There are many ways to memorialize someone you love.
Charlotte wanted to release butterflies at her mother’s service. The minister would give a final blessing, the casket would be lowered and 50 butterflies would flutter around as a final tribute.
It sounded beautiful in theory, but as the professional, I tried to advise against it.
“What about a white bird release?” I asked. “They’re easier to see and are trained to circle the cemetery several times before flying back home.”
“No. It has to be butterflies.”
Here’s the thing when it comes to butterfly releases:
The butterflies normally arrive frozen. In the attached instructions, they need to be thawed (to awaken) about 30 minutes prior to release.
Most funeral directors place the box in the refrigerator to defrost and then take them to graveside. It’s truly a matter of absolute perfect timing to making sure the butterflies have properly thawed.
Most often, this isn’t the case, which is why I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to convince Charlotte to go in another direction.
After she signed our liability waiver form, I ordered the butterflies.
The service was beautiful, the minister offered words of encouragement, and Charlotte’s younger sister sang a beautiful Stevie Wonder medley as the pallbearers gracefully carried the casket to its place of final rest.
The cemetery crew began to lower the casket, and one by one, members of the family approached the descending casket to drop a rose into the space.
It was time to release the butterflies.
I took a deep breath, grabbed the box, and opened it. I shook the box a bit, and nothing came out. Knowing this happened occasionally, I shook the box more vigorously until I saw the butterflies.
I saw the butterflies, and so did everyone else. All 50 of them flopped right out onto the damp grass.
My face was hot, my hands were shaking, and I had the eyes of over 100 grieving people on me waiting for an explanation. It was official, I was panicking.
Then, the laughter started. I don’t know who laughed first, the elderly man in the back row, or one of the children grabbing onto their mother’s dresses.
I’ll never know who started it, but before I knew it, the entire mass of people were in hysterics.
I walked over to Charlotte, to apologize, but when I got to her, she stood and hugged me.
“You tried to warn me, and I didn’t listen. We really needed this laugh. Thank you.”
I suppressed a giggle and just smiled at her.
I still felt bad for the butterflies, and these days, if a family asks me to order them, I just say no.