Pain and Beauty

As the days get longer, our family often spends the hour(s) after supper working, playing, and enjoying the outdoors. The heat of the sun becomes screened by the trees on the mountain to the west, and though it is not dark yet the air is much cooler and pleasanter.

I was puttering about in my flower garden near the house on one such recent evening when I heard what sounded like some sniffling and little choked sobs coming through the window. When it strengthened rather than abating after some minutes, I decided to go on in and see if Mama could be of help.

I didn’t get an immediate response to my calls of “Is everything okay?” while I washed my hands. The sobs came louder, so I investigated further through the house and came upon my six year-old daughter crying in the living room. Or rather, trying not to cry but being unable to.

In her hands she cradled a lightly fluttering white moth.

These days the National Wildlife Federation’s “Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America” is rarely re-shelved after being consulted day to day. It moves around the house as members of the family have need of it. Generally, specimens that are captured are studied for a little, identified if possible, brought bits of grass and small lid-fuls of water, and then (we encourage) released back into their natural habitat (sometimes to be snatched up by a chicken, I admit).

I didn’t get the story on this particular moth (which I later identified as a pale beauty), but it became apparent that one of it’s legs may have been injured and it was going to soon die. We had recently read a book about the lifecycle of butterflies, and so I reminded her that they don’t live long anyway; maybe it’s time had come.

This was not comforting.

Next, I suggested we take it outside and see if putting it on a flower or in the grass would revive it. But no, that didn’t work. The moth fluttered and stumbled about as we hunched over it, willing it to make a comeback. My daughter, who sometimes brushes off hugs, continued to cry for the little creature.

Finally we had to face the reality that death was soon coming for the moth, so I suggested that my daughter find it a beautiful place to spend its last moments. She disappeared with it, and I went my way too. Later as she ran through the grass I asked if she had found a spot, and she said yes. I supposed she had taken the pale beauty down by the creek or left it among some flowers.

But coming into the house later, I discovered this vignette on the back porch:

pale beauty surrounded by circles of clover

She had not found a spot of beauty for the moth, she had made one.

What tenderness and care!

My heart just melted as I thought of her sorrow working itself out as she picked each clover and placed it neatly in circle formation around her little friend carefully laid out in the center of the upturned bucket.

And now as I pray for a friend of a friend who is dying of cancer, this image is guiding me to ask God that this person’s last days will be filled with moments of beauty and tenderness in spite of all the pain.

Come, Lord Jesus.

with love, Anita

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