( in honor of my brother Jeff, and in memory of his wife Larae)
Years ago, on a ho-hum drive from some point-A to point-B, I saw something that burned into my memory without my knowing it right then. It was a September afternoon, though: I remember that because it’s the time of year one sees such things here in North Florida. It was a butterfly dance.
I always cringe to see those graceful, winged flirtations happening anywhere near a roadway. The two butterflies are so infatuated with one another, they’re oblivious to anything except staying in sync with one another, to the ancient music composed for that one dance. Ascending and descending in the joyful, instinctive spiral that precedes mating. So beautiful, and absolutely innate. Choreographed by the God that made them.
One eye on the road, I watched them, caught up in their beauty but cringing at their closeness to the traffic. Sure enough, a car came up on my right, going faster than the rest, barreling right into the dancing yellow butterflies. I remember crying out “No!”. In an instant, there was only one, fluttering upward in confused circles, searching. Its had lost its mate on the grill of that car. Just that fast.
I am the girl who brakes for any creature close to my moving car, whether it’s winged or footed or even a slitherer. Sudden death has always seemed somehow more tragic to me. With butterflies, there’s another dimension of sadness, because their little lives are already so short. From out-of-cocoon to honeymoon, most species only live two to three weeks, during which time they feed, mate, and lay eggs. Within days of the egg-laying, they die.
You know the saying, “Life is short”? It certainly is.
A few weeks ago, that truth hit home -- close to home. It blindsided my precious brother, Jeff, with the force of a wrecking ball. While hospitalized for a procedure to address a months-long, life-draining health issue, he received the devastating news that his devoted wife Larae had been found unresponsive at home and was rushed to the hospital: a different hospital. Within just a few hours, with Jeff bedridden across town and utterly helpless to get to her, she passed away. No warning. No apparent health issues. She’d been working, tending to Jeff, optimistic about getting back to their normal healthy life.
Together for 40 years, they carried that customary, vague awareness that “life is short”. They were loving each other. Doing their dance. Dancing into tomorrow…and then his one-and-only, his life-mate, was abruptly taken away. He couldn’t run to her rescue, stroke her face, her hair, her hands. Couldn’t say “I’m right here”. Couldn’t go to bat for her and try to make things better. Losing her so suddenly was nothing short of crushing.
The day after his sweet wife’s funeral service, Jeff was again wrecking-balled: he was diagnosed with cancer. A life-changing scenario WITH your spouse at your side. She was a caregiver in her soul. She was a divine cook, and a spirit-lifter. She was just what he would have needed to navigate this threatening new unknown. It would have been a whole new dance to learn, but they would’ve danced it. Would’ve.
Y’all, we don’t do the life-dance, that ascending/descending, that future-full-of-possibilities dance only with a spouse, or a romantic partner. Life serves up lots of dances to be done. With siblings. With close friends. With wise mentors, and with coworkers who “get” you. Even with the occasional stranger God throws in on purpose.
We need to choose the dances, and there’s no time to wallflower. Let’s get to it.
Please pray for Jeff.
Oh, and don’t miss your chances to do those dances.