The letter shown below was written to Jerry Davich regarding this coming week’s live butterfly release ceremony. This is the 11th annual event and this year close to 900 people have signed up to attend. I feel there might be something in this email for any readers of this blog so I am sharing it with you all.
Just shy of 900 signed up for butterfly release for Saturday. We will see how many show with temp expected to be above 90 next week.
Anyway, the song I wrote is attached. In all my years in this business, God and lack of understanding why someone we love dies seems to be two of the most shared thoughts that I hear. Either there is an eternal love and trust in God that He knows what He is doing or a turning away from God, or at lease an anger with Him, when a loved one dies.
My first encounter with death was at 9 years old. We lived in the country in up-state NY. My cousin’s dog got distemper and his father told us to go dig a grave in the woods and then take the dog out and shoot it. I guess he thought that would make us men. We dug the grave and my cousin pointed the .22 rifle at his dog but could not shoot. He stood there crying, rifle inches from his pet’s skull, and trembled. I grabbed the rifle, pointed and shot the dog. We cried, filled in the grave, and never went to that part of the woods again.
A couple years later, when I was 11, my dad died from a perforated ulcer. Stupid reason to die but we had no money for him to go to the doctor. He already had seven kids, and on the day of his death, the family doctor (without knowing that dad had died) called my mother to tell her she was pregnant with her eighth kid…congratulations, he is reputed to have said to her. Irish Catholics, don’t you know! No money, no insurance, no dad, no running water, no bathroom but a falling apart outhouse…why be mad at God?
In high school a couple of classmates died in accidents and a friend of a friend died from suicide. Then, on to the Army and Vietnam. It was kill or be killed there as one fought sworn enemies with guns, and weather that nearly suffocated one from the high temps and intense humidity. I stopped making friends there during my year and a half in country as a way to avoid the pain of loss when a friend would die in action…as a number of them did die. Add in an uncle that was killed by a train, a mother and sister that died from cancers (both big smokers), my wife and I losing our first child in a miscarriage, the loss of her parents, a step-father passing from brain cancer all the way up to co-workers and bosses dying and you can see that I have a lot of shared grief and personal losses in my 70 years.
Anyway, ten years ago I met a woman who lost two daughters within months of each other (one by drugs and the second by car accident while texting). She came to work here for awhile as a family service counselor. I felt obligated to fire her after a year; not because she wasn’t doing a good job because she was doing a good job. But what I observed was that being around death and dying everyday as a counselor at a cemetery seemed to prevent her from learning how to live without her 20 and 22 year old girls.
I wrote the song as a culmination of many talks with her during that year. She had so much trouble understanding why her girls were taken so young. I also witnessed her intense belief in God. She was absolute in her belief that she would see them again in heaven, and trusted God’s decision to end their lives on this plane when he did.
So, in a way, this song was penned by me but written by these many experiences of death. When you go to work every day and feel the pain of so many deaths, it is imperative to have a strong belief in something bigger than life. I absolutely believe in God, and Jesus, and the whole eternity thing. When I went though my own cancer a year and a half ago and a kidney was cut out and tossed, I surprised my family with having no fear of what might happen. I even went so far as to talk to God and I told Him that if this is what had to be, then I trusted Him. I remember telling Him that I would prefer no pain but if that was part of the plan, then I offered it up to Him. Guess what? A happy ultimate ending as the cancer is gone, but funny old God, there was pain x 100.
I am sharing this story because I am not the best singer but sometimes it is important to know why a song is written and some of the meaning behind the words. Dylan was not a good singer by most accounts, but he was a wordsmith like few others before or after him. I do not claim to be the next Dylan, but my song and my interpretation of my song comes from my soul.
Hope to see you Saturday. Even if we do not get together, I respect you and know that you have family here. So, this song is as much yours as it is for all the people that brave the heat to let a butterfly go free to carry their secret longings up to heaven.