Last week was my son Joel’s 5th anniversary and we had a small gathering of family and friends at the private memorial garden where Joel was laid to rest. We included a butterfly release as part of the day and it was wonderful. We released 12 butterflies and while most flew off straight away, a couple stayed around on the bushes and one stayed on the box I was holding for a long time.
We were pretty amazed at that, but when it flew from the box, to the front of me and then crawled to my shoulder and then my back before flying away – we were just in awe of the experience. I was able to walk from one place to another, and have photos taken and all the while it stayed with me. It is something I will always remember. We all agreed Joel was surely with us, not wanting to leave. I know he didn’t want to leave this earth when he did, five years ago, nonetheless he spread his wings and now soars as free as the butterfly.
In the first few months of Joel leaving us, I was told by other bereaved mothers that the following two years would be worse than the first one which simply amazed me – how could the following years possibly be worse than the year my youngest son, my baby, died. I was also told that the five year mark can see a shift in how we are feeling/coping/learning to live without our child.
I have been counting down the years until that fifth anniversary, subconsciously looking and waiting for a sign that this would also be true for me. I didn’t consciously think anything over the week leading up to the anniversary, nor the day itself, but what I did find was a new inner strength and a peace. I feel it was a turning point in my grief journey. While I will forever mourn the loss of Joel, it is the beginning of learning to remember the life that Joel lived, his time with us and that we are all different people for the joy of knowing him.
As long as I live I will miss Joel and wish he was here with us, only now I can also celebrate his life and the new life I have been thrust into. In one sense I also feel like the butterfly – I have been forced to shed my old life and now embrace a new life, leaving the deep, dark pain of the past and finding a new course to fly, with my precious memories tucked away in my heart.
Published in The Compassionate Friends Qld Newsletter Oct-Nov 2012