Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.

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7. Winged hope

"What’s that book you bought for yourself, Aunty?" I’m pointing at the one with a picture of angels on the front cover. "Oh, that one? It’s about angels." Duh! No kidding Aunty. "Yes, but what about angels?" She's looking at me as if she's thinking about how to answer my question and then she smiles and asks, "Tell me, my angel, do you believe in angels?" Now it's my turn to sit and look at her, wondering how to answer her question. The fact is I don't know exactly what an angel is. So how can I believe or not believe? "Um, that depends on what you mean by angels. I mean, I don't know what kind of angels you're talking about." "I see. Let me ask you another question. When you think about angels, what do you imagine they are?" Okay, she's onto me. I have no idea. "I suppose they're people dressed in long white clothes with wings, right?" "And what do they do?" What do angels do except appear to people in the Bible? "Well, in Sunday school I learnt that angels sometimes watch over people. We’ve been told Bible stories about angels who talk to people too. It must be quite scary to suddenly see someone like that in front of you." Aunty Mary's nodding. "And what do they say to people when they talk to them?" "I remember one story about an angel warning someone that something bad was going to happen, so that person could escape from danger." "So the angel helped them to avoid a bad situation. But how did the angel know what was going to happen?" This is all Greek to me! "I don't know. Maybe angels can see the future." "Mm, and where do you think they come from?" My first guess would have to be heaven, but I don't want to sound stupid, so I just shrug my shoulders. "Hey Aunty, why don't we google it on the Internet? You told me you can find anything on the Internet, remember?" Why's she shaking her head? No, this is the perfect excuse to get your computer out! "Let’s just talk about it first. I’ve read a lot about angels and even without reading anything, I can tell you that I’ve always believed in them." Gosh, I know Aunty Mary usually has some strange ideas, but this is something else! "I believe every one of us has a guardian angel, whether we know it or not and even if we don't believe in it."

 

"What’s a guardian angel?" "Okay, do you want me to tell you what I imagine when I think about angels?" I’m nodding, aren't I? "Angels are like fingers of God's own hand protecting our every move, every minute of the day. And your guardian angel is that part of God protecting you and only you." Huh? I’m trying to picture this giant hand with fingers in the shape of people with wings, wearing white. "Well you know how God has to be everywhere at once? At the same time, God wants to give you and me and everybody else on earth the special attention we need, so the angels are God's way of giving us that." We should've googled this because Aunty Mary's making about as much sense as Uncle Ron's dribbling joke. "Okay, so what exactly do they do then?" "Lots of things. They help us avoid trouble, they point us in the direction we're meant to go, they love us, they basically pass on messages from God to us." "Do I have a guardian angel?" Aunty Mary certainly looks like she knows what she's talking about. "Of course! In fact, some people believe that all children see and talk to their angels until a certain age. Then they grow up and get scared or embarrassed, and that's when their angels become invisible." I’m pretty sure I don't remember anything like that ever happening to me! "If they're invisible, where does the idea come from that they must wear white and have wings?" "Hey now, I don't have all the answers! What I’m telling you is only what I believe and what many others believe. It’s up to you if you want to believe it too or not. The point isn't so much what they look like, but rather that you know you are never alone, no matter how alone you feel. Your guardian angel sticks to you like glue your whole life long. And I think when we die, we meet our angel in heaven." Ahah! So she also thinks they come from heaven! Mm, so Aunty Mary's not the only person who believes in this stuff if she's read about it in books… I’ll have to think about all this some more. If I have an angel following my every move, it means the angel knows all the bad things I’ve done too. Oops! "By the way Aunty, is an angel a he or a she?" "Your angel looks like whatever you imagine. If you think your angel is a girl with long pink wings who speaks with a French accent, then that's what she's like." She said they pass on messages. I wonder what kind of messages. "What if your angel sees you doing bad stuff?" She lifts up her eyebrow. "Is there something you want to tell me?" "Nope," I say very quickly. "Of course she tries to keep you from doing wrong, but other than warn and guide you, your angel doesn't judge you, if that's what you're worried about. She won't punish you for being bad, for example." I’m starting to like this idea of having a guardian angel now.

