If I would be able to see the glimmer of light, of golden waves that washed upon the shore at the day’s end. For the years behind I was adrift in the abyss of what I had witnessed. Countless moments. I thought I would never feel the warmth of the sun upon my face. It didn’t seem possible to again know the meaning of life after with those tragedies behind me. The last few years how so many moments would be marked so sacred it can only be defined as holy. The very same ones that would leave the deepest scars that heal slowest.
Through the Storm
Watching two parents that would both have cancer at the same time and how short-lived the victory of remission would go, as sudden as death would come.
I wasn’t ready to tell that story, the one about how my Dad would die suddenly after he had fought it three times and had been the victor. That fated morning at dawn to awaken to the wailing sounds that came out of my mother’s body as she was next to him after his soul had left the world without her. How during the night there was a derecho storm that had come through, the irony of it happening in the hours he would die, as if it took the force of that to take him from this world.
The havoc in the days following until his funeral only seemed fitting. To the moment standing there at watch as they brought his casket out, the fluttering of a butterfly as it swooped down and flew around his casket and around us all. Then after the burial service as it played out in slow motion like watching a movie, he had a military funeral, thirty years of service to his country and to this day the sound of a bugle or the shot of a rifle being fired brings me to my knees. It was at the end of his service, seeing the sea of people that had gathered, all those faces I spoke to earlier as I looked over his body, it all spun as I went to lay over the casket and say a final goodbye. I don’t remember who came to my side to help me leave all I remember is the butterfly came down again and circled in front of me.
The Second Butterfly
There was not time enough for grief to neither heal nor put the pieces of life together again before her cancer would come back and no more could be done. We would cocoon to prepare for her death. It was slow and cruel as it took over her body and then lay to rest in her brain. It was torture upon my soul, watching her slowly fade from us. Months of it taking her little by little. Utterly helpless as if one grief wasn’t already enough after the world had crashed. The darkest days riddled with heaviness of it all seeming so senseless. Rage would rear up and even my faith was questioned. I prayed out because it was all that remained. I pleaded for mercy to be able to give her permission to just let go. To be with her beloved, that beautiful love that had showered life for so many years. When he left her world so much of her was already gone. She had tried to fight to stay but it was too much and the cancer took her over. Till the last fight left her body. Sitting there in the final moments, clinging to her hand and my other hand across her heart as the constant stream of tears poured. Her breathing slowing with long pauses, telling her over and over the last I love you and that it was okay and holding in my own breath as her last one went out.
I stood outside after waiting for them to come for her, the same process, everything exactly the same as his was, just the way she wanted it. Just like he had done a butterfly flew down on the railing it was fluttering all around and I knew then Momma had gotten her wings too.
Finding My Purpose
It is through that very journey my soul finds strength and a way to live again with purpose. It is where life led me, in the midst of those years to belong to a sisterhood of women. A non-profit organization comprised of women, some that had battled their own cancer, and some who had witnessed it and had their own story. Those very women who knew how to put me back together, who were there through a grief and darkness that without their love and support would not be possible to claim this place of resiliency within my soul. They kept me from being an orphan and I serve alongside them to help others. All of us now driven to help others who are the warriors fighting the fight. A united front to help other women who are facing financial struggles while battling cancer.
The mission of Women With Purpose would become the very thing that would allow me to find meaning again. Through boundless faith I find grace next to me in the morning as I awake to another day. Scribble down gratitude and morning thoughts before I embark on a day, with the vow to live with purpose. I feel the presence of my now guardian angels and know how they are watching over me each day. I smile as I gaze at the collection of found feathers that sit at my desk as I write. To the days when I am outside and feel the warmth of the sun as butterflies circle near. I pause to watch the fluttering of wings as I hear the echoes of the words my Dad used to say “life goes on” and Momma giggles “absolutely” and I just whisper back, “yes it does.”
About the Author
Stacey Michelle is an artist and designer. As the owner of Vignettes By SM she works with private clients through design, media content and project management. As a Board Member to Women With Purpose she serves as the Creative Director for this non-profit organization that helps cancer patients with non-medical financial assistance. Her journey while losing both parents to cancer would lead her to finding purpose again through her dedication in serving to honor the memory of her guardian angels. You can follow her on Facebook.