By Qin Sun Stubis
In the days of deep orange tiger lily blossoms this May, a life was silently taken, suddenly, tragically, in the midst of its full flowering. A life that was so important to me and a part of me. No complaints of sickness, no sign that it was fluttering down like an autumn leaf toward the ground. My younger sister, a beautiful woman, Min Sun Bamfield.
I was completely shattered by the news, trembling, my brain numb as if it no longer understood the logic of this world. Pain went through me as if I had been stabbed. A shock hit me every time I thought about her and how she was gone.
To make this more tragic, I had invited our older sister, Ping, to visit me from China. It was her first trip to America and we were about to fly to Ohio for a big reunion. For various complicated reasons, I hadn’t seen Min for 11 years and was looking forward to the trip.
Now, instead of a reunion, my husband Mark drove us 700 miles to attend a wake and memorial to say goodbye, knowing we could never set our eyes on her ever again. Our dearest Min.
We returned to Maryland on a very late Thursday night. Ping and I spent much of the next two days at home, mourning. That Sunday, Mark coaxed us out for a walk in a state park. We soon turned the car around for fear of bad weather, went home for some tennis rackets and headed to a local park instead.
We were out for an hour. I was still in the car when I heard Mark calling, “Qin, come! You have a visitor!” Who could it be? I dashed to the front door. Seeing no stranger at all, I looked up at him.
“Look, a visitor,” Mark said, pointing at a creature I had failed to notice. It was a butterfly sitting in front of our doormat. With its wings folded upward, it mingled almost unnoticed with a few brown leaves. Then it started to open and close its wings, revealing its true colors of deep orange dotted with black spots. It had a swallow tail and two long antennas. It was beautiful.
I looked up at Mark. “It was here when I came to get the tennis rackets,” he said. “Sitting in the same spot.” By then, the butterfly was airborne. It spiraled around Ping from her neck to her feet before it began to wrap itself around me, as if embracing us.
Min was born on the night of the harvest moon. Her favorite colors were bright orange and golden yellow. Is she here for the farewell embrace we didn’t get in Ohio? I felt overwhelmed.
Twenty minutes later, Ping opened the front door to find the butterfly sitting in the same spot again looking at her. Another 30 minutes later, I opened the door again to see the same sight. This miraculous butterfly had spent over two hours in front of our house!
When it finally left, we dashed toward the computer in search of its name and origin, for it was a butterfly none of us had seen before. Our quest eventually led us to the Ohio History Connection website where it was revealed to be a “Question Mark,” a very thought-provoking name indeed.
Am I humanizing this very mysterious, fluttering creature which just happened to have appeared at the right place at the right time? Or was I experiencing an enchanting moment in life? Now, every time I stand at my doorway, I think about this butterfly, and then I think about Min.
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