i suppose you could call it the summer of the butterfly.
in late may of that year i floated* haplessly down the illinois river with a few friends, devoured a substance or two that altered the mind, made an unexpected connection or two on the way down and was ultimately cited for yet another alcohol related misdemeanor.** that was the fourth such infraction i had received in an eight month period and for some reason it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. by the time the judge dismissed the charges in lieu of a fine and another finger-crossed promise of good behavior i had long since “rededicated my life to Christ”***, started serving as a “sponsor”**** for the middle school youth group and thinking about attending bible college for a semester***** to clear my head. at the time, i had no idea that the final misdemeanor was the first crack in the chrysalis of a new life, but i suppose God knew what he was doing.
unfortunately, as one butterfly cracked its way into new life, the short life of another was concluding. of course i didn’t know that at the time, but i guess that’s how irony operates.
so it was that ten years ago today the life of one of the most beautiful butterflies, my grandmother dana,****** came to an end. she was a beautiful woman, who eagerly welcomed me - an adopted child - as her first grandbaby, always believed – even when the facts clearly suggested differently – the best about me and was one of the only people on the planet that was able to bend me to her will. she, along with my papa, was one of the most generous and joyous people i have ever had the pleasure of knowing. moreover, she loved butterflies. she had a treasured butterfly charm that always hung around her neck, providing me with something to yank on when i was an infant and to fiddle with during church when i was a toddler, and now a beautiful carving of a butterfly marks her tomb, a place i wish i could visit today to commemorate the tenth anniversary of her death.
ten years ago, just as a butterfly was emerging, another was wilting. i hope that the life of the former would make the latter proud. i also hope, perhaps beyond all reason, that after my days flitting through these fields are no more, we will once again be reunited and free to fly together.
* and i do mean floated. if memory serves, the guys kicked me out of the canoe, citing a complete lack of industry on my part, somewhere around mile 7.
** note to self. when jumping off a thirty foot cliff face into a scant ten feet of water it is probably best not to clutch a bottle of bud light in one’s hand.
*** since i didn’t really know of any other way to express my contrition. in the bible belt there are relatively few ways to legitimately express life change. if you’re a non-Christian, you can surrender to the years of subtle or not-so-subtle gospel assaults of your relatives by converting. if you’re a christian you can recommit your life to Christ by going down to the front of the church and finally confess the sin that everyone in the congregation has known and gossiped about for months. or, if you’re a non-believer or an adherent to another faith you can try and alter your behavior and hope against hope for a climate controlled room in hell.
**** i’m pretty sure that the youth intern ironically expected the middle school students to “sponsor” my stab at sobriety. i’m sure that he knew i had precious little to offer those kids at that time in my life.
***** since it was cheaper than the therapy another county judge had ordered and in illinois i would be well beyond the reach of the okie law.
****** my mother occasionally notes that i rarely write about my family in this space. there’s a couple of reasons for that: 1) i am completely corleone-ish about my family. i always want to protect them at all costs. 2) there are some things that are too meaningful and beautiful to put into words…as i am proving right now.
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