Most people love butterflies. Don’t get me wrong, I love them too! They’re beautiful. But my true fascination is with the dragonfly. As a kid, I’d watch them zipped around the spring-fed lake I swam in, oblivious to the icy cold water. Sitting on a rock as the hot sun warmed my cold skin, my chin resting on my clenched knuckles I was enraptured by dragonflies as they swooped over the glistening water. Their translucent wings and long slender bodies glittered in the sunlight. I never gave a thought to their purported spiritual significance back then. A child doesn’t usually think about symbolizations of the natural world. As an adult though, my mind began asking questions. Trying to connect the dots.
My daughter, Sarah died six years ago on a cold December day. She loved dragonflies too. She once helped me with a project for a software class I was taking at the university involving a brief film about dragonflies set to a musical sonata. One of Sarah’s talents was graphic design. She was in her element! We found scores of images of colorful, beautifully sparkling dragonflies. Closeups of their diamond-faceted eyes awed me. Sitting beside her I exclaimed, “Oh, my God. They’re so beautiful!” She laughed and impetuously hugged me, as she responded, “Yes, they’re incredible!”
So, what does death have to do with dragonflies? Well, here’s the thing. Sarah died as winter settled in and blizzards began to rage. No dragonflies soared and zipped in the sunlight during winter’s cold white sleep. But, when summer finally came, and the air warmed everywhere I went, I saw dragonflies. For much of that summer, I walked the river trails as often as I could to restore my aching heart. Nature. Sky. Water. Being outside grounded me. Otherwise, I may have floated away losing touch forever.
One eventful summer day is imprinted on my mind. An eternal memory. Overhead the sun blazed in a cloudless blue sky as I swung my legs out of the car intent on walking a familiar wooded trail near the river. Nearing the entrance to the trail, I sensed movement, a slight air disturbance. Turning, I saw a dragonfly, golden brown in color swooping and zooming. It propelled its body quickly ahead then alighted on a fence post just as I was walking by. I stopped to look at it more closely. It settled still as I neared it never moving. Standing there for a few moments, I watched closely as it rested its filmy wings snugly against its elongated body, keeping company with each other.
The air filled with a familiar scent. Lifting my face to the sun, I breathed it in deeply as realization flooded over me. Sarah’s perfume. Oh, my fluttering heart. Spiritual connection. A stirring. Grief is such a transient thing. Sometimes causing confusion and self-doubt. Dismissing the experience, off I went to complete my walk by the river. My solace. Nature, water, and air.
As I continued my walk, it lifted its wings and flew nearby zooming in and out among the trees. Stopping to sit on a rock I faced the river as the sunlight glinted and sparkled reflecting its light off the water. A golden dragonfly, such a small thing. Yet for me, its presence was hugely impactful because it lingered closely as I sat on the sun-kissed rock, feeling its warmth. Someone relishing a moment. Just being. Just breathing. Eventually, it flew off toward the water. A sign to move on now. Forward motion. Rising, I planted my feet firmly, then headed back down the trail. Grounded. My writing called me home.
When my brother died, I was dealing with a difficult situation. His self-proclaimed best friend, whom I’ll call Chuck was causing difficulties. My brother died in the early morning hours not long after I left him to get some rest after two days of vigil by his side. Barely resting my head on the pillow, I got the call. “He’s passed. You need to come.” Saying goodbye is no easy task. After tearfully saying a final goodbye to my brother, we turned to leave. Distraught and overwhelmed, my brother’s personal effects were the furthest from my mind. I left the hospital room without my brother’s keys or wallet.
Final arrangements needed to be considered. Chuck and his wife proposed we meet to talk over breakfast, suggesting a restaurant. Considerable time passed before they arrived to join us, and we wondered what was taking them so long. When they finally showed, they handed us a set of keys, never mentioning they had copies or the wallet. When we parted, they left us to pay their bill.
Meanwhile, my sister, Bren arrived from California. We needed to inspect my brother’s property. Arriving, we discovered someone had removed items, including expensive tools, a set of tires, and my brother’s car. Turning toward my sister, I said, “Chuck. We need to call the police.”
“Let’s give him the opportunity to make things right,” she replied.
She called his number. When he answered, she explained that he needed to return the items immediately. “I’m giving you a chance here but let me explain something to you. When I return to California, my sister is in charge. She will not be as nice to you as I am. She wanted to call the police right away.”
