The idea of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly after struggling through its chrysalis is not a new concept. Many children’s stories illustrate the experience: the caterpillar, appearing nothing more than an enlarged worm, transforms into a beautiful butterfly, rewarding the struggle from its chrysalis with colorful wings.
Still, in Far Flutterby written by Karen Kingsbury, this author takes the story one step further. Not only does this bored, lonely caterpillar receive encouraging words from a butterfly, “there’s more to this life than crawling and eating, more to this life than sitting and sleeping,” but this caterpillar also learns the importance of offering hope to others who find themselves in similar circumstances. After earning his wings, Cody the Caterpillar experiences life off the ground, soaring with happiness. My favorite part of the story is when, in his triumph, Cody remembers his fellow caterpillars below and calls to them,
“Have faith through the hard times, believing in more!
For there in the journey and stuck in the sting,
the struggle… the struggle…
is what gives you wings!”
To be a butterfly, you are someone who has overcome hardship. However, there is more to being a butterfly than earning your wings. As a butterfly, you have inherited the responsibility of showing hope and empathy to others. When life provides you with challenging (and sometimes life-altering) circumstances, we then have the opportunity to reach out and connect with people. This connection is called empathy.
There is a video I came across through Facebook where the narrator says, “Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. . . Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”
It can be emotionally exhausting showing empathy because like the narrator in the video says, we have to reach inside ourselves and remember what that pain feels like. That’s not an easy place to return. However, when I think about the “butterflies” who came to me when I lost my son, I feel gratitude in my heart that these parents took the time to reach out to a stranger and share their experiences: their loss…their grief…and how they healed, offering me hope that I might one day find normalcy in my life again.
Perhaps it is for this reason that I wrote Borrowed Angel: Coping with the Loss of a Child. I pulled from my most heart-wrenching experience of losing my four-and-a-half month-old son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the only reason offered to why my healthy baby boy died in his sleep. But this is not merely a heavy tale of grief and loss. On the contrary, I share experiences of new friendships, of self-discovery and spiritual growth, and ultimately–a personal journey of hope and healing.
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