The Orange and Black Butterfly

Dale Fehringer

© Copyright 2009 by Dale Fehringer 


Some people in Mexico believe Monarch butterflies contain the souls of departed relatives, and they commemorate their return each November with the Day of the Dead celebration.  This author doesn’t think it’s necessary to accept that belief to have a special relationship with these beautiful and graceful creatures – but it helps.

The first time we noticed the orange and black butterfly was at the airport when we flew home from Ines’ memorial service.  It was perched on the jet way to our plane and we remember thinking it was odd to see a butterfly at an airport.  When we got home we noticed another orange and black butterfly in our garden, dancing in the sun as we unpacked.  It struck us then that it might be her spirit watching over us, making sure we got home safely.  Now, eight years later, we’re sure of it.

There were many wonderful things about Ines.  She was a selfless and giving person with an extraordinary desire to help others and the ability to make people feel everything was going to be OK.  She baked cookies for sick friends, called on neighbors, and had a smile and good word for everyone she ran into.

She took especially good care of her family – cooking our favorite foods, keeping us “up-to-date,” and choosing the burnt piece of toast (saying she preferred it that way).  We often heard her in the kitchen after we had gone to bed, her slippers swooshing against the linoleum floor as she prepared for the next day’s events.  She told us she required less sleep than the rest of us, but the truth was she simply got less sleep.

In the fall of 2000, cancer took Ines away, half way through her 80th year.  She had raised her family, traveled the world, and celebrated the new millennium.  In her spare time, she had taken care of a countless number of people, and each of them believed they had a special friendship with her.

She had led a very full life.

As a reward, we think she is allowed to come back now and then to watch over the people she loved.  It makes sense she would come back as a butterfly.

Ines loved butterflies and said they are God’s gift to us.  She grew butterfly-friendly plants and had images of butterflies in her kitchen wallpaper and on the family room lamps.  She kept watch over the butterflies in her garden and seemed at harmony with them.

Each year since she died there has been at least one orange and black butterfly in our garden – resting on the plants Ines liked most and fluttering when we’re around.  And we see them wherever we travel.  We spotted orange and black butterflies in the jungles of Peru, and watched a bunch play near the side of the road in the Lake District of Chile.  There was a beautiful butterfly flitting around us as we cycled through Loire Valley, and they were with us as we hiked around northern California’s Juniper Lake.

Last weekend we saw the most beautiful orange and black butterfly yet.  It was in our garden, hovering in the air.  It came to rest on a flower near our table and sat motionless, watching us and waving its wings in the sun.  Then it was off, floating on the breeze.

It affects us now whenever we see a butterfly – a warm, achy feeling.   It reminds us of the love and kindness Ines had for all living things and encourages us to help make the world a brighter place.  And it’s a reminder that she will always be with us, in a special place in our hearts.

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