Classic Post

Dying Butterfly

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A fall road from around here.

The other day, a child brought me a butterfly. He held out his hands and gently opened them to reveal a very cold butterfly indeed. The boy told me, “Ms. K., I found this butterfly.” I could tell that he believed that I would know what to do with this delicate creature suspended somewhere between life and death – as if I know anything about life and death. But there he stood, waiting for an answer and, in a way, I was honoured that he sought it from me.

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It was obvious that the butterfly was on its last legs and so I suggested a solution that would benefit as many creatures as possible. “Would you like me to take it back outside and set it somewhere safe? Then the butterfly will fly away or will be food for a hungry bird that needs it.” The student thought this was acceptable, and off he went to unpack his backpack as I headed out the front doors to find a sheltered spot in which to leave the butterfly.

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Mountain ash leaves in the autumn.

Who ever knows the best course of action when faced with life’s big questions, especially those questions about life and death? Are there right or wrong answers? I suspect that there aren’t any, and that’s why, in this case, I tried to look beyond the limited life span of the tiny, winged creature and into the larger world. If the boy and I had merrily tossed the butterfly to the classroom floor, stomped on it and flung it into the garbage can, what a waste it would have been!

The butterfly is likely dead by now and, I hope, has provided some fuel for a migratory journey. That, surely, is the best outcome. I think. But when it comes to the fact of mortality, I don’t feel very certain at all. I suppose all we can do in the face of death is to accept it and live until we die with the aim of providing the most benefit as possible while we are on the earth.

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