My mother died in mid-October on a blue-sky, Sunday morning. Devoutly religious, the timing of her passing—the Lord’s Day—was in and of itself somewhat mystical. Given a choice, Sunday would surely have been the day she would have chosen for her soul to rise up to her God. Knowing this gave me peace and a soft smile.
Yet ever since God slammed the life out of my nineteen year old sister, killed in a car crash where she was the only casualty, I have remained a skeptic, an agnostic regarding the Holy Spirit. Not my mother. In spite of that sorrow, she saw her eighty- eight year life as an on-going opportunity to reflect God’s glory by giving to all those around her.
Mom had a butterfly collection. Not real ones, but butterflies of all materials and sizes: metallic butterfly magnets, wooden butterfly wall hangings, plastic butterfly kitchen aides—yellow, orange, blue, and golden butterflies—half inch butterfly envelope stickers, along with two foot square butterfly paintings. The flight of more than seventy butterflies floating about her walls and gardens begged the question, Why such an affinity for butterflies?
My mother’s naming me the executrix of her will (my father had already passed) necessitated many trips between my home near Baltimore, MD and her home in northern Pennsylvania. The weeks went by and winter drew near; I sensed a pressing need to complete my duties distributing and dissolving her assets. These obligations required me to work in my childhood home for several days at a time, week after week, clearing out the detritus of fifty years.
I had traveled yet again to Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving, first to spend the day with my sister and her children, then to continue with the dissolution of Mom’s estate. On the Sunday following Thanksgiving, feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted, I took a break.
My car transported me 20 miles south to Wilkes-Barre, a small city bordered on the north by the Susquehanna River. Autumn’s leaves were long gone; winter weather had set in weeks before, yet the afternoon bloomed unseasonably warm, the air crisp and refreshing as I walked the river trail along its shore. The Susquehanna felt alive, a living breathing presence stretching its tendrils wide, lapping gently where water met land, gurgling as it passed over shoals and sand creating eddies and swirls. River grasses whispered with the wind. Sights and sounds, sun and air. I gave myself to the elements, breathing in a dreamy, hypnotic peace after weeks of sorrow.
Lost in memories, wondering about the meaning of life, the value of any one life, my heart posed several questions to the universe…questions as prayers. Is spirit real? Does the soul exist? Do we get to come back?
A fluttering about my face brought me back to the present where a brilliantly beautiful, blue and black butterfly floated by. In northern Pennsylvania! Near November’s end. Coincidence or response?