We got back into the car for another two-hour drive home. When we got home that night, I checked the mail. Chuck had been busy. He had sent me a notarized letter stating he’d return our brother’s keys and wallet after I signed the enclosed document naming him as executor of the estate. That would be rather problematic since I held that esteemed honor.
It was time to pay Chuck a visit. Discovering where he worked, we took another long drive. Arriving, we approached the first person we saw and asked to speak with Chuck. We were pointed in his direction. We found him standing behind a counter, and his facial expression was not welcoming. Making eye contact, Bren stated, “Hello, Chuck. I think it’s time we had a chat.” Do you want to do it here or outside?”
Annoyed, he gruffly responded, “The stuff’s in my truck.”
“Well, then let’s take a walk to your truck,” she told him.
We followed him as he led us to the parking lot behind the building. As we stood there beside his truck in the warm summer sunlight, two dragonflies appeared and swooped around us as we exchanged words. Chuck’s anger was escalating. The dragonflies started zooming closer and closer. His face flushed with annoyance. Suddenly the dragonflies were zooming around him. I’ve never seen dragonflies do that. Arms flailing, he tried to brush them away. My sister and I watched in disbelief as the insects continued to zip around him. Tired of being annoyed by dragonflies, I suppose, he unlocked the truck, reached in to grab the items, and handed them to us.
Facing him squarely, I told him, “Thanks, Chuck. By the way, here’s a copy of that so-called notarized letter you sent to me. It’s a forgery and completely illegal. I already filed the paperwork as executor of the estate as his sister. You are not a relation, as you lyingly stated on the form. The person who notarized that letter will be notified. I’ll be visiting the police with this document and reporting all the trouble you’ve put us through.”
We turned and walked away, leaving him standing there beside his truck in the dusty parking lot. The dragonflies flew nearby as we climbed into Bree’s rental car. I took one last look at them, as we drove away. I didn’t bother looking back at Chuck.
Another year passed. It was mid-October. I was moving to a new apartment. A week-long process of packing ensued. On the first of the week, I noticed a golden-brown dragonfly attached to the window screen. Throughout the day, I’d look to see if it was still there. The days were still warm, but the nights were cooling. Would it survive? Each morning as I awoke, I’d go to the window to check on it. It continued its vigil for three days, firmly attached to the screen. On the morning of my move, I checked one last time. It was gone. I went outside to look closely at the area around the windows, searching the ground to see if it had fallen off the screen. There was no deceased dragonfly on the ground. It was gone.
I’ve never put much stock in people claiming to have a spirit animal, until now. Life. Death. Change. Metamorphosis. Death resulting from an overdose is incredibly traumatic for families but imagine a mother who finds her daughter’s lifeless body. Using the term life-changing somehow doesn’t articulate the spirit-crushing event. My life had shattered.
Dragonflies. Was their overwhelming presence in my life telling me something? Soul searching inwardly and outwardly can be agonizing. What I discovered deeply resonated with my core. Epiphany. The dragonfly events always occurred during highly energetic periods in my life; times that were full of big forward steps. The timeline of life events surrounding the dragonfly visits was when I needed to become focused and determined. When energy was needed to take swift action. When moments unfolded revealing the need to be aligned with a higher purpose to reach successful outcomes.
I think of my life after my daughter’s death as before and after. As I look back, everything happened so fast! But as I lived it, I moved in slow motion, slogging my way through, forcing myself to take one step, then another. Sarah died in mid-December. I left for California in late January. While there the process of healing slowly began. The seed for my book was planted there. When I returned a few months later, I immediately started writing. A year passed. The book was published. Another year passed. My brother died. Amidst the greatest upheavals of my life, my spiritual presence shifted.
Leaving a long dysfunctional marriage, I was now strong enough to begin building a new life. When she died, I thought my life was over. Rather, it was becoming, changing into something different. New people. New friendships. New beginnings. Water, air, and nature. A person throwing her energies into doing and being rather than languishing in grief and sorrow who was slowly emerging from her self-made chrysalis.
Grief lingers, but this woman no longer accepts her existence as a given with no ability to change it. Rather, she is a woman realizing she has choices. She can choose to live life on her terms, not on another person’s expectations and demands. A woman facing her truth. A woman empowered.
Our spiritual journeys are much like the dragonfly. There are periods of deep rest and introspection to determine our core values and spiritual passions. Once we become aligned with higher wisdom, we can step out into the sunlight and begin to create the reality we were meant to live. To become.