I killed a butterfly this morning. My youngest would be so heartbroken if she knew. I was thinking of my grandma out of the blue as I was coasting down the road leading home. A huge orange monarch fluttered ever so gracefully next to my car window, just to my left at 25mph. She was keeping up with me effortlessly, then drifted away. It was a magical moment in time. I turned to face forward … SMASH… into my front windshield she threw herself. Seriously, she threw herself at my windshield. There’s no other way to describe it. I gasped out loud and immediately thought: *what does this mean? *is it an omen of some kind? *is my grandma upset with me for something? Then I literally LOL’d (laughed out loud) at myself. Ha! How quickly I resorted to fear! I recognized it and I didn’t like it. That got me thinking and doing a bit of research…. Just in case you aren’t up to par, like I was, considering 1st grade was another lifetime ago, butterflies go through a life cycle. There are four stages. The first stage is the eggs. This is where a girl butterfly lays eggs on a leaf. The second stage is the caterpillar. This is where the eggs hatch, which only takes about 5 days, then a caterpillar comes out. The caterpillar constantly eats and grows really fast. Once it’s completely grown the third stage begins. In the third stage the caterpillar forms a chrysalis which it lives inside of and begins the process of metamorphosis. The fourth stage is when the butterfly is freed from the chrysalis. It learns to fly, finds a mate, lays eggs, and starts the process all over again. And then it dies within a few weeks…. GASP and SIGH! I know, right! You’re welcome for the education. Seriously, I contemplated this for a whole day. Did I take this butterfly’s life prematurely or was it simply it’s time to go? I felt into this. This butterfly was huge, appearing fully grown, it was agile and seemed intelligent, as it effortlessly flew along side of me… Yep, I’ve decided. It was a mature butterfly. I was her time to go. Ugh, I don’t know, was it?! This has plagued me, but not really, because deep inside I know the answer, I just didn’t want to hold the responsibility for its demise. Either way, we die. Regardless of how, where, when, why.. it happens, we humans also have a life cycle. My grandma’s name was Hilda. Imagine the first thought that comes to mind of a woman named Hilda with 8 children to care for in the 40’s & 50’s. Yep, that was her. She was stern or should I say The Stern. She wasn’t the mother duckling with her cute little chicks following along. She was the force behind the ship, the stern, pushing forward with determination and iron will. She wasn’t easy on her kids. She was active-reactive, short with her words, got the job done and shoved you aside if you were too slow. She scrubbed your body hard when she bathed you as a kid, you didn’t flinch, you just took it as it being her way. In a sense, she reminds me a bit of myself. I was Hilda’s 5th grandchild out of 17. The only one not of her blood. I was born on the anniversary of her marriage to her true love. She always reminded me of that. I always felt special in her eyes. She treated her grandchildren differently than her kids. I traveled around the United States and Mexico during the summer months with her, my Pawpaw and girl cousin’s in a Suburban without air-conditioning, pulling an airstream. Memories were made, times were cherished and stories retold to my own children, always with her as the main character, the stern of the ship. I haven’t thought about her in awhile, until today. I have guilt. When she lost her eyesight, she went downhill quickly. I had a hard time bearing it. As the beginning stages of her illness took over and I visited her, I would have the same routine. I would walk to her bedside, gently take her hand in mine, ponder the strength in that hand, the strength of this woman, now gone as if in an abyss, elusive, as I gently ran my fingers along her bulging veins and wrinkled skin sitting upon the surface of a hand once capable of holding a fishing rod for hours. I would tug on the skin of that hand, pulling it upward, counting how long it took for it to return to its place of rest. One Mississippi… Two Mississippi, assessing her hydration status was all that I felt capable of doing. I would put her hand to my lips and gently kiss it, remembering her kisses to my forehead that I don’t think my mom ever had the pleasure of receiving. My grandma lived her child rearing lifetime in a chrysalis. It wasn’t until her kids were fully grown and out of the house did her metamorphosis begin. It was then that she learned to fly like a butterfly, took life less seriously, sat on the porch with her mate, watching the cars go by and grandkids playing in the front yard. She worked this life like it was her job. She had a huge personality, she was intelligent by her own means and somehow seemed to others, to live life effortlessly. She chose to have more fun, learn new languages, travel more, show her love affectionately, yet never gave up her brashness. Just like this butterfly effortlessly coasted along side of me today, she did the same to me as I grew from a child to a woman. She didn’t have the opportunity to start the process all over again. None of us do. She died in the way that she never wanted to, in a hospital bed, oblivious to the world around her, with her daughter’s taking care of her every need. I have thought of the guilt that she would have had, realizing now that she could have, should have been more loving to those girls and their brothers. I honestly believe that she did believe that she was showing them love by telling them how to live. From the perspective of granddaughter to grandmother my feelings of her are a bit different than my mom’s. I performed her eulogy so many years ago. Grateful to have the opportunity to express my love and gratitude for her. As I was thinking of her today, this butterfly stood as a reminder to me, of her. I would never have described her as a butterfly. Maybe a raven or a hawk if I had to choose. But a butterfly it was. Grateful for the lesson in reminding me that responsibilities can take us away from living. Asking, does life have to be so darn serious? Where’s the play, the adventure? I don’t want to die and have regrets of not really living. I don’t want to be the one responsible for the death of the butterfly! I am in some way and that’s empowering in itself. Witnessing its death, researching its life span and remembering my grandmother through its beauty has gifted me with a day of thought, a lesson learned and a memory stored. This butterfly chose its ending. I am grateful to have been a part of the process. Know that I am holding the life of this gentle creature in gratitude, as I reevaluate my very own. Xx Nicole PS. Last week’s musing received so many responses that I haven’t the time to respond to them all 🙁 I have SO much gratitude to each of you for sending me your thoughts and beautiful words. Thank you! Know that I have read them all and cherish our friendship.