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By fairstarphotography on October 25, 2011

Little Phoenix, the noble butterfly who defied the odds and learned to live despite serious injuries, died in my hands on the fourth day of her rescue and rebirth from my swimming pool. 

I have no idea how she came to be floating, lifeless in my pool.  I have no idea what she had endured in her life before I found her or what trauma had caused her wounds.  I have no idea how much of her short life cycle she had lived before she was hurt and fell into my pool.  I have no idea how long she lingered in the water, floating on her side, until I found her.  I have no idea how hard she might have struggled to get out of the water until she realized that she couldn’t free herself because her damaged wings could no longer fly, so she waited to die.  But I do know that she has been a powerful inspiration to me.  

I got to share four extraordinary days with Phoenix.  I got to increase her lifespan after her injury by thirty percent.  I got to feed her the sweet nectar that she loved, and watched in quiet awe as she would climb up my fingers and stare at me. Can a butterfly smile?

One day she got her tiny foot stuck to a leaf.  No matter how hard she tried to free it from the leaf’s surface, her foot was stuck fast.  I suspect that while she’d been eating she’d probably dipped her foot in the sticky nectar.  I watched her try to work her foot free, moving it up and down, the leaf moving right along with her.  It was almost comical.  She seemed to pause and turn her head to the side, considering her options.  Finally she swiveled her head around to me, as if to ask, “Can you please help me?” 

Gingerly, I used my fingernail to loosen her tiny foot from the leaf.  I marveled at her bravery and her degree of trust.  As a result of her injuries, she was missing half of one of her back legs, which rendered her jagged stump  useless, so her balance was impossibly lopsided.  When she discovered that one of her good legs was stuck to the leaf, I suspect that she had no idea what to do.  So she looked to me. 

Out of a host of extraordinary interactions, this was by far my favorite moment with her.  It was the moment that she and I transcended that gulf that exists between species so completely different from one other, and we became family. 

On her last day, she sat in my hand by the window, bathed in morning sunshine.  Every so often she would turn her head to look at me.  I wondered what she was thinking.  I wondered if butterflies perceived the passage of time in the same way that we humans do.  I wondered if she was aware that her days were ending here on earth.   I wondered if she could possible comprehend what she meant to me. 

Phoenix was a truly regal butterfly with a valiant spirit and a very strong will to live.  I learned so much from her about loss, tenacity, hope and defying the odds.  She has been a powerful inspiration to me and I cherish every memory I have of her and the four extraordinary days we spent together.   

Phoenix now soars unbounded, free from the earthly constraints of her injuries and loss.  I close my eyes and soar with her.

I wish all of you the same fighting spirit and commitment to living a full and rewarding life, no matter what challenges you may face, in the same way that my little Phoenix demonstrated to me every day. 

We can all still soar, even if we have lost our wings.

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