Many of you know that Blue the Elder Dog died last September. He was the most special dog.
I believe that Blue returns to me, periodically and intentionally, in the form of a Monarch Butterfly.
It’s okay. Take pause. I will explain.
The first time was shortly after Blue died, maybe the next day. I was sitting outside in our screened porch area. I was numb and processing what had just happened. A Monarch Butterfly flitted around the outside of the screen, sort of frantically trying to get inside with me. Then he rested on a bush. I watched him.
I thought to myself that I had never seen that butterfly here before. The thought of Blue crossed my mind but I shook it away. It felt like him. But how could Blue be a butterfly? Silly!The second time was several weeks later. I was on a run. My running path goes past this house that has a German Shepherd in its backyard. The fence follows the path, so as I run along it, the German Shepherd likes to run with me. Actually, he races back and forth along the edges of the fence and barks and growls at me in a threatening way. Every time. This makes me a bit nervous.
My heart rate rose as I ran past.
And then, the Monarch Butterfly (Blue) came out of nowhere and started circling me. He flew around me for several seconds until I felt myself calm. And then he flew away. Blue was always very protective of me, all 20 pounds of him. He was my running buddy for 12 years. On our runs, there was no dog, child, runner, or moving object that would escape his notice, and be acknowledged with an adorable fierce warning bark.
As I was walking back home after my run, I passed a grassy area where we used to walk with Blue frequently. And there he was. The Monarch Butterfly ran through the field, frolicking up and down. And I had to stop and watch him. He was pure bliss.There have been countless examples of Blue the Butterfly, moments in which I’ve been thinking about Blue, or talking about Blue, or just needed Blue, and the Monarch Butterfly has visited.
It is understandable that one might think this coincidental. But I don’t believe it is.
The most recent experience just happened about ten minutes ago. This is what made me realize I had to share this today.
I was walking to a coffee shop, where I often work to escape the distractions of my home office. As I am walking along a very busy street, cars honking, my brain travels to the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. I am excited for it. I am thinking how nice it would be if we were close to a beach, just for a day trip. Oh, I remember that beach we went to last year, on Labor Day weekend – it wasn’t too far away.
We went to that beach the day after Blue died, to escape our sadness. It didn’t work. That was Labor Day weekend. I think of him and am overcome with his loss.
I marvel at how grief appears, willfully and randomly. I indulge myself in a brief fantasy in which a stranger pulls up beside me in a car and hands me a puppy Australian Shepherd, begging me to take it home. What choice would I have?
And then, it happens.
A Monarch Butterfly (Blue) flies in front of me, weaving back and forth before me as I walk along. He dives into my face, and then pulls back, running away happily. It is the first one I have seen this year. I gasp out loud. (Okay, I might have said an expletive out loud.)
I am shocked into attention. I see that it is the most perfect Spring day.I write this knowing that some of you will think I’m a weirdo. That is okay. Of course I am! I am not afraid of being weird.
You might also wonder what this has to do with being a Revisionary Gerontologist. I don’t have a straight answer, but I just know it does.
Maybe it’s because this has to do with living and dying.
Maybe it’s because this is about grief and loss and all the things we don’t want to talk about.
Maybe because this is about paying attention.
One of the many things that Blue taught me, and continues to teach me, is about paying attention. Paying attention to what’s around us. Stopping and paying attention to what’s inside of us. Stopping and paying attention to those around us, what they’re trying to tell us, with or without words.
It is a reminder to me to pay attention to the miracles around me. They are around us all the time and we (including myself) don’t always see them.
Sometimes I think we don’t see the miracles because we don’t think it is okay to do so.
Is it “okay” to believe that a Monarch butterfly is your reincarnated dog? (Weirdo!)
The hyper-cognitive part of us tells us we are wrong. It is not possible for a butterfly to be a former dog. (Your brain is playing tricks on you!)
We don’t let ourselves pay attention. Our culture of hyper-busyness tells us we don’t have time. (Get back to work! Who has time for chasing butterflies!? And thinking!)
So, we stop paying attention.
Please don’t stop paying attention. And really SEEING.
SEEING the miracle of nature, of beauty, of kindness. Of things that don’t make sense.
SEEING the people around us as human beings, and as miracles.
SEEING the person who is presumably homeless. The elder at the grocery store, slowly writing a check, while people impatiently stare at her. The person living with dementia who does not have the right words, but deep thoughts and feelings. Your neighbor. Your co-worker. Your family member.
SEEING the butterfly that could be a reincarnated dog.Note: I was supposed to be working on the Being Heard series on ageism that I am writing. Alas, I had to pay attention to a butterfly/dog. Pardon the delay and stay tuned for a series of articles on the opposite of ageism.