Butterflies

As a middle aged heterosexual male I have no interest in going to a butterfly farm. Why would you even farm butterflies? My standard answer if asked, is “I am sorry I cannot go, as much as I would love to, but I am allergic to butterflies.”

So somehow, whether I am in Thailand or Costa Rica, I find myself walking through a butterfly farm. The time I remember most was the Costa Rica trip because I was traveling with my wife and her mother and uncle. We drove up to tour the farm. I try to do one selfless act a day. Actually this is not true, I am honestly so self-centered that as we are walking through the farm and my uncle is dragging himself around because he had just had a stroke, all I am thinking is that I must be getting major karma points for this act. And that in an hour I know we will be back in the hotel where I can get a cool drink and take a swim in the pool.
I know this is shallow when surrounded by so much beauty and I should have felt ashamed, but it did not stop me from obsessing about cocktails and floating on my back. There is some depth to my shallowness!

Years later when I am back in the States, I can’t remember what I drank or what I ate that night, or even what the pool looked like. I do remember my uncle-in-law dragging his one bad leg behind him as he slowly propelled himself forward. He was grabbing life by the throat and not letting go. He knew he would not return here again.

A couple of weeks ago I was back in my hometown with my wife visiting longtime friends, Joy and Mike. Joy has cancer and has lost all her hair. She was wearing a very cute scarf and it wrapped elegantly around her head. We were all curious what bald Joy looked like and asked if she would take if off. There is a vulnerability to a bald head and all I could think about when looking at it was, I wish I had spent more time appreciating the butterflies.

Goodbyes are hard

This is the talk I gave at my father-in-laws funeral. I found it on a scrap of paper in my office and had always intended to capture it more permanently. So years later this is what I wrote and I remember I cried when I read it.

“I guess have known Court for about 20 plus years. Jim Harrison the poet once said the “Death steals everything.” And this is true, but for me death also leaves a trail of memories. When I think back on my time with Court I am reminded of a man who loved music and magic, a man who unconditionally accepted me as part of his family. Court always had a smile in his eyes and a joke up his sleeve.

Old age seem to have a way of distilling the true character of a person. Court said that “Growing old was not for the weak or wobbly.” We all confront our own mortality and Court took each step with grace and dignity.

Kindness and affection are the virtues I will remember him by. The dead don’t get the chance to speak at their own funeral, but there are a couple of things I would like to say on behalf of Court to his two daughters. Susie and Jill “I want to thank you for not abandoning me when I grew old. I loved being your father and you were the two best girls a man could have. Thank you for holding my hand when I died and I promise I will never ask you again “What’s up in your camp.””

I finished by reading a poem by Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.
I still have that moment etched inside me, when Court died and standing in that funeral home.