The Butterfly

SHARED BY JESS MCCORMACK

Beauty and Sadness

I gently held out my hand, slowly extending my fingers toward the flowers. The butterfly perched there, still for a moment, as if taking a deep breath before suddenly fluttering off into the sky. I watched it fly away with tears in my eyes. There was beauty in its freedom, but sadness too, as we had been together for a while. It had been more than six weeks since it arrived, a tiny caterpillar no bigger than a grain of rice. We watched it grow, told it stories, and were mesmerized by its transformation. What sights it would have seen from its home on our kitchen counter! Laughter, frustration, sadness, pots boiling over, and occasional cross words. I hope it felt the love in our house and soaked it up to take out into the world—to take to her, to my Maeve.

Maeve's butterfly

Maeve's butterfly

The butterfly was her birthday gift. It seemed so apt, as she, too, grew slowly and steadily in the warmth and love in our home. She, too, heard our laughter and was told many a story while safe inside of me.

It has been four years since she died, four years since I held her in my arms. The day Maeve was born was both the most beautiful and the most devastating day of my life. It should have been marked by the cries of a healthy newborn, not the deep, desperate wail of a mother learning of the loss of her child.

"I'm so sorry." It took only seconds for those words to reach my ears, to travel to my heart and shatter it beyond repair. The physical pain of the contractions was forgotten as my mind tried to comprehend the finality of her loss. I understood quickly there was no going back. There was no bargaining to be had. She was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Grief and Solace

That powerlessness punctuated the early weeks of my grief, and with it came intense fear. I was terrified to be alone, afraid of my thoughts, frightened the feelings would overwhelm me. I was afraid to sleep, knowing that her absence was all that awaited me when I woke. My body began to heal from her birth, but that brought new grief. I felt so betrayed. It had failed her; I had failed her. I wanted the physical scars to remain, so they could match the ones on my heart—an outward reminder, proof that she existed.

I waded through those early weeks, barely able to breathe. I had incredible support from wonderful friends, and yet I felt lost and alone without my baby girl. I desperately missed being pregnant and longed to be part of the world of new parents. Instead, I was left straddling the before and the after, precariously balancing on a cliff edge: a mother with no baby to hold. 

I found solace in the outdoors, in connecting with nature. Standing barefoot on the grass helped to ground me, and deep breaths of fresh air sought to calm the waves of unbearable anxiety.

dew-on-grass.jpeg

Finding New Life

Maeve was my child of the spring. After she was born, new life surrounded us. It was inescapable, and at first seemed as if the world was mocking us with constant reminders of all we had lost. But then it became where I found her: in the buds of the emerging daffodils, the blossom on the trees. She was in the early morning sun and the stars in the night sky. Because of Maeve, I stopped to look, I searched for her, and my eyes were opened wide to the beauty in our world. Not just in nature, but in the warmth of the human spirit and the kindness of all those who remembered her then, and still remember her with me today.

It's what I tell her two younger siblings about their big sister, that she is with us always, in all things of beauty. And together we search for her, never failing to find something beautiful that connects us to Maeve.

As the birthday butterfly took flight, I smiled—at the excitement in her little sister's face, her baby brother mesmerized, too, at the powerful love I will always feel for my firstborn. The pain of grief is an enduring ache that can still bring me to my knees. But there are moments when love conquers the hurt and leaves a lightness, a joy for simply having known her, just like a butterfly taking to the sky.

 
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