10 years and a yellow butterfly

10 years ago I woke up and I heard voices in the other room. I knew what was happening and rolled over to tell my sister. I laid there and waited for them to come get us. I walked out to the living room and stood there while I tried to piece together a world without my mom. I grabbed the phone and grasped at straws calling people at home hoping they could help me when I felt so lost and so forgotten–a thousand miles from home on the day she died. 

Years 1-9 were hard and weird, especially as I graduated, got married and had kids. Year 10 means I’ve lived a whole decade without her, and that I’ll have to live the rest of them with out her too. Ten years means that people who knew her are dying; that memories I was too young to have are dying with them and the answers to questions I have are dying too. 

Ten years means our faulty American system of grieving death is continuing to fail me. Ten years means I am feeling extra selfish about time I didn’t have. 

44 years, 15 of them as my mom, was too short. A life worth living.


Today I sat out with hubby’s family at their campsite in North Florida. We were eating at the picnic table and as most everyone finished up and started to put their food away, a lull in the conversation prompted me to look up. I saw a lone yellow butterfly coming from from the pine tree canopy. It flew down and hovered right in front of me for just a second, then flew away. 

I verbalized my thought, “that was weird“. In December. Shouldn’t butterflies be gone for the year? 


After my mom died, my grandma was convinced that the yellow butterfly in our garden was her. I always liked to think of her as an orange butterfly, partly to spite my grandma, and partly because monarchs used to visit my mom’s butterfly garden at home. 


A few days before she died, I sat beside her on the porch and she asked me if I wanted her to come back and visit me as a ghost. She believed in the spirt world in a way I wasn’t sure of. I told her, “no! I’ll just see you when I die.”  I told her that it was creepy and laughed it off. After a few minutes of other conversation I came back to the topic and said, “well, I mean, you can visit if you promise not to be creepy. I mean, I don’t need to know you are there. You can check on me.” 

I think she kept her promise. 



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