I recently got to witness grief through the eyes of our daughter Gigi buried her pet butterfly, Lynn.
Lynn came into our lives 6 weeks ago when Aunt Carrie bought Gigi a “Grow At Home Butterfly Kit”. While the concept of Mail Order Insects is a little odd to me, Gigi didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to play God to a couple of caterpillars. We watched as the little caterpillars went through their various stages of growth (Larva, Pupa, Butterfly for those keeping score at home). Gigi named each of them and somehow knew who was who.
Melony (because she liked to eat watermelon) and Lynn (because…Lynn).
When the time was right, Gigi prayed for Melony and released her into the wild (our courtyard).
We kept asking Gigi to release Lynn, but she wouldn’t do it. She said that she LOVED nature and she wanted to watch Lynn die. Yep. Our 6 year old wanted to watch a Butterfly die. For the 2 full weeks of her life, Lynn lived in our kitchen. Everyday Gigi would get down on the floor, put her hand in that Butterfly net, and Lynn would crawl up and sit on her hand. No joke. Our daughter is a Butterfly Whisperer!
Eventually, Lynn did die. Jeanne and I were first on the scene. We were convinced that Gigi would be an absolute wreck…but to our surprise…she was not. She was sad, to be sure, but she had already accepted that this day would come. She had somehow prepared her little heart to receive this loss. She wasn’t so naive as to think that this day would never come, nor was she so anxious about it that it caused her to pull back from loving Lynn. Gigi loved Lynn…right up to her death…and even beyond.
On the day of Lynn’s death, Gigi held a funeral service. She made a little tombstone. I dug the grave. And as she held Lynn in her hand one last time, she prayed. She thanked God for her. She thanked God that Lynn got to be a part of our family and prayed that she would enjoy Heaven (I’m not making any of this up!). And with that we buried Lynn. Every other day or so, Gigi will go out and look at her tombstone and have a moment. She’s asked me a couple of times to dig her up to make sure she’s still there, but I’ve assured her that that wouldn’t really be “Resting In Peace”. She agrees.
There are times in your life when you have to say “Goodbye”. Times when you have to let go. Times when you have to bury the butterfly. Sometimes you see them coming. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re ready. Often times you are not. Regardless, there is something quite powerful in accepting that loss is a part of life. As hard as it is and as often as it comes…it is a part of it all. The Fear of Loss can keep you from the Gift of Life. The avoidance of Grief can keep you at a safe distance from the depths of your Soul. But a glimmer of God’s Grace is the ability to be fully present with who you have or what you have while you have it. To be grateful. To be generous. To grieve. To grow…but to never give up. To never bury the Hope that is greater than your loss.
Jesus, having suffered his own fair share of loss and fully aware that He would lose his Earthly life said it this way,
“In this world, you will have loss. But take heart…because I have overcome this world.”
In other words, there is something that you have, even when it feels like you’ve lost everything…you have Hope. You have hope that the one who has overcome it all will come and be with you in your loss. You have hope that the Savior who has overcome death, was himself overcome with grief…but not overwhelmed by it. You have hope that death, while a part of life, is not all that there is to life. It may feel like you’ve lost everything…but you still have hope.
So whatever you’ve lost or whatever you feel like you’re losing or whatever you’re afraid to lose…take heart…you can bury the butterfly…but never…ever…bury your hope.