Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tale of a Monarch

My father passed in March 2006. What my brother and I thought might be a bad cold or even pneumonia was actually a massive coronary that unexpectedly but quite efficiently swept our dad from our lives. Stunned, I remember standing outside the hospital and saying to my brother, "We're orphans." An odd reaction to be sure, especially for a grown woman with 4 college and high school children of her own. Having lost my mother a little more than a year before, the sense of loss and abandonment was overwhelming.

About a year after my dad passed, monarch butterflies started to appear around me in greater frequency than I considered usual, and in places I considered odd. I was not looking for butterflies, mind you - but each seemed to make sure I noticed it, fluttering close enough to demand my attention.

One of the oddest places was right on the beach at Scarborough. Not the grassy area where wildflowers grow, but the breezy sandy beach. I've seen plenty of sea gulls there, but never the elegantly fragile orange and black wings of a monarch butterfly. Yet that summer, it happened a few times.

The other oddest place was right here at work. On the north side of the station building is storage with double garage doors. The "driveway" area is completely paved with aging asphalt, and abuts another commercial property's paved driveway. There is a tall steel microwave tower, a dumpster, and chain link fencing. The only thing remotely green are weeds invading cracks in the pavement.

One pleasant afternoon that summer of 2007, I was outside enjoying the weather as I edited some material. Sitting on a low concrete platform near the door, I was visited by a monarch butterfly. I had never seen butterflies in that area before - moths and other insects, maybe, but not butterflies, and certainly not monarchs. This one didn't just flutter by. It actually landed on my knee! It perched, opened and closed its wings a few times, then fluttered off.

And thoughts of my dad immediately washed over me.

I share this very personal story with you because I just watched the full version of 41, a remarkable story about the Station nightclub fire's youngest victim, Nicholas O'Neill.WSBE Rhode Island PBS airs this documentary tonight at 8 P.M. I invite you to watch the film, too, and hear the way this young man touched - touches - lives of those around him in unexpected and lingering ways.

Your comments about the film and stories of your own experiences are most welcome.

- Lucie Raposo Houle