 

"Aunty, if my angel has a message for me, how does she give it to me?" "You know, I think there are many ways. We just don't realise we're getting a message or a sign or help from our angel." I wonder if one way is through dreams. "Once I was travelling alone to a place I’d never been to before and an old man sitting next to me on the bus started talking to me. He was coughing a lot and I was a bit scared I would catch his germs, so I sat facing away from him for most of the trip. That’s quite a rude thing to do when someone's talking to you, but there was a dangerous kind of flu going around that time and I was afraid to get sick. When we arrived at the place, it was after midnight and I had no idea where to go; so this man helped me find a safe place to sleep. And of course I didn't get sick! If he hadn't helped me, I don't know what would've happened to me in that small town in the middle of nowhere where nobody spoke my language. I believe my angel sent that old man to help me. And that's just one example. I can tell you loads more like it. I’m sure if you think really hard, you'll come up with your own examples." "Do angels pass on messages in dreams too?" "Oh, for sure! That’s the easiest way! Your angel knows that while you are dreaming, you give your full attention. When we're awake, we are usually looking at and hearing a thousand other things at the same time, so it's more difficult to hear our angels than when we're asleep." "I don't know about that, Aunty. That only works if you can remember your dream, all of it, the next day." "You’re right. It’s annoying when you have a great dream and you wake up knowing you had a great dream but you can only remember bits, or nothing at all. Yeah, I hate that too. But! " And she's looking at me like she's about to pounce on me with a tickle attack. "But, what you don't realise is that your brain is like a tape recorder." Aunty Mary's saying a lot of weird things today. "A tape recorder, Aunty?" "U-huh! Everything you need to know, all the messages from your angel and whoever else is trying to communicate with you, is stored in your brain just like music files on your iPod." What does she mean, who else is trying to communicate with me? I don’t like the sound of that. "But what good does that do me? How am I supposed to... I don't even know the words!" She's patting my hands and holds my face in her hands. "When you least expect it, but when you need it most, it will come back to you. It can come to you in a dream, or something you hear or see will trigger your memory. It can be anything like that, but you will remember. Otherwise..." "Otherwise what?" "Well, there are ways of making the message come to you if you’re open to it, if you know what I mean." Yes and no.

 

Aunty Mary starts talking to me about praying and meditating and I have to say, this is all way much more than I thought I would be doing today. I’ve heard of meditation and seen in movies or pictures how people sit very quietly for hours with their legs crossed and their eyes closed and they're supposed to be thinking about nothing. Then you're supposed to 'know' things after that - important things. I don't know. I’m not enjoying this so much - this is making my head hurt more. "Aunty, I can't do any of that stuff!" "You pray, don't you?" Well, I can't lie now that I know my guardian angel is watching and listening. "Look, you asked me a question and I’ve answered it. But if you really want a way to get at those dreams you can't remember, then why don't we do an experiment?" She turns her body to face me and takes my hands in hers. She tells me to close my eyes and listen to her voice. "Look inside your mind. There’s a lot of stuff running around in there. Make it all disappear. Make your mind blank. Imagine it's a TV screen with pictures on it and now you're turning off the TV. You see only black on your screen. Look at that black screen. In the middle of the screen, there is a small white dot. Look at it. Look at it hard. Breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly. That’s right. Keep doing it. I’m going to stop talking now but I want you to keep looking hard at that dot and keep the screen black. Don’t allow any other pictures or colours onto your screen. Breathe in and out. Breathe..."

