to our entire family.
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” Virginia Satir
Kimberly Wencl 2011Tags: signs and connections