“Mama,” the tone in his voice let me know something was wrong.
“What is it?” I asked.
I opened the bathroom door to find my son standing there, eyes full of pain. “One of the dogs stepped on this beautiful butterfly outside. They killed it. It was an accident, but…”
My heart pulled towards his tender heart, worrying about the butterfly.
“Would you feel better if we found it and buried it?”
He nodded, his eyes glistening with tears.
We walked out on the porch and Cole found the yellow and black butterfly almost immediately. “Here it is,” he said, his voice full of sadness.
I couldn’t tell if it was a Monarch or a Viceroy but it was gorgeous. I am pretty sure it was the one that had been out in the yard just a few days before, flitting around to greet us and nearly landing on my shoulder. The thought it may have been the same one somehow made me feel even sadder, as if we losing someone we knew.
I bent down to get it up and noticed it twitched its wings.
“It’s alive!” Cole cried.
Indeed, it was.
I righted it to its legs but it couldn’t fly. Its wings were too crumpled and damaged but it was alive.
“Can you fix a broken wing?” Cole asked me.
“I don’t know if that’s possible,” I told him.
“I’m going to Google it!” he said and off he ran to find out.
I looked for something to try to pick it up with that wouldn’t hurt it. I knew butterflies to be fragile and delicate.
I was able to balance it on a piece of paper but it wanted to crawl into my hands – was it just wanting what all of us want when we’re hurt, a compassionate touch? It was frantically moving its legs, as if it was wanting to make sure I could see it was alive.
But I worried about touching the wings, hearing all my life that if you touched their wings it would kill them.
I couldn’t remember but I wanted to make sure I didn’t do more harm than good.
When I was a little girl, I always tried to save little moths, finding them and trying to keep them safe and being so heartbroken when they ended up dying.
Cole had rescued a grasshopper a few years ago that appeared to have a broken leg and when it died, we both cried as we buried it.
I didn’t want to hurt it, even though it was quite insistent about wanting to be held.
Lifting it up closer, I noticed it had a face. At tiny, inquisitive, knowing face.
It was a little soul, just with wings.
Not much different than the mother opossum my uncle fed that time he found out it was eating the cat’s food. He had watched to see what was getting it, then followed it to find a dozen tiny babies.
Granny, not being as compassionate and being raised in a totally different time with a totally different attitude, promptly said, “Kill it.”
My uncle was horrified. “I’ll do no such of a thing, Mama,” he began. “She’s just trying to find food so she can feed her babies.”
Granny snorted her disapproval. “Then there’s just going to be more of them. You need to take care of ‘em of all – now.”
The only times my uncle ever told Granny ‘no’ was about animals and this was one of them. “I’m not; these are God’s creatures, just like you and me, and I am going to feed them.”
Granny couldn’t argue with that, so she just muttered something about how if he got rabies, he was going to wish he had listened to her.
Those little opossums grew up and went on their opossum way. Bobby often worried if he saw one hit, if it had been one he had fed.
Cole bounced back out, telling me there was a way to repair the wings but he wasn’t sure if we could do it. I looked at the information myself and did not feel the confidence to do it. “It looks like they can live with crippled wings, Mama,” he said. “As long as their body is not hurt, they can live.”
We got a pickle jar and put paper towels in it to cushion it. I mixed honey with water and put it on a paper towel for it to drink.
“What should we name her?” Cole asked.
“What do you want to name her?”
He thought for a moment. “Princess Diana. You always said you loved her.”
“What if she’s a boy?” Cole asked.
“Harry,” I said. “I like Prince William, too, but I have always adored Harry.”
I called Mama to tell her we had a butterfly in our menagerie now and I didn’t know where to find an entomologist.
“Maybe call UGA?” she suggested.
For once, I listened to my Mama and called.
The man assured me what I was doing was right and suggested I put her in a bigger jar. I asked him how long her lifespan was. The scientist, probably sensing I was already attached, gently told me 1 to 2 weeks, with 4 being the longest.
That was not long enough for such beauty to exist, I thought solemnly.
I found her a much bigger home, a huge apothecary jar I bought years ago and never used. I put fresh paper towels in, and we added some leaves and branches for her. We left the top open with a laundry mesh over it so she could get plenty of air.
She likes to be in the window to get sun, and she loves classical music.
It’s been 5 days as I write this.
She’s losing more and more of her wings. But she’s still moving and waving, and will put her front legs up to my hand when I put it on the glass.
“How long do you think she will make it?” Cole asked.
I wasn’t sure.
“But, at least she will be loved while she’s here with us, won’t she?” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
Because that’s what all creatures – big or small – deserve.