July 20th, 1966- This is the day my whole world collapsed. This is the day my mom drowned while we were on a picnic at Hartwell lake. My whole life was turned upside down and everything in my life changed. In a matter of months, we moved, I had open heart surgery, my sister and I moved in with my dad's parents, dad became someone I rarely saw or spent time with and he was usually drinking heavily when I did and was difficult, at the least, to be around.
As it turns out, my "grandmother" did not want me but did want my sister. I know this because she told me this daily, among many other horrible, soul destroying things. Needless to say, my childhood was not an easy one. I missed my mom, I missed my dad, I missed my granddad James and all my family from my mom's side. When things got really bad, I would go find a quiet place outside to hide-to cry or think or write. When things were really bad and I was at my lowest, this butterfly always showed up. A yellow zebra swallowtail, every time. It would land near me sometimes but many times it would land on me, my arm, my hand, my shoulder or chest and just sit there waving its wings. I always believed that this was from my mother, letting me know all would be ok. It was the only sign of hope I had back then, the only thing that kept me from running away or hurting myself.
Saturday was the 47th anniversary of mom's death. I've gone back to Madden's Bridge, which is where it happened, a few times over the years but do not feel the need most years to do this. This year though, I've had this on my mind very strongly for a couple of months. I decided that I was going to get some roses and have my own memorial and drop the roses over the side of the bridge into the water. I was going to do this alone, but then decided to ask my oldest friend, Gee, to go with me. I thought I might need the distraction afterwards. I'm not much for showing emotion, hate to cry, and didn't feel particularly emotional about doing this, just wanted to honor my mom's memory. So Gee and I rode down with 6 beautiful red roses. The water was back up to full level so I wasn't able to get back to the spot where we picnicked that day but that was ok because I wanted to drop the flowers off the bridge anyway. We walked over to the side looking over the spot, then we crossed the road and looked over that side. I wanted to find a spot where I could drop them and they would float under the bridge then out into the lake without getting caught in shallow water or float onto a bank. I moved down the bridge until I found the perfect spot. I asked Gee to stay on the opposite side and let me know when they came out on that side of the bridge. I really just wanted to be alone when I said what I wanted to say and dropped them. I think Gee knew this even though I didn't tell her. I said what I wanted to say, then slowly dropped the roses in, one by one. I took some pictures and watched until the last one went under the bridge. Still not feeling particularly emotional, just sad. I walked across the road and Gee and I watched the flowers float free of the bridge and out into the lake. There were some people way out in the lake, evidently practicing their skiing and we watched them and talked, mostly about how this spot, that day, had had such a major impact on my life. After the flowers were out of sight, I told her I was ready to go. She started walking towards my car, which was parked on that side of the road just beyond the bridge. I hesitated and turned to look back to the other side one last time.....and sitting on that side of the bridge was a zebra swallowtail. I cried out and pointed and before I thought, ran out into the road. I realized what I was doing and ran back, thank God no car was coming! Gee ran back to me and asked what was wrong. I just pointed and then I totally lost it. I was crying so hard that I couldn't even tell her. The butterfly sat there for a few seconds, then lifted off and fluttered up and down across the bridge then went into the trees on that side of the bridge. Once I was able to speak again, I told Gee about the butterfly. She started crying then and we both just stood there crying and hugging each other. I don't think I've even seen her cry since we were kids. This wasn't my imagination because she saw it too.
I really feel that this was mom again, letting me know she knew why I was there and what I had done. Its a nice feeling, that even all these years later, she's looking over me. I understand now why I felt the need to do this. I wanted to honor her but she needed to get a message to me too.
Love and miss you mom!