Let me explain…
The book I’m writing is about spiritual transformation. More specifically, it’s about how the experience of giving birth to my stillborn son Matthew brought about my own spiritual transformation.
But what does that have to do with butterflies, you ask? Well, there’s the obvious correlation between butterfly metamorphosis and spiritual transformation, but there’s more. Much more.
In the weeks before Matthew was born, I was in the hospital trying to prolong my pregnancy so that he’d have a greater chance of surviving. During that hospital stay, my friend Stephanie would often visit, and on one of her visits, she told me about a story she’d read in which butterflies had helped a young woman cope with the death of her father. After he died, butterflies always reminded her of her dad.
About two weeks into my stay, I had a very strange experience that has taken me ten years to process (and that I will probably keep processing for many years to come). Though the doctors later referred to it as psychosis, probably brought on by the steroids they were injecting me with (I did a lot of really crazy things for a 24 hour period), it was clear to me that there was a very spiritual element to what was going on. I won’t tell you everything right now (you’ll have to read the book for that!), but suffice it to say that it was scary and transformational and – in a strange way – very beautiful. It was that experience that really helped prepare me for my son’s death a week later.
When I finally emerged from whatever place my mind had gone, a nurse walked into my room holding something. “Someone must have left this outside your door,” she said. It was the butterfly story that Stephanie had mentioned, and clipped to it was a small butterfly clip. Stephanie must have visited me that day, but nobody was allowed into my room, so she’d left it at the door. I wore that butterfly clip for the remainder of my hospital stay.
In the next few days, butterflies started showing up everywhere, including one that managed to fly up to my fifth floor hospital window. After Matthew died, they kept showing up, whenever I needed a reminder of his presence. Most memorably, the following Mother’s Day, we were eating lunch, when a surprisingly tame butterfly joined us and started landing on people’s heads around the table. I think it was my mother-in-law who first said “It’s Matthew.”
So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when butterflies showed up last night.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon talking with my friend Jo-Anne about the book and about my spiritual/psychotic experience (I still have a hard time knowing how to refer to it), and she said “I have a book you HAVE to read.” She gave it to me and I proceeded to read the whole thing before going to bed. It’s written by a doctor who’s done a lot of research on near death and pre-death experiences, and many of the experiences resonated with what I experienced. I went to sleep with my brain a-buzz, knowing that my conversation with Jo-Anne had been serendipitous and that there was much to learn from all that I was processing.
Then, this morning… butterflies. In the bathtub.
My friend Jayne had given me a butterfly mobile when Maddy was born, eight years ago. Since then, it has hung in the room that was Maddy’s and is now Julie’s. Last night, for no particular reason, Julie took it down from the ceiling. It was covered in dust, and she didn’t know what to do with it, so she put it in the bathtub.
This morning, after a brief but synchronistic and exciting Twitter conversation with two friends who affirmed my decision to write the book, I went to take a bath. And there were the butterflies. At first I was just puzzled by how an odd thing like that had ended up in the bathtub. But then I realized it was BUTTERFLIES! Of course!
I think Matthew wants me to write this book!
(The butterflies are now hanging in my studio, under the light. A daily reminder of what I’m supposed to do.)