A small miracle happened at the Calumet Park Cemetery butterfly release memorial ceremony on July 21. Each year families and friends gather at the Butterfly Garden in the Back to Nature Section for spiritual readings and live music. The hour long event concludes with the reading of an old Native American Indian legend called “The Legend of the Butterfly”. Native Americans believe that a wish whispered to a butterfly will be granted when the butterfly flies up to the heavens.
Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life. Many cultures associate the butterfly with our souls. The Christian religion sees the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection. Around the world, people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope, and life. A butterfly is a symbol for the Resurrection! It is a spiritual symbol for life after death because of its metamorphosis, or transformation, from a caterpillar that crawls on the ground to a beautiful, almost ethereal creature that flies through the air.
There were concerns that rain and high winds were on their way that Saturday morning. The area was hit hard with severe storms the previous couple of days, so it was almost a coin toss as to whether or not the event would even be held. Amazingly, the weather was not a deterrent to approximately 350 brave souls, and all six hundred and twenty butterflies were released, each carrying a special message to heaven.
So, back to the miracle. In December, a sweet young lady lost her twin boys at the 5th month of her pregnancy. To lose a baby is so very devastating and if it is possible, losing two at the same time must be crushingly overwhelming. The hopes and dreams that a parent has for the life of her child is buried with her babies. As a father who experienced such a loss, I can say that the memories of one’s hopes for the future of a lost child never die. Although it is real that God called home His children on His timetable, the reality for those left behind is sometimes a shaken fist at God with lots of questions…all starting with “WHY?”
Although the mother gave permission for her real name to be used in this story, she will be referred to as Mother Mary for the rest of this article. Privacy is important in the world in which we live, and Mother Mary’s privacy should be respected. During the week leading up to the Butterfly Release, Mother Mary was followed, on and off, by two butterflies. It scared her a little and she saw them as a sign that God had not forgotten her during her time of loss. In one sense, Mother Mary told us that she found peace in the tiny, winged creatures of God and felt it would be redundant to attend the live release…but something told her to show up…rain or shine.
On the morning of the release, the crowd grew slowly and steadily. Mother Mary quietly joined with the others in finding a place to blend in with others while being alone with her thoughts. Her babies would have been seven months old in July, and thoughts of all of the little outfits and baby paraphernalia were filling up her mind and her heart.
Tears are a healing balm to broken hearted people. In fact, I remember back some 33 years ago that it felt like my tears would never stop. To this day, I can see a mother and father with a newborn baby and my heart weeps over what might have been. So, a great many tears flowed from attendees of all ages, races, colors, faiths and creeds on that special Saturday morning, including those of Mother Mary.
After a couple of readings, commentary, and songs, the time had come for all to gather around the butterfly garden and the bronze statue of the child offering up a butterfly, laden with wishes from mouth, to butterfly, to God. Mother Mary found just the right spot to release her butterflies from their folded paper casings. She had two green envelopes with the words “Do not be afraid for I am with you…” printed on them which is a promise from God when He said “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about for I am your God and I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!”
With close to 400 people gathered around a garden filled with plants and flowers meant to attract butterflies, Mother Mary whispered her private wish to her butterflies. And that is when the miracle happened. It would not be noticed by any of the hundreds of people that surrounded her, but it will be with Mother Mary forever. When she opened her first envelope, two butterflies stretched their gossamer wings and lifted off in unison. Two in one envelope…a simple mistake on the part of the person in Florida that packed the gentle creatures that has never, ever been known to have happened in the history of the people that supply the butterflies for this event.
Surely, any actuary could not come up with statistics that could represent this occurrence. Millions of butterflies released annually around the world, and on this day, for this event and for this grieving mother, God arranged to have twin butterflies emerge to be sure that her wishes…one for each of her sons…would have a butterfly dedicated to delivering her wishes to His ears.
This simple mistake on the part of a “butterfly packer” thousands of miles away answered Mother Mary’s wishes before she could even utter them. God knew in His heart this day would come, long before Mother Mary’s own mother and father came together and conceived her. God has a plan, and we are inserted into His timeline. We are along for the ride, and sometimes the ride is bumpy and cold and lonely and filled with pain. Other times, we come out of the tunnel of darkness filled with joy.
On this day, in the midst of one of Mother Mary’s most bumpy and crushing of all of life’s challenges, Mother Mary found a moment of peace and joy as she watched the two butterflies flutter away, side by side, toward the heavens. The babies were His, and He needed them to come home on His schedule. The two butterflies were but a heavenly message to Mother Mary that He heard her cries of desperation since the day of her loss. It was received by Mother Mary as confirmation that He had not forsaken her.
As miracles go, two butterflies in one envelope may seem “accidental” to a bystander. Raising of Lazareth, or feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, or even changing water into wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana were miracles. But for Mother Mary on this day, in this field, unfolding a small green triangle shaped paper envelope to let her butterfly go, seeing two butterflies emerge was all the affirmation she needed to know in her heart that they were with Jesus.
And friends, that is why Calumet Park sponsors this type of community event. Set the table for a miracle and a miracle may just appear. Who doesn’t remember the line from the baseball movie, “Build it and they will come.” To this, I say, build a life that is open to Christ, invite Him in, and you too shall discover that God has plans for all of us if we allow ourselves to believe, for the age of miracles is now.