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The Online Magazine FOR and ABOUT Southside Virginia

12/13/2017

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In This Issue

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Articles
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Butterfly Promise
(The Promise of a Butterfly and Spring)
By Gert Slabach

SoVa Baseball
(As American as...)
By Maria Scinto

The Real South
By Diana Nolan

Parsley in Your Herb Garden
Submitted by the Southside Virginia Herb Society

Vegetable Vertical Garden
(Stake it Up!)
By William H. McCaleb

Relay For Life 2011 Events
(Southern VA & Northern NC)

Southside Master Gardener Graduates
(Class of 2011)

 

Columns

Editor's Page
(Cooking Some SPAM)

Southside Gardener
(Monthly Tips & "To Do List")
By William H. McCaleb

South Winds
(The Secret to Inner Peace)
By FCOIT

Ask Bubba - Advice
(Parody)
The Bubba Squad

 

Departments

Festivals & Events

May-Aug Events

Relay For Life 2011 Events

Farm & Ag Info

Farmers Markets Listing (FMs in or near SSVA)

Press Releases

Scholarship available to area seniors
(SVHS Offers $500 Scholarship)

Halifax County Junior 4-H Camp
(Sign-ups are Underway!)

LGSA Offers Camp with International Talent to Local Youth
(Soccer Camp Info)

 

Past Issues

Past Issues are available from June 2008 through the current issue.
Select the desired issue from the drop-down box below.

 


Butterfly Promise


The Promise of a Butterfly and Spring

 

 By Gertrude M. Slabach

 

   

   She remembered the time as if it were yesterday. When she saw a butterfly, it all came back to her. She remembered.

   It had been a dreary week, the winter she turned five. While she knew her father was not well that March, she didn’t think he would die. But he did.

   Family and friends came and stayed. The body was brought into their home through the living room window because the front door opened into a square cubicle that left no room for making a turn with a casket. The living room was small, and there were more people than chairs. It rained, and the house was full. It was stuffy and crowded.

   People parked in her uncle's muddy field next to the yard, and someone made a small bridge to span the dip between the field and the yard. Children had fun playing in the water and getting wet while parents sat somberly in the dim living room, sharing the grief of the young widow. First she stayed inside, and then she went out and played.

   Sometime after the burial, she noticed the butterfly. She couldn’t have said whether it was days or weeks later, but it was April when she saw the butterfly in the yard, flitting from bush to bush. She tried to follow and catch it, but she couldn’t.

   The butterfly seemed oblivious to the child as he fluttered by; yet he always remained out of her reach. She’d creep up to the bush on which he was resting and reach up, hoping he’d stay. He didn’t.

   More than a year later, she entered first grade. They didn’t have kindergarten then, so it was in first grade where she learned to read. She learned a lot of other things about life, for this teacher* believed in teaching more than reading, ’riting, and ‘rithmetic. She knew her students, and she gave love as well as discipline to them. More importantly, the teacher gave time.

   Yet deep in the child’s heart was an empty spot. And there were questions. Many of them. There were questions about whether or not there really was life after death. And whether she would really see her father again. And whether all the things she had heard about Heaven were real. She didn’t realize, she wondered—she just knew she had some questions and there seemed to be no answers. But there were (answers, that is).

   So when the teacher decided that watching a caterpillar develop into a butterfly would be a science lesson in itself, it was a good thing. Someone, somewhere, found a small caterpillar and brought it to class. The teacher put the caterpillar into a glass jar and screwed a lid on top. She punched holes in the lid so the caterpillar could breathe. She put some small twigs and milkweed leaves in the jar so the caterpillar would have something to eat. It ate, and it grew.

   In less than two weeks, the caterpillar was about two inches long and had eight pairs of legs. The first three pairs would later become the butterfly’s legs. The caterpillar shed its skin and the children saw. It happened many times.

   Each time it shed its skin, a new skin would be there, waiting. The teacher explained that a new skin is always waiting under the skin that is shed. “That’s life,” she said. Then the caterpillar stopped nibbling on the milkweed plant in the jar. It made a mat and hung onto the mat with its last pair of legs. Then it hung upside down for about a day. The caterpillar just hung and did not move.

   As the caterpillar shed its last skin, it left in its place the chrysalis that was soft. It was baby soft.

   Then the chrysalis became hard. “It always happens this way,” the teacher said. “You can count on it. When the chrysalis gets hard, it means that soon the butterfly will come out.” She was right.

   The day the caterpillar emerged from its cocoon was a school day. Everyone wanted to hold the jar and watch. Everyone wanted to see what was happening. The bashful child wanted to see, too. The teacher put more twigs into the jar so the butterfly could climb onto them. Then they waited to see what would happen. It couldn’t fly—not yet.

   First its wings were tiny, crumpled, and wet. The wings would need to grow stronger and get dry before the new butterfly could fly. While the teacher taught second grade arithmetic and then listened to the first graders read, the children watched to see if the butterfly's wings would become drier, stronger, and ready for flight. It happened, just like she said it would.

   When it was time to let the butterfly go, the teacher took the jar outside. The children in the class got to go along. Once outside, the teacher opened the lid. After what seemed like a long time, the butterfly began to stretch its wings and move them, a little at a time. Then the monarch climbed to the top of the twig near the edge of the jar. Tentatively at first, it moved up and out, testing the air with its wings. Then, in another minute, it was free. Gently lifting itself out of the jar and into the open air, it drifted up, floating with the wind until it was gone. Just like that.

   Still buried deep inside the heart of the child was the question: how can God make anything beautiful come from someone’s death, especially if that someone is a father of young children? If there is a God, then why do people suffer? If there is a God who cares about people, then why are there wars and anger and hate; floods and earthquakes and tsunamis; hail and fire and tornadoes? Why?

   Watching the monarch butterfly drift out of sight, the child caught a glimpse of something bigger than a butterfly that lives for a short time and then is gone. She understood more than how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly; how metamorphosis occurs; how God can take something old and ugly, and turn it into something beautiful. Just like winter turning to spring.

   Half a century later, she still remembers the butterfly that made the difference. When she sees a butterfly, she remembers. Seeds that lie dormant all winter will revive. Bulbs buried in the ground in the fall will die; in the spring, flowers will appear where the bulbs were planted. When March gives way to April, she remembers that life comes after death.

   Winter never closes its curtain unless Spring is waiting in the wings. Spring symbolizes life and healing and purpose. Spring always comes, and it always follows winter [Genesis 8:22]. It always has. It always will. Welcome, sweet Spring!

 

   *With appreciation to Alvina Livengood of Springs, Pennsylvania, who taught first and second grade at Yoder School in Grantsville, Maryland for many years.

 Photo Credits:

Floyd Miller Headstone - Family Photos
First Monarch Butterfly - Clark Graber
Monarch Caterpillar - Wikipedia
Monarch Chrysalis - John C. Carver
Monarch Butterfly Emerging - Wikipedia
Second Monarch Butterfly - John C. Carver

 

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  Born and raised in western Maryland, Gertrude Slabach has claimed Southside Virginia as home for over twenty four years. She is an RN and works part-time at Fuller Roberts Clinic in South Boston, Virginia.

   Gertrude and her husband Dave have six children; four sons and two daughters.

  She is the author of three books: Aren’t We Having Fun Dying?!, Southside Glimmers, and Always Mama’s Girl. The books can be purchased at Windmill Farm Bake Shop, the South Boston-Halifax County Museum, or by contacting her at:
gertslabach@DiscoverSouthside.com

Read more about Gertrude Slabach's Books in print here >>>

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