Mrs. Anderson’s class of first graders crowd around the glass cage containing their science project. They have spent the last several weeks witnessing its evolution from caterpillar to chrysalis to graceful, golden Monarch butterfly. And today is the big day to set it free. Mrs. Anderson produces a small shoebox, into which she gently nudges the creature. She then directs the class to line up, and 25 excited youngsters trail behind her to the field just beyond the playground. The children watch with anticipation as she lifts the lid and the butterfly takes wing for the very first time. All eyes are upon it as it rises up into the broad blue sky—where it is immediately snatched right out of the air and eaten by a passing bird. Mrs. Anderson has to quickly switch hats from science teacher to grief counselor for 25 traumatized six and seven-year olds. They have just gotten a crash course in transformation, birth, and death all in one fell swoop, quite literally!
My daughter recalls this story from her own experience, but it could be from anyone’s. These cycles are intrinsic in life and their impact varies depending on one’s point of view. If you are the butterfly, it is a tragedy. For the bird, however, it is sustenance, continued life. In a greater sense, parts of our lives die away and are reborn continually.

I recently met with one of my wedding couples, Raul and Penny, an attractive twenty-something pair. They had come to my office to plan their ceremony, though I noticed that for a couple who were about to be married, they didn’t appear very happy. In fact it looked as if Penny had been crying. She explained that she had just come from her sister’s funeral. Tragically, she had been killed in a car accident and had also left behind a husband and two small children.

“She was my best friend,” Penny said, “I’m not sure how I’ll manage to live without her.” The answer in part was sitting right next to her. Raul squeezed her hand reassuringly, gazing at her through loving and compassionate eyes. I offered Penny my condolences and to reschedule our planning appointment as well as the wedding date, if she would like.

“Thank you, but no,” Penny replied, “Guests are flying in from out of town and already have their airline tickets. Besides, I know my sister would want me to go ahead as planned. Living my life is the best way I can honor hers.” I admired Penny’s wisdom and courage. On the one hand, her world was falling apart, or at least a big part of it had just been destroyed. On the other, the birth of something new, her marriage, was emerging, bringing its own budding possibilities.

For many of us, growth is not without distress. I’ve had clients come to me deep in the throes of crisis, desperately trying to make sense of it all. Earth-shattering events can and do happen in any and all facets of one’s life—a relationship that ends; death of a loved one; losing a job; a major illness; even happy events such as the birth of a child. And suddenly an old way of life is gone forever. Change can be painful and frightening. It can leave us feeling very vulnerable, like a hatching chick, which might be thinking, Oh no, my whole world is falling apart! And yet a chick is not meant to stay in its egg forever. The shell of an old existence has been outgrown, and must make way for growth and change.

I grew up in the Northwest and witnessed Mt. St. Helens blowing her stack in 1980. I remember watching the mountain boil out ash for the better part of that entire day. The images of destruction on TV of rivers of mud were beyond amazing, and afterward, the scene was desolate and colorless, like a lunar landscape. I also recall that in only two week’s time, little green shoots of vegetation were bravely raising their heads through the ash. Rebirth was at hand. It’s a good image to be mindful of. In the midst of any devastation lie the roots of resurrection.

I recently caught a news story where a total of some $30,000 in cash had been found hidden among the moldy plaster and debris of a flood ravaged home in New Orleans. Perhaps even more amazingly, the young volunteer worker who found the money did the right thing in turning it over to authorities. It turns out that the father of the woman who owned the home was a Depression era survivor and highly distrustful of banks. He had evidently hidden the money and not told anyone, carrying the secret of his stash to his grave. It was a miracle gift to his daughter, who is now struggling to rebuild her life.

In no way do I wish to minimize the horrendous losses of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Yet one doesn’t have to look far to find many such inspirational stories; family members that have been reunited after years of estrangement; lost children who have been returned to their grateful parents; kind people who have opened their homes and hearts to strangers in need. This is not just Polyanna-style optimism of always looking for the silver lining. Individually as well as collectively, these stories represent a powerful phenomenon: Among the ruins, the seeds of recovery can always be found. It is good to remember that the next time nature—whether it be Mother Nature or the base nature of man—delivers a cruel and devastating blow. Death of the old ways could be birth of something new and possibly better. While it is necessary and appropriate to grieve our losses, it does not serve anyone to get stuck there. Our focus is best given to the germinating seeds of renewal. One way or the other, growth happens.

Author's Bio: 

Leah Light is a published author, wedding minister and intuitive counselor. She has entertained by giving readings since childhood. Over the years, she has further developed her gifts to help people understand and heal themselves. Those abilities were tested personally, following the sudden death of her husband of 19 years in 1998. Recovery came, in part, through writing of her experiences, spawning two inspirational books: We Are Becoming: Insights & Impressions of a Psychic and Picking Up the Pieces: Becoming a Greater Whole.

For more information about Leah Light, please visit her on the web at: