I knew a monarch butterfly – his name was Mitchell, and he left me when I was five years old.
I don’t remember the first time I met Mitchell. Ever since I could remember, he was always there. Mitchell lived down the street and every day we would meet and play. Together we brought a whole different meaning to the expression, “joined at the hip.” As I would later find out, Mitchell and I were inseperable – not even death could tear his soul from my heart.
Mitchell was a sweet, innocent, beautiful young boy wth dark brown hair that fell right over his eyes. His broad smile, which stretched across his face in a perfect arc, could tame the most wild and wicked monster, a kid could ever dream up. A light shined in his eyes that could illuminate and bring warmth to the darkest, deadliest, coldest and loneliest regions of outer space. Reflected in his eyes were all the stars and cosmos of the world – every flicker of hope that lights up the sky at night. He never hesitated to share everything; his toys were your toys. He was a role model for me, even though he was only six years old. It’s funny, but sometimes you can find in little kids the deepest and most inspiring things. Mitchel was one of those kids. He continues to inspire me to this day. I wonder sometimes that, if things do happen for a reason, what was the reason Mitchell died? As I think about it, I realize Mitchell was beyond his years. His influence on the people he met extends so far past the few years he lived. At the tender age of six, cancer took his life away from me, from his family, and from our world. He left an impression so deeply engraved in me that I can see the effectsof his dealth in my life even today, eleven years after his death.
I remember the change. Mitchell was in the hospital and lost all of his hair. My parents told me he was undergoing something called chemotherapy, which meant nothing to me except that his hair was gone now. He was so far away from me, but that never stopped me from seeing him. One day we played in his house, and he had to bring an I.V. with him everywhere he went. I visited him when he was in the hospital. Entering Mitchell’s room was immediate redemption. Somehow when I was with him, I felt comfortable in a hospital, which is hard to do. Mitchell’s personality never changed throughout the course of his disease, even when his entire life was shaped and molded around the sickness.
I remember when I heard the news. I sat with my parents on either side of me. At first there was silence – no one said anything – the three of us just sat there. I was confused. Why were my parents talking to me about Mitchell? Then they said it. The flaming arrow that was the news of his death hit me straight in the heart, and the flames immediately spread themselves over my body. My initial reaction was to scream as loud as I could and pound my fists into the couch as hard as I possibly could. My parents tried to soothe me, but it was of no use. I took off for my room and slammed the door behind me! Still screaming, I ran to my bed and shoved my face into one of my pillows. I don’t know how long I lay there screaming and crying, but I do know I had no idea how I was supposed to feel in a situation like this. I was so confused and so shattered. He was so young, he was my best friend, and he was like my brother.
To be honest, the thought of him dying never even occured to me. I didn’t even know he was in danger. I just thought that he was sick, and he would be better soon. I didn’t associate death with his cancer. When I think back, that is when I developed my fear of death. I know death is so random that it could happen to me at any time. I know life is so short that I have to make the best of it because I never know if I will see the sun again tomorrow.
Mitchell’s favorite color was orange. He always had orange balloons, orange teeshirts and anything else he could find that was orange. After he died, we gradually began to associate him with the monarch butterfly. The life of a butterfly is short but sweet, like Mitchell’s. Although monarchs are only around for a little time, they mature rapidly and become stunningly beautiful. It was obvious to us that Mitchell was somehow still alive in the form of a monarch butterfly. Not only for the bold orange color that distinguishes monarchs, but also for their distinctiveness – a distinctiveness that relates to Mitchell’s unique persona and made him stand out as an individual in our lives. Finally, a butterfly flies free from all the restraints of the world. It’s that aspect of Mitchell, his free spirit, that lives on in the butterfly. Seeing the monarchs is not supposed to make us feel sad, but rather make us feel enlightened. It shows us that Mitchell is flying free across the skies, but is always close to our homes and our hearts.