In the months since I lost my children I’ve found a network of support through the words and stories of other grieving parents here in the online world. In some ways it still feels strange and in other ways it’s totally natural to share my thoughts and feelings with others who have suffered this loss. From a woman in Australia who blessed us with their names written in the sand at sunset, to a mother in Connecticut who lost her three a few short months after our own and sent me reeling backward emotionally (which provided some much-needed connection with family and a door to talk about things previously unsaid; an opportunity to share pictures I had never shared with my sister-in-laws), to a friend from high school who recently lost her daughter. So close and so far but all bound by loss and heartache.
I’ve found many parents who have found something in this world that reminds them of their lost children. Butterflies have often been a symbol of new life and our journey to Heaven. Many parents do butterfly releases. One grieving mother and father wrote this beautiful poem and painted butterflies all over the wall in their garden (their story):
For every time I’ve wanted to hold you tight… may a butterfly take flight. ~Rachel McConathy
My sister-in-law did a butterfly release a few weeks ago as well. I imagine she got them as our hopes were to bury the babies on their due date, June 8th, which never came to be. She told me that when she released them, one had deformed wings and a crooked body and couldn’t fly away. I just refuse to believe that all of these things can be coincidence. They are with us in these moments and I’m so happy when they visit my family as well.
Many people make a connection to little lambs, the symbol of innocence. We had Psalm 23 (The Lord is my sheperd…) at the funeral and as we were choosing things for the service lambs were everywhere. The CD we chose to play after the service has a version of Psalm 23 on it (Glory Revealed II), we found a journal at the book store with three little lambs on the cover which we used for the guest book (it has scripture on every page and I hope to journal in it some day), when I went to find something to wear for the funeral (something that wasn’t maternity clothing) I was at the check-out counter in a wheel chair and a fuzzy little stuffed lamb sat there staring at me. I sat there staring at his little eyes and wanted to bring him home but thought the suggestion was silly. I got to the funeral and my sister-in-law, having no idea of the prior day’s shopping trip, had three of them set up at the entrance to the church along with the little hats that my nieces and nephews had knit for the babies.
When I was shopping for a memory box to put their clothes in I found three little egg candles and fashioned a nest out of materials from the craft store. I put it on the table at the funeral as well. Since then nests and little birds have drawn my eye. Several months ago I found out that a close friend was carrying twins and they were suffering from TTTS. I was shopping with friends when I heard the news and found the cutest little chubby birds. I got a set of three for myself and a set of two for her. She lost one of her sweet babies the next day and I pray that those little birds are a reminder of her twins and the bond she’ll have to both forever.
Most recently in the midst of being linked from site to site in a network of grieving parents, I stumbled upon one of the most beautiful illustrations of Heaven and loss. It is a story that I’ve seen a few variations of now but the one below is my favorite.
Waterbugs and Dragonflies
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were
very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in awhile one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going
about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.
“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another. “One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?” Up, up, up it slowly went….Even
as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return…
“That’s funny!” said one water bug to another. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second… “Where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third.
No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. “I have an idea”. The next one
of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”
“We promise”, they said solemnly.
One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what
was happening, he had broke through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.
When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver
wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings…The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his
wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!
Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to
rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying
around, just as he had been doing some time before.
The dragonfly remembered the promise: “The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking,
the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…
“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least, I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new
body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”
And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air…….
From: “Water Bugs and Dragonflies : Explaining Death to Young Children”
No matter where I go I seem to find something that reminds me of them. Somehow I have this long list of things that make my heart smile and cry all at once. The day I read that poem I received an package in the mail. I had ordered 3 little dragonfly garden decorations with dreams and thoughts of a basket at their grave some day. I promptly put them in the plant next to their urn and picture. Should I be amazed by the timing? I’m starting to feel as if God sends me these things as a reminder that He understands my pain and He’s with me. They might seem silly – but to me they are reminders for me to take a deep breath and keep living.
Most recently they came to visit my mom. She sent me an email with this picture and a note saying, “Look who came to visit Gramma!”… one, two, three dragonflies!