An allegory expressing the sadness of a brother’s death where dad becomes the caretaker, and his children, priceless masterpieces of God.
I often express my feelings about things I can’t control through poetry. When I couldn’t control my father’s response to my brother’s death, I wrote.
My dad – on the outside – appeared functional, though I knew that was a front and I don’t begrudge him for it at all.
After all, I’m the queen of silver linings, an easy going attitude, and faking it ’til you make it. I apparently get that from him and in most cases it’s helped more than it hurt.
The difference between us in this situation is my brother died, not my child. I don’t know nor do I ever wish to know that type of pain.
I understood that when he said he had to get healthy to finish raising my sister, in his heart of hearts he meant it. All the while he was digging his own emotional grave, even as he promised me he’d stop drinking and take better care of himself. Because I was still around too even if our relationship was complex.
Me and my dad
In the moment he made those promises, he meant them, and then the heartbreak would creep in.
He died days after my sister’s high school graduation, and just nine days before my 32nd birthday.
He had a massive heart attack. Turns out, you can die from a broken heart.
This is a poem about the ultimate heartbreak, being the ones left behind, and finding the faith to just keeping hanging on.
God’s the artist and three masterpieces he gave you.
The first one to teach you to love things you’ll never change.
Forever was she stuck in her frame.
Like a butterfly her torn wings in amber, her beauty so strikingly painful you had to look away.
She never hated you, instead always tried to rearrange in your gaze.
The second, so different than the first.
He was vibrant and active, unable to keep himself still on the canvas he drew every eye in the gallery.
His blue eyes, they burn holes through the wall opposite him, he was joy and confusion everything you wanted all in one space.
When you looked away for a second one day, he fell from the wall and broke his frame
Never to return he broke you too
The third was your beauty unlike any other.
She was quiet and still, never making waves, for one is trapped and one left.
The oldest of the works tells her to move and make her own place.
She thinks, the amber makes the butterfly crazy.
So she never leaves the caretaker’s sight.
She’ll move when the caretaker closes the door behind him.
Sometimes the caretaker talks to his paintings.
He tells the ambered butterfly. “If lean on these poisoned crutches any longer they say I’ll wither and die away
“So put the crutches down and stand up straight.”
He turns away because, as always, too much truth lies within the sticky words. She stays in only one place, what does she know, and why does it hurt so deep to love something unchanged.
He turns his head toward the angel to watch the colors in her wings change.
The angel she flies to the edges of her frame and back.
It serves to distract him for a while anyway.
He bargains and bids with the creator to get the blue-eyed boy back.
“But God I did not return the masterpiece to you.”
“You misunderstand, you are a caretaker, they’re yours to marvel at and love but they’re not yours to keep. All things return to my gallery among the stars, one day your angel and your butterfly too.”
“That isn’t fair!”
“They’re my creations just the same as you.”
“That doesn’t help me. The boy is gone.”
He is not gone, merely no longer hangs upon the earthly wall.”
What am I to do with that?”
“Make a choice. Stay and admire the graceful angel, stay and wonder at the butterfly’s delicate strength.
“Or fall. Crutches are crutches, not meant to hold one up forever.”
He falls. Gone forever.
“What now says the angel to the butterfly?”
“We wait. We will have more admirers and caretakers too.”
“But I liked that one best.”
“Me too.” Said the butterfly. His laugh sounds like the rain my wings shall never touch.”
“His smile like the sun.” the angel agrees. “He was so much like the blue-eyed boy.” Angel continues on.
“We miss him too didn’t the cartaker know? Angel asked.
“He must’ve. He hung between us all these years brightening up the place.” Butterfly answers.
“We shall hang here ’til God places us in his gallery.” The angel says with certainty only an angel knows.
“You can borrow my strength if I can borrow some grace. For I’m running low.” Butterfly admits.
“Sure. We’re a collection, what else is that for.”
“We’re a pair, the boy made us a collection.” Butterfly reminds.
“Yes well, it’s a fine pairing we make.”
“I’ll hang next you in the heavenly gallery, if the creator lets us pick our perch.” Butterfly replies
The walls are silent. That’s fine by the butterfly and the angel. If it’s quiet enough they can hear God’s grace
I chose this piece because, not everyone can survive grief and find connections like I did with best friend Aubri [see my earlier piece called What Is A Friend? (or; Quality BFF)]. I survive my sorrow through the choices I make, refusing to dig that grave, because I mean something to somebody. I survive through the connections I make, I survive for the siblings I have left, I survive for my mom and grandmother.
If you are in crisis and need help here’s a site with a ton of helpful resources for those living in the US.
Open Counselling – free telephone counseling hotlines