Chrysalis

By Kim Seeley

Chrysalis

During my younger daughter’s freshman year at East Carolina University, she spent a magical, thought-provoking, life-changing weekend at a religious retreat called Chrysalis. She was already an active young Christian who devoted most of her free time at ECU to the Wesley Foundation, touring eastern North Carolina with the Wesley Singers. She had been brought up in a Christian home and faithfully attended the local Methodist church. Her vibrant personality and beautiful voice were catalysts for our local youth group, and she devoted many hours to their mission work and youth choir. However, I believe she would tell you that Chrysalis was the movement that motivated her faith to a higher level.

If you’re not familiar with the term, chrysalis, it is actually a stage of a butterfly. Scientists used to think this was a resting stage, but now they know that the dormancy of this period is merely external; inside, the future butterfly is busy growing its wings, its antennae, and metamorphosing the mouth of a caterpillar into the mouth of a butterfly. The chrysalis is the final stage before the lovely butterfly emerges with all of its parts painstakingly transformed.

When Amanda first came home for a weekend after her Chrysalis encounter, she brought all her paraphernalia with her – everything embossed, painted or stamped with butterflies. She had butterfly bookmarks, stationery, stickers, journals and many other small gifts from the supporters and sponsors of Chrysalis. For her 19th birthday that April, she had a gorgeous butterfly birthday cake. Amanda herself was so much like a butterfly, beautiful, graceful, spreading joy by the simplicity of her existence.

One of the most intriguing aspects of a butterfly’s existence, other than its beauty, is its elusiveness. One minute it’s here, darts to another flower, and then it’s gone. On August 8, 2003, the sheriff of our county knocked on my door with the news that Amanda had been killed in a car crash during a deluge of a rainstorm. She had hydroplaned, lost control of the car and veered into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The state police indicated that they believed she had died instantly of a broken neck and that she had not suffered.

Thus began my nightmarish journey into grief and pain. I sought answers by reading every book on grief that I could find. Entreaties to God seemed fruitless, and never in my life had God seemed so far away. I believed in a God of miracles, and I trusted God to keep my family safe. I felt betrayed at the deepest possible level of my being. I went to church sporadically, as church was a symbol of what I saw as the ultimate betrayal. Amanda was christened here, sang in the Sunday school choir here, participated in every Christmas Eve service of her entire life here, served as an acolyte here, performed worship dances with the youth choir here. Amanda was still everywhere I looked here; yet, she was nowhere to be found.

Two years after Amanda’s death, shortly after what would have been Amanda’s 21st birthday, we learned that my husband’s sister Linda had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in its final stages. We visited her when she felt strong enough, and Linda took my hand, looking me right in the eyes. “I’m going to see Amanda soon,” she said.

“I know,” I replied.

“We are going to put our heads together and figure out a way to let you know that we’re all right,” she said. Her voice was clear, but I could see that her energy was waning. Those were her last words to me. In a few weeks, Linda died with her husband at her side, holding her hand.

Once again, grief racked my family. I thought I was beginning to heal, but another death of one so beautiful, kind and gracious made me question my faith once more. I wanted to shake my fist in God’s face and ask him, “Do you really know what you’re doing up there, God? Have you no control at all?”

Later that summer, I was unloading groceries from my car. I was in a mindless state, just carrying bags back and forth into the house. Gradually, I became aware of a butterfly that had just been fluttering all around me. The butterfly danced before my face, and I noticed at once that it had the same pattern on its wings as the butterfly flag I had recently placed over Amanda’s grave. It danced and fluttered until I sat on the steps, where it finally rested on the rail near my hand. If any other human was around, I suppose they would have had me committed, but I began to talk to the butterfly. “I get it!” I cried. “Amanda and Linda sent you to me. They’re all right. They’re together. Tell them I understand.” The butterfly did one last dance before me and then went merrily on its way.

Four more years have gone by since the gift of the butterfly, years in which my faith journey has continued to grow. I have come to understand that I, too, am a chrysalis. My faith is deepening, and my trust is growing even though my former naïve view of the nature of God has been altered. I trust that my daughter and my sister-in-law are together in the presence of the Lord. I trust that we will be reunited one day. I also trust that one day I will no longer be just a chrysalis, but I will also be a butterfly. I await my final metamorphosis, but until I get my wings, I will dance on earth.

About this writer

  • Kim Seeley Kim Seeley, a former librarian and English teacher, lives with her husband, Wayne, in Wakefield, Virginia. She is a frequent contributor to Sasee and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her most recent story, “Amanda’s Jonquils,” can be found in Chicken Soup: Messages from Heaven. She loves to read, play the piano, travel and spend time with her grandson, Evan.

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5 Responses to “Chrysalis”

  1. That our loved ones are together is our greatest comfort in times of deep grief. I try my hardest to keep this knowledge close.

  2. Amy C. says:

    Beautiful.

  3. Nancy Burgess says:

    Kim, this is awesome and I totally understand your questions to God for taking Amanda at such a young age. God doesn’t make mistakes and eventually one finds that out. It’s hard to lose a loved one at any age and humans question why but God is always in control and knows what’s best at the time. You are an inspiration to others through your writings; very talented indeed. Thanks for sharing. You don’t even realize how inspiring you are.

  4. Brenda says:

    Your words touch my heart. I rejoice that you never stopped seeking Him despite the pain. God IS preparing us all for that final metamorphosis, but each in a different way!

  5. Jan says:

    Kim-
    So beautiful-your Amanda will always remain with us in spirit!

    Our Mom sent us an incredible rainbow on a sunny afternoon on the day she was buried. We know she was telling us she was fine and happy and at home in Heaven with all of our loved ones there.

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