Lessons From Butterflies

Sometimes an unexpected change happens at a time when we most need it. I never would have imagined butterflies to be that change for me. Butterflies and an unusually mild winter in 2012 enabled the Red Admiral butterfly from Guatemala to migrate north much sooner. Their arrival brought back fond memories of my parents, who created decorative wooden butterflies in their shop at home and delighted in meeting people who came to buy them. Still feeling the sting of recently losing my mother just a few months before, I welcomed this change in nature as a gentle sign that they linger near in spirit.

Sometimes though, butterflies do not invoke such pleasant feelings. A friend shared a personal experience of being back in school and unable to give a report to her classmates. Paralyzed by the sensation of “butterflies in her stomach”, she stood in front of the class unable to move or speak. Many of us can relate to similar experiences that haunt us. Some people even spend years avoiding future situations in which they might encounter those types of butterflies. Eventually life may bring us to the point, however, where we must face that fear to move forward. For my friend that happened when she needed to make presentations as part of her job and sought help from Toastmasters International. With practice she developed skill in managing her nervousness, spoke with poise before groups, and eventually began her own business. Transformations such as hers often happen when we confront obstacles in our path along life’s journey.

The butterfly serves as a perfect example of transformation. Starting life with a very limited world to explore, the caterpillar retreats to a solitary life within the cocoon where it matures. With time, however, that formerly plain caterpillar unfolds and eventually soars with its beautiful new wings! I like to think that my parents experienced a similar transformation when they shed their earthly bodies and their souls passed from this life to another. In my dreams I sometimes envision them happily together again once more, observing life from a place far beyond our imagination, yet forever close to us in spirit.

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