"A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam.
And for a brief moment its glory and beauty
belong to our world
But then it flies on again,
and though we wish it could have stayed,
we feel so lucky to have seen it."
We had such a special night remembering our sweet Owen on his first birthday in Heaven. It was wonderful. What memories are made even in times of grief.
I had wanted to do something special to remember Owen on what I knew would be a difficult day for all of us and had tossed around the idea of doing a balloon release and sky lanterns. I liked both of those, especially the sky lanterns because I had never seen that done before and thought it would be something really cool we could do every year. Unfortunately, the instructions said that it didn't recommend releasing the lanterns within 2 miles of farmland...and well.... that would be a problem around here! I didn't want to be responsible for starting any fires anywhere. THEN, my friend Melissa found the idea of doing a butterfly release. I LOVED this idea! I called the butterfly release company right away to see if there was enough of a notice to get the butterflies here by the 30th. The website noted that they take reservations up to a year in advance for special occassions and at this point we were only about 2 weeks away from Owen's birthday. I wasn't sure it was all going to work out....
But it did! Chad from the the butterfly company called me back and I told him our scenario and what I wanted to order and he said it was no problem. Perfect!! So the deal is that they ship you the butterflies "on ice" basically. They are supposed to be delivered before 10:30am the day before your "event" and then as soon as you get them you replace the ice pack they are shipped with so they stay chilled and dormant. The butterflies came in 2 boxes full of individual envelopes with a butterfly inside each envelope. They did a really nice job and you could have each envelope personalized. We had Owen's name and Job 1:21 printed on the envelopes. Then, about an hour before you want to release the butterflies you take the boxes out of the container and let them slowly warm up.
There was a glitch the day before which had me pretty unsure of how the whole thing was going to work out. The butterflies were delivered 2 hours late! I was freaking out a little bit! They were supposed to be kept chilled and the ice pack was pretty much mush when I got it. The box was cool, but not cold by any means. I replaced the ice pack right away and then just kept praying that all the butterflies would be alive for our release the next day. The Lord is in the details though.... He keeps reminding me of this. I need to trust in Him and not be anxious. I have such struggles with this and yet He patiently shows me this again and again. Owen's service was at 7pm. Around 6 I took the ice packs off the butterflies and took the boxes of envelopes out of the container. I went to check them around 6:30 and heard some crazy scratching noises. YAY! I knew at least one butterfly was alive and waiting to fly!
The service was beautiful. The weather was perfect. Our friends and family gathered around us and we were so thankful. The elders from our church led the service with a fantastic message of remembrance and hope from Charlie, prayer led by Bill and a hymn led by Eric. And then we released the butterflies. It was incredible and wonderful. What a memory for us to hold onto.
In closing this post, I wanted to share what Derek wrote to Charlie when asked to write down some thoughts that we have had over the past year as we have coped with the loss of our son. Following his thoughts I have posted some pics from the memorial service and butterfly release:
"It is in some ways very difficult to communicate what impact Owen's life and death have had upon us. There are some things that just can't quite be put into words. We now experience emotions and a perspective on things that were previously unknown to us. But if we would try to capture in words just a few things that have impacted and changed us with Owen's passing, here are some of our thoughts. Obviously, Owen's death has caused us to experience a measure of deep grief that we had never known before. Certainly we had before experienced times of sadness or disappointment through various circumstances, but all these previous moments were dwarfed in comparison to the day that we beheld our lifeless son. Believe us when we say that holding him has changed who we are forever. That kind of grief does something to a person; maybe we can say that it puts a soft spot in one's heart that wasn't there before. Now that soft spot will be there with us until our lives are over; and Owen's memory can at any moment kindle that soft spot in our hearts and bring back all those emotions that we felt on that day. Interestingly, Owen was named after Derek's favorite Christian author, John Owen, who himself outlived and had to bury all eleven of his own children. And so first of all we've come to know real grief through Owen's life and death.
Secondly, Owen's life and death has brought about a keener sensitivity to the shortness and uncertainty of this present life. When we say, "the uncertainty of this present life," we don't mean that it is uncertain from God's point of view, for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world (Acts 15:18). He has declared the end from the beginning, (Is. 46:10). But rather life is uncertain from our point of view. We truly don't know what God has in store for us each day. Neither one of us had any idea what we were about to find out on Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Losing a child was always just something that happened to other people, so we thought. We didn't know that this would also become our story. And so losing Owen has brought a greater awareness of how the things of this life, and yes even our loved ones, are temporal and can be taken away from us at any moment. While we can certainly find some level of joy and thankfulness in the things we enjoy and in our relationships, it is however now clearer to us how we cannot find our ultimate joy and satisfaction in things and people who can at any moment be removed from us. It is in God and His Son Christ Jesus that we have a most stable and abiding place for our souls to rest.And losing Owen has been an incredible providence used by God to teach us this; God most often afflicts His people to teach them things they might not have learned as they ought otherwise. That's why the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:71, "it is good for me that i have been afflicted; that i might learn thy statues." And so Owen's life and death have been used to teach us something of the shortness and uncertainty of this present life.
Lastly, and bringing together everything that has just been shared, it has been through Owen's life and death that we have come to know more of the peace of God which passes understanding. How can people ever get over the loss of a child? How does grief not turn into despair? Well, we will never get over the loss of Owen. He now has a soft spot in our hearts that we be with us always. But, by the grace of God this grief will not turn into despair. There's something mysterious about Christians being able to both experience grief and peace at the same time, or grief and joy at the same time. We have been taught through the loss of Owen that both of these are real to us. Our grief is real, but our peace and confidence in God's ways towards us are equally real. We may mourn, but our joy is not taken away. This is because although Owen's death has truly affected us, yet there is something else that has effected us greater; and that is the salvation that comes freely in Christ. We have a hope that can't be taken away from us in Christ. He gives both life and joy everlasting. And so we can know the peace of God and the joy we have in Christ while also truly grieving over the loss of our son. What an amazing thing God has worked in our hearts.
In closing, we remember one of the mothers of our good friends coming up to us on Owen's funeral day. She said that she thinks that Owen's death will probably have a much greater impact on us and others than his life would have. She is probably right. And although we would have rejoiced to have him with us, God has seen fit to glorify Himself in a greater way through His loss."
Just when the Caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a Butterfly...