Today as I walked to the grocery store a tiny yellow butterfly danced through the air before my path.
This dainty creature–so tiny, vibrant, gently tossed by the breeze– reminded me for a second of a beautiful story of love and loss and faith.
You see, when my grandmother passed away so many years now it was a yellow butterfly that visited my grandfather at her grave site until he soon passed away from– our theory– an ocean of grief. And this tiny creature reminds me of her, reminds me of him, reminds me of when they were full of life and joy tumbling out of a burgundy Ford Explorer into our driveway. Always– they came bearing donuts, haphazardly wrapped gifts, help for my family, and love. I remember them and am so thankful for the indelible mark they left on my life and the example they set in so, so many ways.
I was in the metamorphosis of my faith right before my grandmother died, teetering between “I think heaven is real” and “I know heaven is real.” But God did a great thing in my life during those days and weeks I dealt with loss. He became real. Really, really real. He was no longer this ominous and impersonal Being looming in the heavens. He cared about me; He loved me. Suddenly, that year, I saw the world differently: He who whispered stars in the sky,sprinkled grains of sand on the beach, painted the colors of the sky and created the lives of this world with a purpose had a purpose for me too. But on the inside, I was still cracked and broken and just barely starting to heal.
So, I did what the pastors and teachers said to do when you were sad or struggling and I prayed and prayed and prayed. And as the tide of grief washed over me a greater wave of peace slowly worked to fill in the cracks of my aching spirit. Where grief wounded, the Hand of Grace healed. But it worked slowly, as it says, “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
And so now reflecting back on other griefs I think it is wise to be patient with your hearts and even your tears. There is no time table for grief. Nor should there be–even when the clamoring judgers tell us to grab our coffee, shoulder our hurts like a knapsack, get over it, and move on with our lives. Maybe one day we will wake up and the pain will have ebbed away enough so that we can feel whole again and the memories of those we have lost will no longer empty our hearts but fill them with peace.
And so I finish my walk home, groceries in hand, and the yellow butterfly drifts on unaware of the comfort it once brought to a grieving widower at a graveside many years ago as well as a young woman remembering whom she once loved and lost.