It was late spring, and my young daughter, Sheridan, and I decided to plan some special mother-daughter activities to share. With a little trepidation, I allowed her to adopt a caterpillar at a local birdseed store as one way to make a memory.
Sheridan, notorious for collecting crawling critters guaranteed to make my skin crawl, brought home her undulating invertebrate in a covered plastic cup. Gingerly placing the striped caterpillar she’d dubbed Sunrise in a darkened corner of our kitchen, Sheridan promised to feed her, tend her, and keep her at a respectable distance from me. Though never fond of things that creep, I was still fascinated by the assurance that this infinitesimal insect would soon morph into a big, beautiful butterfly. I could hardly wait to share this experience with my daughter.
Daily I watched as Sheridan emptied the cup of the mostly-eaten milkweed leaves she had inserted the night before, careful not to cast away her insect gourmand in the process. I was surprised at the creature’s ravenous appetite, and even more astounded by its catapulting growth. Each day Sunrise seemed to triple her girth and length. To accommodate her weight gain, on several occasions she shed her skin like a too-tight pair of panty-hose, shimmying out of it one wiggle at a time.
One momentous morning, Sunrise crawled to the lid of the cup, tenaciously attached herself, and later shed her skin one last time. And then, in the stillness of that magical moment, she revealed a chrysalis of shimmering green and unseen dreams . . . and . . . she waited . . .
And so did we . . .
Over the ensuing weeks, Sheridan and I shared our hopes for the tiny tenant residing inside the chrysalis. And in the process, Sheridan tentatively began sharing her own hopes and dreams with me as she shimmied out of her childhood one wobbly wiggle at a time—encouraged by the promise of Sunrise’s metamorphosis.
Then one day, in the fullness of time, in the fullness of a promise realized, we beheld a brilliant butterfly, her orange-and-black stained-glass wings trembling inside the cup. We, too, trembled at her breathtaking beauty and at the thought of letting her go. Mustering our courage, we took Sunrise to the garden to free her, praying she’d linger among the lilacs yet awhile. She circled above the purple petals then suddenly flew to the tree tops. Alighting for just an instant, she fluttered her wings like little rays of sunshine flashing on black branches. Then, she ascended higher still and finally disappeared from our sight.
Sheridan and I knew that we could never replace Sunrise, but we decided to adopt a new caterpillar every spring and raise it together. And I promised myself that I would nurture my own little butterfly whose childhood was flitting away with great speed—and that one day I would love her enough to let her take wing, just as we had done for Sunrise.
Lynn D. Morrissey
Latest posts by Lynn D. Morrissey (see all)
- Taking Wing – Letting Go and Release - May 23, 2017
- Living Sidetracked or On-Purpose - January 24, 2017
- The Mishaps of (Meno) Mentalpause - September 20, 2016
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I love this story of growth for you and Sheridan. Your love shines through beautifully. Thank you for sharing.
Oh thank you so much, Debbie. I guess it’s easy for love to shine through for a child. Sheridan makes so much possible. Thank you for reading!!
Absolutely awesome, Lynn Morrisey! I could picture every word in living color. Thank you for sharing this story to ignite my own hopes and dreams . . . again.
Robin, so grateful that this resonated with you. You ignite my hopes, so I’m so glad that we can encourage each other!!
Will write you a little later. Making some goodies for a potbless.
I get goosebumps whenever I remember our family’s butterfly release days. I can still see little fingers raised with a newly formed butterfly flexing its wings, flexing, flexing, and then off into the sky. We would stand and watch, and I would be looking at the little people around me, knowing that the day would come when they would also fly, and I prayed that their wings would be strong and that the winds that lifted them would be kind.
And now . . .it’s happening. Boy #2 is getting married in less than 2 weeks; boy #3 graduates from high school this spring and goes off to college soon.
And so we continue to pray for our little flyers. Lynn, this piece is perfectly timed for me, having just said good bye to my mum as well. So many gifts, so many opportunities to release them into the care of an all-wise God.
Oh, Michele! I’m so very touched by your beautiful words here. I can see that I have met a soulmate butterfly aficionado. They have taught me oh so many lessons, not the least of which is letting. And I can’t believe that you and your children raised them, too, and that you thought of the day when your butterflies would fly….and now, your precious mother, having soared to heaven. Don’t you think maybe God made butterflies so we would truly grasp that we will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye? We earthbound caterpillars in Christ as meant someday to soar eternally! I’m so very sorry for your mum’s loss, and am glad my words brought comfort.
(Gulp) This one caught me by the heart strings. I love the analogy of letting go. We care, struggle and pray and prod, then one day they too spread their wings… the season just past so fast…
Beautiful and poignant about the true values in this life.
Glad I got to read this one.