 

"What do you see?" Hey! Wow, I don't know how long we've been doing that but-- "Excuse me Aunty?" "What do you see?" That's funny. How did she know I saw something? She told me only to see a dot on a black screen. "I promise I really tried, Aunty. I’m sorry. I don't know why, but I suddenly saw a butterfly?" This is nuts! Where’s Grandma? I think I’d rather play cards now. "Relax, angel. You've done nothing wrong! I saw something too. But it wasn't a butterfly." She doesn't look upset with me. Now I’m really confused. "What does that mean, Aunty?" She shrugs her shoulders and gets up. "Don’t know my baby, but I’m sure if we look it up on the Internet, we can find out what kind of message a butterfly carries. Come on!" I’m following her like Porky follows Lisa around, without knowing why or what's happening, but at least I’m getting closer to doing my mission. I’ll watch how Aunty Mary does it, and then when she's not looking I’ll google ‘nuns’ and words from my nightmare, and see what I can find out. "Let’s see. This site says the butterfly is a symbol of transformation. Do you know what that means?" I’m shaking my head. This isn't as easy as I thought. The words they use on the Internet to describe things are big ones I’ve never heard before! "It means change. In fact, if you think of it, the life of a butterfly changes a lot in a short space of time - a bit like yours, huh?" She carries on looking at other sites but I’m stuck on her words. "It seems to me that the butterfly is a very nice thing to be thinking of. This site says it's all about love, the soul, and celebration. You know, good things – nothing for you to be scared of. Bet you didn't expect this, huh?" I’m speechless and amazed. "Oh, this is nice. Read this." It says: If you have a secret wish, capture a butterfly and whisper your wish to it. Release the butterfly and it will carry your wish to the Great Spirit, who alone knows the thoughts of butterflies. By doing this, your wish will surely be granted. It says this is a Native American legend. Sigh. We aren't Native Americans but I do like the sound of that. "Aunty, is that only true for people from Native America?" Aunty Mary's giggling a bit and shakes her head. "Butterflies and souls don't know about countries and nationalities. To them, we are all the same." Now while you think about that, I’m going to give you a piece of paper and a pen and I’m going to write at the top of the page a question that I want you to think about as well and then write whatever comes to mind, okay? It doesn't matter how much or how little you write, but tell the truth. And we won't worry about spelling this time! When you finish, I want you to fold the paper up and put it in your pocket. You don't have to show that to anyone and you mustn't look at it yourself until after 2 weeks or so; then you must read what you wrote on that paper and that will be the end of our experiment. If you want to, you can tell me then what you think about your butterfly. Now I’m going to see what Grandma's up to. Take your time…" I watch her walk out of the room and I can't stop staring. This is all because I asked about her new book. Serves me right. Curiosity killed the cat, they say. I wonder if curiosity got the cat to meditate and see butterflies and then write about it afterward.

 

Let me see what this question is I’m supposed to answer: Why has my angel sent me a butterfly? Oh. How should I know? Am I changing into something with wings? Trust Aunty Mary to come up with this weird stuff. But she did say I don't have to show anybody, not even her. I’ll just put it away now and do it at home. I’ve got to try and look up the word ‘nun’ and, um, what about the nightmare? What do I type for that? There were so many things... To dream about a nun may symbolise a need to find spiritual meaning, bla, bla, bla. Why do they use such difficult words? Ohhh! I don't understand any of the rest. Oh, this isn't going to work! When Aunty Mary did it, she made it look so easy. What a shame I didn't see any butterflies in my nightmare, huh? That would've made my life easier. What now? Sigh… If what Aunty Mary said is true then couldn’t this be a kind of message from my angel too? Maybe I just have to wait, like Aunty said, until the time is right for me to remember my dream. Let’s just hope I don't have to wait forever and that I can understand it when that happens because I’ve seen for myself the answers are not on the Internet. I’m just wondering now: Couldn't the nun in my dream, and the voice and the light also be messages from my angel? Yes! Of course! The nun is the bride of God and the light was long and white - why didn't I think of that before? And if my angel wants to tell me I’m a butterfly, maybe I should think about it properly and write down exactly what I think as Aunty told me to do. Mm, well, I guess if no one's going to read it but me... And the next time I see a butterfly, in my dreams or wherever, I’m going to make a wish like the Native Americans do and whisper it to the butterfly. This is so unreal! It’s like reading a book about fairies and elves in Never Never Land.

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