The Playfulness of the Unknown
By Christy Moe Marek

The other night, while enjoying dinner with my dad and bonus mom on the deck sweetly nestled in the treetops of the woods behind our house, we chatted about our dogs and the grief of outliving them when our love together runs so deep.

As the stories flowed, a Red Admiral butterfly began swooping and diving around us, coming to a halt on the back of my bonus mom’s head. Bubbling with laughter, she said, “It’s there, isn’t it? I can feel it!”

After oohing and ahhing, I offered my finger to the little creature in invitation, which was readily accepted. We were enthralled watching the butterfly climb across my hand from finger to finger, taken over in complete rapture and wonderment.

Moments turned into minutes. And then without warning, it sprung into the air and flew around us in a circle. Pulled by some instinct I can’t name, I put my hand in the air, high above my head, palm up as if in supplication; a ritual of surrender to the magical powers that be.

But what was I begging for? Perhaps a deeper encounter to remind me that, despite the old niggling doubt in the back of my mind telling me there’s no way this butterfly can be anything more than a butterfly, absolutely anything is possible.

To my delight, as soon as it was offered, the butterfly landed gently in the middle of my palm. And again remained – moments and minutes – until it went, leaving us in awe.

We spoke in curiosity of our deepest loves and losses, sensing something numinous afoot; a thinning of the veil between worlds as twilight turned slowly into dusk. We reveled in the knowing without knowing that our loved ones reach out to us through unexplainable, joyful, magical moments such as this.

The morning after the butterfly, I was in the kitchen making tea and noticed an impossibly green bug on the floor. I grabbed a piece of paper to serve as a vehicle to carry it outside. Before I could scoop it up, it jumped into my hand.

And stayed there.

“Now you’re just showing off,” I laughed and carried the grasshopper outside. We regarded each other a good long while as it walked every inch of my hand, front and back, as attentive and present as a friend.

“Thanks for coming!” I smiled as it hopped away.

It got me thinking that we may never know how those we are connected to in life will reach out to us after they cross the threshold into what’s Next. But if we are willing to consider that anything’s possible and suspend any doubts and disbelief, most of us have stories of our own brushes with what can only be described as the strangely familiar and mysterious.

“Is that you?” we may find ourselves asking the air, whispering and hopeful. More often than not, if we are willing to engage the playfulness of the unknown, we will hear our answer.

Christy Moe Marek was first called to work with the dying more than 25 years ago as a new college graduate. She wasn’t sure what to do with a call so deep, so she held it close until the time felt right to move forward. In 2013, that time arrived, and she hasn’t looked back since. Christy is a certified End of Life Doula, Anamcara End of Life Practitioner, writer, avid outdoor meditator, and compassionate advocate for intentional living while dying. She is devoted to walking alongside those facing terminal illness and their loved ones, inviting them into creative engagement with this inevitable aspect of every life. Find out more at tendinglife.com