Butterflies are often associated with bright rainbows, promises and joy… and though I’m sure they’ve always lived on the luscious land I call home, I didn’t notice any during my husband’s two year bout with Stage IV Mantle Cell Lymphoma.
To his public audience Dan Seals was an accomplished recording artist and stage performer. However, the gentle soul we knew at home was Danny Seals. He was a lover of family, nature’s beauty, truth, silly jokes, comfy t-shirts and non-fiction books. He was protective and warmly attentive to all he loved. Simply put, he was the funniest man I’d ever known and he was mine.
However, as focused and attentive as he was, there was one thing that could never hold his attention for long…television! Often arriving home from the road (dubbed “the re-entry period”), he would adjust to different needs, pace of life and responsibilities, while also establishing what to do with his free time. Brief indecision often caused Danny to channel surf until he was clear on what he’d rather be doing.
Because he knew my fondness for certain PBS programs, he would hunt for them. When he found one, he’d call out, “Honey, old clothes are on.” Historical dramas or black and white movie classics brought me running.
We cherished our time together and apart, with deep understanding of the necessity for each… until cancer.
The challenges of cancer demanded distraction. Television shows became sought after diversions. While scouring the television listings, Danny would settle in for an hour or two of watching a good ol’ fight. It didn’t matter if it was a world championship bout in Vegas or a small preview boxing match. This new passion seemed to empower him no matter who won. As well, fly fishing comforted his soul and provided a momentary sanctuary from the world’s trials and tribulations. But the fights? They gave him the strength to endure.
I was never a fan of the sport, but I was forever a fan of his. So I attempted to watch in support of my beloved cancer patient, but it was only a matter of time before my focus would lag. All the head bashing, body bumping and raging testosterone made me anxious. Sometimes he was so absorbed in the fighter’s fancy footwork, he didn’t realize I had left until the fight was over!
As time, disease and treatments wore on, television took on a larger role and his choices diversified. Where once he only wanted to watch the fights, he then became a viewer of “good news preachers” and newscasters who brought much-needed hope into our house. Immersion in prayer gave him courage. He intentionally prayed for the cells of his body to unite in one common purpose: to heal him.
In this healing journey, we traveled together to three different cities for various experimental and increasingly harsh treatments and each had assorted side affects. As his advocate, I didn’t leave his side until I became sick myself. Thank goodness for loving friends and family when I called for support!
Eventually, Danny’s and my cherished solo moments were replaced with needles and nurses, stitches and itches, problems and pain, as well as questions without answers and dwindling hope. Finally, all of our secret thoughts were supplanted by suffering.
Danny left this realm lovingly released by those he held most dear. I laid on the grassy hills we had walked together and watched the neighbors’ grazing horses outside our bedroom window just like before…but of course, it could never be “just like before.”
The children and grandkids still required hugging and the roses still needed watering. My body went through the motions of presence, but I don’t know where my soul was. One thing was for sure: we two shared the space between here and there, separated only by a gossamer veil, though eventually I needed to pursue my own path…solo.
When I arrived home, the graveled path over the creek greeted me and I tucked my car in its sideways space by the pansies. Inside the door I released my packages into the waiting arms of an antique pressed-back chair. I gathered up multiple balls and a leash while the dog instantly RSVP’d my noisy invitation to walk up the steep hill.
As we emerged through the screen door, I saw my small band of butterflies enthusiastically drinking the succulent serum from the nearby magenta butterfly bush. To my surprise, we all began to ascend the hill together and at regular intervals new butterflies joined our meandering group, all the way to the top of the hill!
Each one brought a sweetness to my soul and all together, they sent a massive message of love from the unseen forces of the universe just for me: In no uncertain terms, I exist to be happy.
By Andrea “Andi” Seals