I quickly turned my head and looked again. Since Tyler’s accident, I find myself doing this often – looking again. I glanced out the front window of our home and thought I saw his car parked on the curb, right where he parked it every day. Out of the corner of my eye, I could have sworn I saw him walking up the driveway towards the front door. When my thoughts turned back to reality, I realized I was looking at a butterfly dancing playfully in the front flower garden. His wings were slowly and steadily extending as he made his way from one beautiful flower to another – dancing and playing so gracefully. As I inhale deeply, all the moments of joy, pain, love, laughter and loss release from within and the butterfly suddenly takes flight in a blur of color. I slowly exhale as the anticipation and hope washes over me.
For many, the metamorphosis of a butterfly is a spiritual symbol for life and death because of the transformation it undergoes from a caterpillar to a magnificent butterfly. They are often associated with the changes in human life and often offer hope for the possibility of a renewal of life while living and after our physical body is no longer in existence. In death, the comparison can be made, that when the cocoon breaks it represents the death of ones physical body and as the butterfly takes flight, that is the soul being released into the universe. In life, this transformation is compared to the complete changes, or rebirth, that one can undergo as they begin to flourish following a decline.
My personal experience is that butterflies do indeed represent our loved ones who have passed away and share a likeness with someone who has experienced a transformation in their life. When I remember my son, Tyler, and his unique, one-of-a-kind personality, I am drawn to the idea that his distinctiveness did not just cease to exist because his physical body was longer living and breathing. All of those peculiarities that made him who he was, are what comprised his spirit and made him the individual that he was. It’s difficult to fathom that his spirit simply disappeared along with his physical body.
At Tyler’s funeral service, there were many who compared his life to that of a butterfly because of his dramatic change from a shy, socially awkward young man to a self-assured, purpose-driven one. His friend and mentor from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Cindy Allen, wrote in an article, “many people had the wonderful opportunity to watch as Tyler transformed from a shy, introverted teen into a mature, confident young man ready to set the world on fire. We likened Tyler’s transformation to that of a caterpillar, changing over time into a beautiful butterfly.” His step-father, Del, also spoke of having the honor of watching as Tyler transformed from a quiet, unhappy young man to someone who experienced true joy and was looking forward to his future with purpose and intent – just as a caterpillar becomes a brilliant butterfly.
Soon after Tyler’s passing, I began seeing signs that Tyler was ever-present, in the form of butterflies. They always seemed to appear at times when I needed a reminder the most. There were many days that I would retreat to our back yard to spend some time alone with my thoughts – these were times when I was thinking about Tyler the most. Without fail, a butterfly would appear, flirting with me and flying just close enough for me to see it’s colors. Most times, they would land at my feet and on occasion, directly on my arm or leg. In the months leading up to selling that house, there were two butterflies that began zipping through the yard daily. I watched as they played together on the ground next to my feet and flew through the air as if racing each other to an imaginary finish line. I sat there with them for hours, just reveling in the beauty of their innocence and freedom. Within a couple weeks, I realized that only one remained. That one butterfly continued to provide me with daily entertainment, right up until the time of our move. A few days prior to moving, I visited with a psychic medium whom I had previously had readings with, and she relayed a vision to me, of Tyler playing in the backyard as a way of letting me know that he was okay with our decision to sell the house and move away.
For me, there is nothing more magical than watching a butterfly in flight and feeling the joy that I associate with them.