“Daddy’s checking on us,” they’ll say to me. I nod and smile, sometimes with tears in my eyes, because I believe it too.
Then we have the butterflies.
Last fall, at one of my son Brayden’s last tournament games of the season, I wore sunglasses despite the clouds to hide tears because his daddy wasn’t there to see his goalkeeper son play. He’ll never be here to cheer him on again. Then I felt like he wanted to prove me wrong. Because during that game, a butterfly started to fly around him in the goal. It was just hovering around him —almost pestering him. I looked around, pointing, “Does anyone else see that butterfly?”
This summer when I took Brayden on a lake trip with his buddies they went cliff diving off rocks into the water below. Watching and filming his jump on my phone, I watched a yellow butterfly float around my son as he climbed up to the top and it stayed there and flitted around him for awhile until he jumped.
“Look at that butterfly hovering around Brayden!” I yelled to everyone on the boat.
Sometimes it’s hard being at the grocery store. No amount of time as a widow will ever erase the fact that I was a grocer’s wife and my husband lived and breathed and loved those stores. Being in one some days is like a little gut punch.
Today I walked out of the grocery store defeated, missing him—then I got in the car and closed the door. A little brown butterfly was flying around the console. “How the hell did you get in here?” I said, apparently to what I now believe is my husband.
I laughed at myself for thinking a butterfly was a dead man and I opened the window to let him out.
Tonight after fixing and cleaning up dinner, after homework and breaking up fights, I sat on the pool deck for the only five minutes I had alone before I commenced my taxi service to gymnastics and soccer practice. Another mundane, exhausting day without him in the books, I thought. And then a monarch butterfly almost dive-bombed my head and flew up and down the pool deck, skirting the top of the water and landing not far from my feet. He just sat there, pulsing his beautiful wings —for what seemed hours but was probably only a minute.
“You again?” I said to him. “God I miss you,” I whispered …to a damn butterfly. I had been wondering all morning whether or not I’ve been talking enough about daddy to the kids. Do I tell them enough stories? Do they want to hear me tell his jokes or funny stories? I stared at the butterfly. For what, I thought? An answer? This is ridiculous.
“… just keep checking in on us ok?” I finally heard myself say.
Because that’s what our loved ones do when they’re gone, I think. They check in on us. Or at least we like to think they do. We get these seemingly ridiculous signs that tell us our loved one is ok. We look like crazy people talking to birds and insects and especially to butterflies on the pool deck.
We’re looking for that slightest hint of a sign of our person. We’re forever looking for “I’m here.”
Andrea Remke lives in Northern Kentucky. She has a degree in communications and journalism from Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, Ind. She is a recently widowed mom to an 11-year-old, twin 8-year-olds, and a 6-year-old. She is a freelance writer and blogs at www.kymomtotwinsandmore.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @andrealremke.