Monarch Butterfly

This room feels darker than the other ones. More silent and spacious and private. I have wrapped the wire of a paper Monarch butterfly around the smooth tubes of the bedframe at the back of her bed.  A tower of origami pagodas that my youngest son has folded to pass the time, sits at a slight angle upon the corner table. To the right of the bed is a big window with a tree filled urban view. On the window ledge are two watercolour wooded landscapes. If she had her choice, I know my mother would have left this world from a deeper wilderness.

It has been a long summer. We have been travelling an hour away from home two or three evenings a week from the first flowers of the season and a nearby pond with baby swans.  In the beginning there was hope that my mother would recover like the last time. Her confusion fixed by medicating an infection. Some of her memories returned.

I think back a year ago to a day when she wandered out of her newest home and off the property.  Nobody knew where she had gone. Everyone was worried and anxious until she was discovered lying on the lawn of a nearby apartment building.  A supervisor from her seniors complex had phoned my oldest brother and upset him by saying that my mother was "unresponsive". As it turned out she was fine. She had walked away and found a lush patch of grass to lie on because she wanted to connect with nature. Her aging mind and body were not always under control but she knew what felt real and where her heart belonged. She was unresponsive because she just didn't feel like talking.

These past months have taken an emotional toll. This final week is just a dream. My family moves in a tide with daily visits. Each of us on our own schedule occasionally meeting on our way in or out. We try to give her some bit of comfort and are thankful she at least somewhat lucid again. The dementia has run its course and she has fragments of memory and her love to sustain her.  She has stopped eating and only drinks a sip at a time.

There is nothing I can do now. I am helpless and letting go of the person I have the closest connection to in this world. This grief leaves me doing things that only make sense to me. I place a ring in her motionless hand to soak in some of her spirit. I paint my fingernails red because of her love for colour. The paper monarch butterfly that hovers over the foot of her bed represents the free spirit that she is. I take photos of her face knowing these will be my last ever images of her and I whisper to her that it's ok if she is ready to leave.

As we are driving home my son suddenly realizes that he has lost the hat that was given to him in honor of his grandmother. He is so upset that I turn around and head back to the hospital to see if I can find it for him. As we enter the room I see that the rest of my family has already gone. The hat is nowhere to be found. I hug my mother so still and silent in that bed, and then leave again for home. 

Early the next morning she flies away.  Her destination the deep forests and untouched mountains. Watercolour lakes and endless gardens.  No more suffering, just the wings of a butterfly.

Discover Penny Torres' art online at

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