I attended last year – exactly four months after Dad died -- with my mom and friend, Carol. Our hearts were heavy. Mom hadn’t wanted to come, but I convinced her to attend. It was difficult for her to be there, but she never complained.
Mom told me her back was bothering her. It had been causing her trouble for months. At the time, we didn’t know cancerous tumors had grown on her spine. She was in a great deal of pain, although I don’t think anyone knew how much she was suffering. A monarch butterfly nestled into her hair and stayed with her until nearly everyone had left the venue. She had thought it was a message from Dad, and we thought so, too.
It was the last time she visited my home.
Five weeks later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
She passed away four months later on a sunny February morning. Earlier in the day as I sat with her in the nursing home, I played one of her favorite songs, “I’ll Fly Away.” She flew away less than an hour later. It was both a tremendous loss and a welcome relief.
Cedar Valley Hospice was with us the whole way.
I contacted them a few weeks after Mom’s diagnosis. Mom made the decision to sign up for their services after they had come to her home and explained how they could help us.
They cared for her during her last day, and they were there for me after she passed.
This year my husband and two sons attended the butterfly release with me. My friend was there again, too, having recently suffered some losses of her own. Isaac wasn’t able to come because he was with our respite provider, which was perfect. He wouldn’t have enjoyed sitting through the program and being completely quiet when the 1,000 butterflies made their way into the sky.
A doctor who was chosen to release butterflies took care of Mom at the Hospice Home. I recognized him immediately. Mom asked him to end her life. He couldn’t. But eventually he was able to manage her chronic pain.
I recognized a nurse who first spoke to my brother and me when Mom was admitted to the Hospice Home for a pain crisis. She was honest and kind. I saw her nearly every day for two weeks while Mom was there.
I recognized a nurse handing out water bottles. She cared for Mom, and I distinctly recall an important conversation we had one evening. I still remember her exact words.
I didn’t have the chance to thank these people again for their very important but difficult work. I guess just showing up and supporting their mission was thanks enough.
I had hoped a butterfly would land on Henry or Noah, but it didn’t happen. That was okay. Experiencing the release of 1,000 butterflies was powerful in its own way.
A butterfly landed on an older woman’s head near the end of our row. Her young relatives energetically snapped pictures of the butterfly before it flew away.
It made us all smile.
We took pictures of my parents’ names at the dedication station. It was happy and strange and sad and surreal and wonderful to see both of their names on a banner.
I didn’t realize until much later that Sunday was Grandparents Day.
It was a beautiful way to honor them.