Butterflies and Tears

Almost exactly one month before I became pregnant with Monkey, my Grandma passed away. Monkey will turn 2 at Christmas time so it’s been a little while.

I loved my Grandma more than I could ever say. She was loving, compassionate, and kind. She was the kind of person who would call to tell my Mom about the jackpot she won at Seniors’ Bingo the night before and all the ways she might spend her $7.25.  She smiled often and shamelessly shed tears when she saw something beautiful or when someone did something thoughtful for her.

The grief I felt immediately after she died was overwhelming. I remember my Godmother, Aunt K, telling me that although this initial grief would be difficult, the hard part would be years down the road when simple things, surprising things, would bring forth her memory and it would be like re-living the loss all over again.

I didn’t realize just how true those words would be.

I didn’t realize how now, two and a half years later, I wouldn’t really feel any more at peace with the loss than I did two and a half months after it happened.

But this grief that I feel is a funny thing because it isn’t all bad. That might seem like a contradiction of terms but it’s true. There are moments when I’ll see a butterfly that seems out of place, or a bluejay that gets surprisingly close, when I think – no, I am certain, that these are signs directly from Grandma. I don’t know how I know this, but I know it with the same certainty that I know my own name that these aren’t ordinary butterflies or birds (both of which Grandma loved). When I feel her presence with these beautiful creatures I smile and feel at peace, knowing that she is thinking of me and finding ways to let me know that she is well and happy.

I mentioned that Monkey was conceived shortly after her passing. In her last few months, while we were *ahem* “trying” to get pregnant, I at some point became aware that both beings could not exist at the same time. That is to say, I felt that I would not become pregnant until she passed. I felt that she may have even let go so that we could have our baby. I have always felt that she is Monkey’s Guardian Angel and that she knew that would be her job. Feeling that he has this guidance, support, and protection brings me a huge amount of comfort. I also feel so grateful to have known her well enough that I can imagine what she would say when she saw him. I can see her smile, hear her words, feel her love.

But then there’s the other side. The aching loss. The tears that spring up out of nowhere. Once, in the grocery store, there was an older lady walking through the bread aisle, back to me, and the way she stood and dressed reminded me so much of Grandma it was all I could do to choke back the tears I felt welling up. When I think about how she will never get to see Monkey, never feel his gentle arms around her neck, never hear, “I lub you, Great Grandma!”, my heart aches. When I think about how my own Mom will never get to witness a connection between her Mother and her Grandson, my chest tightens.

For Grandma’s last birthday on this earth I gave her a Willow Tree figurine. A little angel with her arms raised up to the sky. Her label says “Courage”. When Grandma passed I took the angel from her condo and it has been on my mantle ever since. The other day I was rearranging the mantle, putting out my fall decorations, and I knocked Courage and she fell to the ground. I picked her up and when I saw that one arm had broken off I lost all control. Not a gentle weep, not just “leakage” as Mom would say, but full out hysterics. Hubby promised he could fix it and I know that soon Courage will be on the mantle in her rightful place and no one will even notice. But it wasn’t just about the fact that this physical object was broken. It was the inexplicable, unexpected flow of emotions and memories that came rushing in when she broke. The memory of Grandma sitting in her specific chair on my parents’ deck in July 2009 looking at it on the table in front of her, her eyes misty, smile big, “Aw Mel, it’s beautiful!”. Courage is broken. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to see the symbolism there.

It surprised me, this sudden surge of grief.
Not only was it sudden and unexpected, but I was overwhelmed with the depth of my emotions all this time later.

What do I do with these emotions? How do I handle it when my heart breaks again and again?

I don’t know.
So until I figure that out (will I ever?), I will look for the butterflies and try to cry more tears of happiness than sadness. I will try not to think too hard about the fact that Monkey will never truly know someone who was so important to me.
And I will try to restore Courage. In all the ways I can.

May you find your own butterflies, and may your tears be sweet and brief.

Take care
Love Mel

1 Comment

  • Oh wow, I do know what you mean!

    I lost my grandparents on the same day (4 years apart) and even though it's been 6 years and 2 years now since their death I am so surprised when out of nowhere I start getting choked up wishing that I could visit them or talk to them.

    Nothing can change the past but each time I find myself emotional about it I stop to think about how I can make changes to my current relationships so that I'm living life to the fullest with them. And that makes me grateful!

    <3 Family and friends!

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