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By Herb Weiss, contributing writer on aging
Susan feels “joy in her heart and complete happiness” whenever she sees a butterfly. A butterfly came into her life as she mourned her brother’s death in 1990. Before he died, she remembers her brother saying that he would come back as a butterfly. The 62-year-old Pawtucket resident says “he meant it” and she believes he has sent messages to her through butterflies each year for over 30 years.
She believes the butterflies that play in the garden during the late spring and summer every year could possibly be other family members (deceased husband and father) and friends that have since departed. “Most of them knew the story of the butterfly and perhaps they too wished to come back as a beautiful butterfly. I know I would love to come back as a beautiful butterfly if I had the chance,” she says.
Significance of Butterflies Brings Sign from Beyond
Looking back, Susan remembers meeting her future husband, Stephen, after the death of her first husband. She was introduced to him by her close friend, Jackie. As the three dined at an outdoor restaurant in Tiverton, Jackie quickly pointed at a beautiful monarch butterfly sitting on a purple butterfly bush not far from their table. As they gazed at the lovely sight, a text message came into Susan’s cell phone from her next-door neighbor who had sent a photo of a monarch butterfly sitting on a purple butterfly bush in Susan’s backyard in Pawtucket. Both sightings of the monarch butterfly were at the same time of day, both directed to Susan – one in Pawtucket and one in Tiverton.
“I knew what was happening here. My brother, maybe my husband and my Dad (both deceased) were telling me that Stephen is the man for me. That’s why I married him! Well, besides, he’s a good man too,” said Susan.
Like Susan, Phyllis Calvey, 68, a writer, speaker, educator, and storyteller, sees the significance of the butterfly and how it can bring comfort in one’s darkest hours after the death of a loved one. “It’s a book that people can pass onto someone they know who has lost a loved one,” she says.
In “The Butterfly Club: “Is That You?”’ the Bellingham, Massachusetts writer shares her inspirational true-life stories of how God can, and does, use signs to communicate His presence to “those in need.” “My book has brought comfort to many who had not yet found the closure they were hoping for. And still, for some, the age-old question persists, “Was it a sign or just a coincidence?”
Their underlying need bleeds through – I need more proof! I believe I have found “more proof” in the Butterfly Phenomenon,” she says. When Calvey began hearing from others who crossed her path about how God used the sign of a butterfly to comfort those grieving the loss of a loved one, she began to explore these occurrences, becoming more aware of their frequency of happening. Calvey began to hear about other “sign stories”– red cardinals, dragon flies, feathers, music, flowers, and even a “divine fortune cookie,” to name a few.
The 136-page nonfiction book of inspirational stories detailing the butterfly phenomenon, brings the age-old debate up for discussion, ‘Are these signs, or merely coincidences, or an incidental occurrence?’ For Calvey they are not coincidental.As a caregiver for four parents who were allowed to die in their own homes, there is always “great matters of life and death,” to deal with, says Calvey in writing her book. “Two people in the equation – one wondering if their loved one will be okay, along with the finality of facing if they truly believe there is an afterlife. And one soon to be on the other side wondering the same. Both hoping to somehow be able to communicate that answer. The Butterfly Club is the communication of their answer,” she says.
Calvey recounts a story told her by Jackie, her cousin, who attended the wake of her brother. She had met a man wearing a butterfly pin on his lapel. In conversation, he mentioned that his daughter, AnneMarie, had died of leukemia in 1997. It seems that the 17-year-old had clearly found a way to send a signal to her father that she was okay, through a butterfly. When asked about the lapel pin, he smiled and said, “Welcome to the Butterfly Club,” and then walked away.
“There wasn’t a name for this experience, but in talking to people, you learn just how many people share it,” Calvey said, thus – naming her tome “Welcome to the Butterfly Club.” Calvey herself had shared in a butterfly encounter many years before she wrote The Butterfly Club when Danny, an 18 year-old outgoing, charismatic, loved by everyone, boy from her church community was killed by a hit-and-run driver after leaving for college only three weeks earlier. “His mother was at a point where she felt she couldn’t bear to go on,” Calvey explained. “She took a walk in the woods and sat on a fallen log wanting to bury herself in her grief, when a monarch butterfly alighted on a small stick near her feet. Danny’s mother bent down to pick it up and sensed that the butterfly would not fly away. She looked at it in her hands and described this feeling to me, that it was as if her son were speaking the words to her himself, “Mom, it’s okay. I’m alright.” “The transformation I saw in her and the healing that followed was no less than miraculous,” Calvey said. “Now, when people ask her if they could have real proof that a butterfly can be a sign from God or a loved one, she tells them people like Nancy are all the real proof I need!”
Fortune Cookies Bring Messages, Too
At a Cranston book signing event, Calvey told this writer a story from her book, describing a divine sign that came through a message from a fortune cookie, delivered in perfect timing, one that brought comfort to her and was an “undeniable message” from her deceased father that he “was okay, and with God.” As her father was dying Calvey sensed his fear of dying and the unknown and sought to comfort him by saying “you do know that you are going to heaven?” She stressed that he had lived his whole life as an example of the Good Samaritan in the parable that Jesus told. Calling him a “Good Samaritan” she recounted all the people throughout his life that he had helped. The day after he died, Chinese food was brought in and Calvey’s mother opened a fortune cookie, receiving this message, “The Good Samaritan did not get his name through good intentions.” “The sign of the fortune cookie could not have been a more perfect communication to deliver the message to our family that our father was indeed in heaven,” Calvey explained.
Calvey has heard from readers from all over the world who found comfort in reading her book and closure by knowing a loved one can still communicate through signs across the veil by reading her book. Their shared experience is the key for those who haven’t seen their sign as of yet and, perhaps will help them learn how to recognize their own encounter.
“A sign is undeniable. It’s making the connection of the perfect timing of a loved one delivering a message to you, that constitutes the difference,” adds Calvey. “But through the years, I’ve found it never works to ask God for a sign. Signs come to you only in God’s perfect timing,” she says.
Calvey’s book details stories of people who experience universal signs. “They don’t know they are part of a club,” she says. “But they are.” Readers can share their views or tell their own “sign story” or purchase, “The Butterfly Club: “Is That You?”’ by going to http://www.butterflyclubbook.com. To order, go to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call (617) 869-2576.
Editor’s Note: This Commentary was initially published in the Pawtucket Times on February 18, 2019
Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. To purchase Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herbweiss.com.