Floyd, I always so very much appreciate your kind encouragement. And being the daddy of three girls, I know that you get this. You and Diane have raised such a beautiful bevy of butterflies, and with you two aS their parents, they can’t help but soar in the Lord! But wow, Floyd, you are so right. Hold them tightly. They fly too quickly!
Fantastic metaphor about allowing our children to earn wings and take flight. Thanks for sharing your lovely, lyrical prose to make my tummy feel as if I have just had a hot cup of tea with a yummy pastry.
Suz, you are so generous here, and I thank you so much. I’m indebted. While I’d not read anything about children as butterflies, surely this idea of flying from the nest is not new to me. But what is always new, if painfully so, sometime, is feeling firsthand with each child that poignancy of letting go. And yet the Lord promises to bring comfort. I’m so glad you stopped by today.
Beautiful, Lynn! Thank you.
Diane, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. Your kind words mean so much!
Courage and waiting and transformation…all beautiful attributes that you display in your heart and soul and this beautiful offering of words here today!
Kel, you are my friend, but you are truly a generous one. Thank you for these loving words. And yes, yes, courage is a lot about waiting until transformation occurs. And frankly, I don’t usually like change, even though it is usually good for me! 🙂 I think perhaps it is fear of the unknown that has always caused me to clutch. But now (after Iona per our conversation), I should welcome it, right? Thank you soooo much for always encouraging me (infusing me w/ “coeur”!) 🙂
Love you so much,
Lynn, I read with interest your butterfly story. In 1999 Mike’s little sister Sharon passed after over three years of a brave battle against breast cancer. After arriving at the hospital with many family members I called her childhood friend Tina to let her know Sharon’s time was near. Tina came by to say goodbye and pray for her friend, and stopped at a friend’s house for previously made plans. As Tina waited in her friend’s atrium she noticed a small insect inching its way slowly across the floor with much effort and labor. This remained n Tina’s mind through the night as she thought of Sharon in her ICU room slowly moving toward Jesus. Tina’s sister-in-law Pat had traveled the same journey 30 days prior. So, we each had a sister-in-law fighting for life. Twice they had been around the corner from one another in the hospital. The following day I was watering my flower garden when I spotted two bright yellow butterflies dancing around one another joyfully. I gazed at them as they stayed close to me for what seemed a long time before they lifted up and flew far away circling one another as if to say to Tina and myself: “Here we are, flying free of the shackles illness and pain that held us captive for so long!” When I called Tina a few minutes later, we marveled at the bug and the butterflies, and couldn’t help but wonder aloud about this sweet token of reassurance.
Joann, what a beautiful, true story, and what assurance of God’s comfort to you and your dear friend in your time of grief. I truly believe that the Lord created butterflies (particularly as transformed insects… not the way they are originally) so that we would have a clear picture of metamorphosis and resurrection! I can’t recall if you have read my book or not, but beyond my butterfly blessings chapter, I talk about my Aunt Mart’s salvation on her deathbed. God was so good to save her and then take her home out of her suffering from cancer. Months later, I began to doubt her salvation, and went to her gravesite. I asked God for assurance, and out of nowhere on a cold November day when assuredly butterflies are *not* in Missouri, a butterfly landed on the center of her gravestone. I so completely understand what you experienced! Thank you for reading.
I noticed the courage too Kel and Lynn. Such a touching story and encouraging one too! Beautiful metaphors for motherhood.
Kelly, I always love to see your smiling face on my posts!!! (Great photo of beautiful you!!) Thank you for your lovely encouragement here. And I can see the connection w/ what our Kel said too. And doncha think it would take courage to enter the darkness of a chrysalis! Oh my. Thank you so much for reading.
Absolutely beautiful as always, Lynni. I never thought of watching a caterpillar go thru those stages like that – and your writing conveys the wonder of that touching moment! A special memory for you and Sheridan to treasure. We have a nature center here that brings butterflies each March… I think my favorites are the blue ones -so spectacular. (I recently did a drawing of a small child in a garden, mesmerized by a butterfly 🙂 Your story also reminds me of how we used to catch butterflies as children and then let them go again… Thanks for sharing this sweet story!
Pam, I always love to hear from you, and thank you so much for taking time to read. Yes, those stages are amazing, and so much fodder for real life (after all, I consider myself a butterfly lady)! It’s extraordinary, when you think of the whole process metaphorically, and apply it to life! God invites so many transitions in our life, and knowing that dark times will eventually emerge with beauty and purpose is one such transition lesson the butterfly teaches. I will ck out your drawing–sounds delightful! Your butterfly time sounds delightful. We did the same w/ lightening bugs!
Tx again for stopping by, Pam!
Lynn, definitely not alone with caterpillar raising!
Pleasure loves company, Cathy, and what could be more delightful? So glad you have experienced caterpillars turned butterflies firsthand! Thank you for reading.