In 2016 we set a goal to hike 100 miles as a family during the year. Our hope was to give our family an opportunity to be physically active together while enjoying God’s glorious creation and also to provide more occasions for us to engage in meaningful conversations without the distractions of daily life.
On one particular hike, while all the others ran ahead to explore, I found my five year old son softly crying on the side of the trail. As I approached him, I noticed a small blue butterfly by his foot struggling to take flight. Upon closer inspection I quickly noticed that it had been injured and was missing a wing.
“Why are you crying?” I gently asked.
“Mom, is this butterfly going to die? It wants to fly away, but it can’t. Its wing is broken. If it can’t fly away it might die.”
And in that moment I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to use this opportunity to teach my child a lesson about life and death. I explained to my son that, yes, the butterfly would likely die as a result of the injury. We talked about how all living things die eventually, as this is the natural course of life.
Of course this was still very upsetting to a small child who only wanted his beloved butterfly to fly away and live. Since we could not save it, we decided that we could help give it a beautiful death. Our whole family began gathering wildflowers and pretty leaves from nearby and surrounded our butterfly with anything we thought might make our friend peaceful as he faced his death.
And then, when all was set, we said goodbye and continued our hike knowing we did all that we could for our butterfly friend.
Three years later we would draw our six children back to the story of the blue butterfly as we prepared them for the death of their grandfather. As we gathered in my family home, we talked about how we could make Papa’s death beautiful, just as Dominic and I had done for the butterfly.
Like the butterfly, we couldn’t mend my father’s broken body, but we could fill his final days with love and peace as we surrounded him with laughter, tears, songs, stories, hugs and kisses. We would stay with Papa until the end, when he would take his last breath here on Earth before running into the arms of our Heavenly Father.
Oh, Blue Butterfly, you taught us so much that day, and I am forever grateful for the way our trail lessons carry over into life. And so, as our family continues to hit the trail and explore the world around us, we remain ever vigilant to the lessons that we can all learn while exploring God’s beautiful creation.