When Teri's mom, Helen, died of leukemia in 2003, it was an extremely difficult time. Among other things, Teri adopted the swallowtail, Oregon's state butterfly, as a symbol of her mom still being around and watching over things. It was reassuring to see these graceful butterflies and know deep in her heart that her mom was nearby and proud of what she was accomplishing.
Since meeting Teri, I, too, have adopted the swallowtail and seek out Helen's blessings. Swallowtails, like Santa Claus, seem to know when I've been good or bad. Now when I go for a lunchtime walk at work, or on one of my four times a week aerobic bike rides, I sometimes see swallowtails and think of Helen giving a thumb's-up or a blessing for that activity. The graceful swallowtails never seem to appear when I am eating ice cream right out of the container, or downing a whole order of starchy, salty fries. The swallowtails never appear when I am munching an apple fritter or contemplating mayhem on another driver who has cut me off in traffic.
Now when I go out for an aerobic bike ride, or when Teri and I go for walks or bike rides together, we keep an eye peeled for a swallowtail flitting from flower to flower or tree to tree. They are magnificent fliers. As Teri does, they love color. They love darting to and fro on the summer breezes.
And when I hold a door open for a stranger, or say hello just because, and a butterfly cruises past right there and then, I think of Helen and feel she is blessing our relationship. She is telling me "Well done, young man," and "Take good care of my Teri." The swallowtail is just one more element that makes our relationship stronger.