Column: A butterfly marks the flight of a child into adulthood

Ed. — This archived column ran in the Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, print edition.


SANDBRIDGE — It is the end of vacations, seasonal jobs and summer. And, for many families, it is the end of having a child at home full time.

High school seniors may transition to full time jobs or enter the family business. Many seek higher education in the form of trade colleges and formal four-year universities.

As parents, we hope that our children have made the right choice moving forward from high school. We look back on our own choices at age 17 or 18, remembering we felt fearless and ready to see the world. We didn’t worry much then, but, boy, do we worry now about our children.

My youngest child, my only daughter, graduated from high school in Virginia Beach and has chosen to go to school in the west – a university in the state of Utah.

Yes, Utah.

She wants to fly. This university has a great aviation program for future commercial pilots.

At 17, she accomplished something that a small percentage of teenagers are interested in. She got her professional pilot’s license.

She immersed herself in studying the difficult curriculum of learning to pilot a small aircraft and passed a rigorous inflight test by the Federal Aviation Administration.

To say I am proud is an understatement.

But I worry about her. I want her to be happy, and I want her to be safe. I don’t like her being so far from Virginia Beach.

She did not want her father and me to attend in June when she scheduled her test. Pass or fail, she wanted to do this on her own. At the end of the day, I got a phone call from a very happy young lady who had received glowing remarks from her FAA flight instructor. And, at the end of the phone conversation, she told me that something funny had happened.

A butterfly had flown into the plane’s interior before they took off. She didn’t think anymore about it until they landed. Disembarking, she saw the butterfly perched on thetop of the seat in the back. It had been there for the entire ride.

When she reached in to shoo it out of theplane, the butterfly calmly flew out of thewindow.

My daughter proceeded to talk happily, chatting about finally having her license. I listened, but I was fascinated about the butterfly that hitched a plane ride.

I have worked in the funeral and hospice industries. I learned that mourners frequently see butterflies in the cemetery. Some cultures believe that butterflies represent thesouls of those who have passed away. For some, they represent rebirth and transformation as we all move through life’s changes and opportunities.

The unofficial symbol of hospice is the butterfly. I have seen butterflies land on tentsin the cemetery during a service.

Just like the butterfly, my daughter is going through a transition, leaving her childhood behind and finding her way as an adult.

She never knew my father, her grandfather, who passed away before she was born. She did know my brother, her uncle, who passed away when she was fourteen.

I like to believe one of them was perched on the backseat of the plane, watching over her as her skills were tested, though neither particularly liked to fly commercially when they were present on earth.

Now is their chance to be with her as she truly lets go of the earth and seeks her dream of flying with the kind of determination reserved for the young.

I find comfort that this may be a sign they are with my daughter. This image in mymind calms me, and I have worried a little less about her chosen occupation.

Like the butterfly, she will bring a graciousness and beauty to her chosen field. I know she will bring safety and comfort to those she serves.

No matter how far away she is, her family is with her.

And, in whatever she does, she will fly.

Lisa Versprille Burkett manages a magazine for seniors and lives in Sandbridge.

© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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