Friday, August 24

A Butterfly

On a hot summer day in February, in the Southern City's summer heat, the children were bored. We lived in a Hotel, in the centre of the city, & so there were no grounds or lawns for children.

I used to often take them into the nearby Park, which was huge, & beautiful. The Park contained swimming pools too, & on really hot days they could go for a swim. Although we were warned in the newpapers, not to allow children to bathe naked. Or leave them unattended at the little pools.

It seems perverts were known to lurk in the bushes spying on the little kids splashing, & enjoying the summer fun. A sinister side effect which cast a little shadow on such beautiful surroundings.

It somehow seemed incredible to contemplate in such a beautiful Park, with it's glorious shrubberies, & wonderful flowering garden beds, & beautiful trees. And the lovely winding lazy river that wove it's way through the park, so gently.

We had many happy excursions to the Park grounds, & the Botanic Gardens. And the children hired small canoes, to row up the river. And if someone fell in, well, the river was slow, & gentle, & shallow. Children could easily wade out, with nothing more than dignity harmed.

Every now & then I would try to take the children to different parks & give them some variety of scenery.

We knew of a nice park, with fun ropes to climb, nice tall slides, & swings, seesaws, & unusual cubby house structures, which always seemed to delight them.

There was a stand of bamboo they could run through & hide, & just generally have a great deal of fun. It was quite a parent friendly park, in that there were nice comfortable seats in amongst the shrubbery & carefully tended flower gardens.


On the day in question, I took the children to this park, & as I sat enjoying the sun, & the sound of their laughter, a huge pretty butterfly came & hovered around all the flowers.

And then it came & settled on my arm. I sat frozen. It was very beautiful, very colourful. I had never seen a butterfly of such beauty before.

But I felt cold as ice. And I sat in frozen horror. Not knowing why.

It finally lifted it's wings & flew off, away from the park. I felt very cold. And still. And that hot summer day was suddenly so chill.

I called the children. Insisted we needed to go. And we went home. And I told the HYPH (Happy Young Publican Husband). And, in the manner of men, he laughed it off, probably didnt really listen to me.

Then, the following day, we got a phone call from my stepdaughter's mother, HYPH's ex-wife, to say his daughter had been in an accident. She was in a coma, on life support.

The accident happened the night the butterfly landed on my arm. It was February 21st, 1976. She died on February 28th. She never regained consciousness.

We spent almost the week, at her bedside. We had to return to the Southern City to our children.

We had been visiting the city where she lived a week prior to her accident. We had taken photos and they were the last photographs ever taken of her.
Here she is on the left, our beautiful girl, fifteen years old. A lovely lovely person.

With her father, & her half brother & sister. Her only siblings.
And we took this photo of her in her new jacket her mother had made her, on the Sunday before we left to travel home to our Southern City.

This photo does not do her justice. She had the most beautiful brown eyes. Her hair was so lovely & thick & a rich deep brown.
I think, if this had to be her last known photo, it did her justice, almost. We have another print taken from this negative, & it is much nicer than this. Not faded. Not this hideous distorted colour.
But her mother begged us for the negatives. Her father would have denied them. I couldn't deny a mother the last photos of her only child. And, of course, we never received them back again.
There had been a lot of bitterness over my stepdaughter. Before my time, & then , after I met her father. The mother had remarried. It seemed the stepfather was the nasty party.
And after our daughter -my stepdaughter, but a child of our family to me, - I couldn't help but wonder if he saw the irony of making it difficult for us to see her, or have her.

Joan Baez, Forever Young

24 comments:

Stomper Girl said...

Oh Meggie. So sad. And ... a little bit spooky too.

bluemountainsmary said...

A friend and I were talking about perspective today. And this sad part of your life helps put my life in perspective. Maryx

jellyhead said...

Meggie, what a story. I literally had goosebumps reading it.

Your stepdaughter looks like a lovely girl. I can tell you and GOM miss her still.

Ali Honey said...

A beautiful girl...a beautiful butterfly.......so sad. Remember her fondly always!

How do you feel about butterflies now?

joyce said...

What a sad story. Eary death is always so distressing. My MIL used to have premonitions like that. It's an eerie thing.

tracey petersen said...

so so sad. sorry

riseoutofme said...

Oh Meggie ... what can anybody say.

Its heartbreaking when a young, vibrant life is suddenly extinguished.

The butterfly incident put the hairs up on the back of my neck ...

Molly said...

Was that butterfly the down under version of a Banshee?
Sad story and always heartbreaking when one loses a child.....

sheoflittlebrain said...

meggie, I am so sorry about the loss of your beautiful young girl. I lost my 21 year old son in a car accident...He is always there, a heaviness in my heart..just as I know your lovely stepdaughter is in yours.
There are some who could believe that she was able to come with the butterfly to say good-bye...

Bren said...

I am speechless except to say I am sorry.

Ian Lidster said...

Such a poignant tale, Meggie. And how very, very sad. What a lovely young lady. This is just one of those 'why?' situations.
By the way, you could get the color enhanced on that old photo, if you chose to. It would look just like new. On the other hand, maybe the slight sepia tone adds to the gravity of the tale.

Melinda said...

She is so lovely! I know that the last image is the one that lives in your hearts, a smiling, happy, vibrant girl on the verge of womanhood.

Katie said...

A tragic story. Not the sort of experience that you ever "get over" is it.

Tanya Brown said...

My arm broke out in goosebumps while reading this story. I am so sorry for your loss.

I hope you're not offended - I did an experiment in Photoshop on the last photo of your stepdaughter and found I was able to fix the colors. If you'd like, feel free to email me higher resolution scans of the various photos and I can have a try at "fixing" them so the memories aren't so faded, so to speak. It's very quick to do in Photoshop.

ancient one said...

Meggie, Your story reminds me of stories my cousin tells about situations in her life. I know you miss your step-daughter. I would have done as you did and let the mother have the negatives. You are a good person!!

Alice said...

Meggie - it's extraordinary how events in our lives all tie into together at certain times, which we can only see in retrospection. How perfect that you were able to spend that time with your beautiful stepdaughter, and have those photos to add to the precious memories.

It's hard to doubt a Higher Presence in light of the butterfly's 'message'. Naturally, it would be the most beautiful butterfly you had ever seen; very fitting for your stepdaughter.

It's so sad that your stepdaughter's life was cut short, but I'm sure it was all the more precious for that.

Hugs to you today.

'Alice'

caramaena said...

A very eerie experience Meggie. So sad about the loss of your step-daughter so young.

Leanne said...

I am sad for your loss however I expect when you see a butterfly you always have a nice memory of your step daughter.

crafty said...

This story had me break out in goosebumps and shivers all over too.

So so sad.

Quilting Kim said...

Dear Meggie - what a tragic story, but what a wonderful tribute to your stepdaughter. She will always remain that beautiful girl in the photograph in your heart.

Ribbonwiz said...

Oh Meggie,
How sad, she was a beautiful girl!

meggie said...

Thankyou for all your kind comments, & all the kind offers for the photo restoration. We do actually have some better copies with the colour correct, but I couldn't find them last night. I have yet to master the art of PhotoShop- yet our son is in the trade.
We will always remember our beautiful girl as just that, beautiful & smiling her wonderful smile.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I am so sorry for your loss. She is very beautiful. It is significant that the butterfly came to you.

My float said...

What a beautiful girl. What a great reminder to take each day as it comes.

There is a Greek story that says that if you dream of a butterfly coming to sit on you, someone will pass away. My grandmother told me that many years ago.