Butterfly Solace

October is not the happiest month of the year. Mud-coloured clouds, autumn deluges, diminishing light, and declining warmth signal winter’s onset. The skies are darkening in the global environmental, economic, and political realms too, with little to relieve despondency. Reminders abound that all things must pass, including the happiest experiences of life, and loved ones so deeply missed.

Butterflies are our most beautiful creatures.  Aesthetic delight is the antidote to the gloom, brightness that creates hope. Over the years, we have received wonderful accounts about how butterflies helped people to see hope in extreme sadness, particularly at funerals where the sight of a butterfly fluttering around a coffin or alighting on it, inspired faith when all seemed dark.

Recently, a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly danced about the coffin of a relative of my wife’s family. Recalling many accounts I heard over the years, I pondered the meaning of this event.

I lack the skill to shape my response to mystery, but there are some, like the poet Vivienne McKechnie, with the gift to interpret such experiences. In  A Butterfly’s Wing,  Vivienne explores finding hope amidst grief. Vivienne interprets the sustaining power of beauty and powerfully presents the butterfly, a delicate being, as a metaphor for possibility, resilience, and strength. Taken from her first collection, A Butterfly’s Wing, the eponymous poem following says so much. Enjoy this reflection.


Now I linger, looking longingly at every winged being,
knowing the impossibility of a hug,
knowing the fragility of love,
knowing the swiftness of life’s flight.

Now, never thinking of you in the earth,
I see you everywhere.
You, who did not lie down willingly,
but who life took in a sudden stroke.
I, who could only stroke your hand and watch
appalled as you slipped the noose of life
and left me numb.
You were silent and elusive, transient
as the butterfly which appeared at your funeral.
It rose delicately out of the lilies which adorned your coffin
allowing me the poise and sustenance of sudden beauty
to read for your departure.

Now I linger, looking longingly at the Painted Lady
which touches the petals of the rose
and realize that in the fragility of a butterfly’s wing
there is strength enough to fly.

Vivienne McKechnie

Reproduced with the kind consent of Vivienne McKechnie.

The Painted Lady. Photographed by J.Harding