Wednesday, July 02, 2008

One orange butterfly

I am not a superstitious person, but something happened today that got me thinking whether there are more to this world than what we can see, more than the material, tangible reality.

Today I went with my family to the cemetery to visit the family crypt and to honor my late grandfather's birthday. I don't like going to cemeteries (I wonder who does?). I hate being reminded of mortality of human beings, of both my own and people's in general. Somehow I can't manage to oversee that fact as many people do. I envy them, I really do. And, as I've previously said, I don't like being reminded yet again about it.
Our visits to the cemetery have a certain order, a sequence of things we do each time: first we do the cleaning and tidying (there are always some leafs and branches to sweep off the tomb), then we put flowers we brought in water, then the candle is lit (sometimes with great difficulty if it is a windy day, even though there is a covered stone lantern), and finally we stand about in silence, each with their own thoughts, until my father or my aunt says that it is time to leave. That is the way I saw my (now late) grandmother do things, and now the new generations are following the example.
I usually read the names engraved in stone several times, I think about how long they have lived and how old they were when they died. In recent years, since both my grandfather and later my grandmother died, I think about them. I let the memories flow through my head. I remember good times, and I remember bad times. I tell them stories about what's new and then I inevitably wipe my nose trying to keep tears to myself. I don't like when people make too much fuss and drama and public display. If one grieves, it is (or I think it should be) a personal thing done quietly and in recluse.
So we stood in silence yet again, when a movement on the margins of my site caught my attention. What I saw was an orange butterfly. Nothing about it was been extraordinary - it is a kind of butterfly that can often be seen. What made me concentrate on the butterfly and follow it with my eyes was the thought I had when I saw it: somehow it came to me that I once read that butterfly is a symbol of a soul. It struck me as very intriguing to see this little creature flying around us at the cemetery. Then another thing struck me: it WAS flying around us. I watched it carefully. Is it possible that the butterfly really represented a soul, a way for our dearly departed to say "hello"? The butterfly flew in circles around the crypt encircling the tombstone and all of us standing in front of it. It made exactly three full circles before it flew away and out of my site. The number three, the symbol of Trinity, a powerful number. Yet another symbol or yet another coincidence?
Was the butterfly trying to tell us something? Was it there to acknowledge our presence, or was it just flying about enjoying a warm summer day? Was I meant to see it and remember the things I've read about symbols? Be as it may, it did make me wonder. And it did make me feel calm and positive. And I really like to think that there might be something in this little incident.

About symbols:
At home we have this great book, a dictionary of traditional symbols (thanks Milan for choosing such an interesting gift for my sister's birthday!). It offers data about symbols in different religions. I've read about butterfly symbolism after I folded few origami butterflies - I had been simply curious). In many religions the butterfly as a symbol has similar if not the same meaning. An online source confirmed what I've read in the book:
"The butterfly has long been a Christian symbol of resurrection, for it disappears into a cocoon and appears dead, but emerges later far more beautiful and powerful than before." ... "But the butterfly is also a symbol of every Christian's hope of resurrection from the dead."
"The number three represents the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) "

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