I wanted to make a memory box to hang on the living-room wall. For this I needed: seeds, a quaint old bottle, a miniature carved animal, a pine cone, perhaps some dried flowers, a treasured photograph and, I thought, a butterfly. We were experiencing a migration of beautiful Painted Ladies. To see them fluttering over a field bright with dandelions was a glorious sight.
I told my husband about the memory box and that I needed a butterfly. I asked him to keep for me any dead one he might come across. But it is hard to find a dead butterfly that has not been mutilated, often from colliding with a car or other solid object. My husband finally concluded that I might have to catch one and kill it, but I balked at that.
Then one afternoon, I came across a dying butterfly. I knew she was feeble for she fluttered only a few inches away when I reached for her. On the third try, I caught her gently and carried her into the house.
Yet as I watched her struggle, I pondered upon that fragile life, that spark of intelligence the small creature possessed. Her life and migration had already been a beauty and a marvel. In her brief span of time, she had accomplished the work she had been on earth to do. And that was so much more memorable than any post-mortem exhibition could be.
Please Note: The Painted Lady images were courtesy of Butterfly Friends in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Butterfly Friends specialized in breeding Painted Lady butterflies to be released at weddings and other joyful occasions. They also had Monarch butterflies available. However, their website has been taken over by someone else and we’re trying to find them again.
© 1973, 2001 Shirley Ann Parker. All rights reserved.