*A few weeks ago, my friend gave me some caterpillars to watch for her while they were away. The bugs were supposed to make chrysalides and become beautiful Monarch butterflies that we could then release in her pollinator-friendly garden.
The first one hatched as we watched in awe, and then with mounting concern as the thing flopped around on the bottom of the jar, unable to right itself. I carefully poured the hatching butterfly and all the other chrysalides (all but 1 were on the floor of the jar) into the butterfly net habitat I’d bought in case they hatched while my friend was still away.
The butterfly, whom Isobel named Beauty, managed to climb up the side of the netting, where she hung for a day or so. Her wings were misshapen- curled up at the edges and stuck together. We decided that Beauty would be Isobel’s first pet. Yes, Is had been begging for years to get a kitten, but her first pet ended up being a disabled butterfly. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans, right?
Isobel and Beauty were the best of buddies- Beauty liked to sit in Is’s hand and just hang out and flutter a bit, then go back in her habitat and climb on leaves and enjoy sugar water.
3 days ago, the other one hatched. The other 3 chrysalides didn’t work out- 2 died and the last was a hideously deformed monster that only lived for a few minutes after emerging… who knew so many things could go so wrong with butterflies?
A lot, as it turns out. The new butterfly, named Shippy Whippy, can’t fly- it fell down the stairs yesterday when we released it, instead of gracefully flying away to enjoy an outdoor life pollinating the flowers. We returned Shippy to the butterfly habitat after I caught it as it flapped pitifully in circles on the ground.
Beauty died yesterday. When I broke the bad news to Isobel…*
She came over, looked at Beauty, who was sort of tipped over on the floor of the habitat, and asked, “Mom, are you sure she’s dead? She might just be sleeping.”
“Okay,” I said. “Should we just leave her there for a while?”
“Yes. Maybe butterflies are really heavy sleepers.”
*Today, we got Beauty ready for her funeral. I sprayed her with a few coats of lacquer- Is wants to keep her body in the butterfly-shaped trinket box I bought to serve as her coffin. But, she doesn’t want to bury it- she wants to keep it in her room. I said okay. Is had a few questions while we prepared Beauty…*
“Mom, I’m really sad.”
“That’s okay, babe. It’s totally normal to be sad when your pet dies.”
“But, I don’t want you to try and cheer me up.”
“Okay. Can I just sit and be sad with you?”
“That would be okay.”
*She put her head on my shoulder and we sat a step down from the box Beauty’s body sat in, drying after the first coat of lacquer.*
“I wonder what it’s like to be dead.”
“I guess we’ll all find out eventually.”
“I bet it’s like sleeping, but never waking up.”
“That sounds AWESOME. Sign my ass up right now!” I slowly tipped over on the steps, eyes closed, next to Beauty’s box.
“No! Mom! There’ll be no more hugs! You won’t be able to read any more books!”
“Wait a second. No snuggles? No more hanging out with you and Dad?”
“Ah, then forget it.” I straightened up and turned Beauty over for another coat.
“Mom… And when you’re dead, the birds eat your blood… And you have to hang out in a coffin that’s hard, like Dracula, and there’s not even a blanket.”
“Oh, no way. I’m out. I’m gonna live forever, then.”