An angel with butterfly wings

Published 7:19 pm Monday, December 23, 2013

Formally a part of Heather’s bedroom prior to her death is this small, white Christmas tree – complete with butterfly decorations – that her mother moved downstairs this year to grace the dining room of the Wilson home. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Formally a part of Heather’s bedroom prior to her death is this small, white Christmas tree – complete with butterfly decorations – that her mother moved downstairs this year to grace the dining room of the Wilson home. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

AHOSKIE – At the age of 31, Heather Lynne Wilson left this world all too soon on April 2, 2013.

But if you listen to her mother, Pam, or close friends tell their stories, Heather’s soul may be in heaven, but her kind, gentle spirit has found a new home in that of a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

And the butterfly spirit has taken another life of its own in the form of family members, friends and even total strangers….each responding to a simple request Pam posted on FaceBook. As of this past Saturday, Pam has received 77 replies, each with a photo of a decorative butterfly hung on a Christmas tree in memory of Heather.

“I thought I’d get 30 responses at the most, but it kept growing and growing….20, then 30….40…50…60…and now past 70,” Pam marveled. “I’ve got two or three from people I don’t even know. I guess they’re friends of friends on FaceBook.

“I didn’t do this just to see how many would respond; how many butterflies I could get,” she added. “I did it for my Heather. I did it to help me and my family remember the good times, not all those weeks and weeks on end we spent at the hospital in Greenville before she died.”

The meaning behind the butterfly tribute is two-fold. Pam said her daughter – a talented artist and fashion designer whose work is on display throughout the Wilson’s comfortable home on the outskirts of Ahoskie – loved butterflies. The second meaning is one that will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

As is typical within close-knit families and among loyal friends, individuals will visit the graves of loved ones. Heather’s family and friends were no different, but a surprise awaited them.

“About two months after Heather died, one of her close friends, Brandy Kent, was visiting Highland Memorial Gardens (Heather’s burial site) when she saw this beautiful yellow butterfly floating around the grave,” Pam recalled. “Brandy called me and told me about what she had seen, telling me she felt it was Heather’s way of letting her know everything was okay.”

Kent wasn’t the only one to witness the butterfly at the gravesite.

“Soon thereafter, another of Heather’s close friends, Ashley Harmon, saw it; then my sister-in-law Brenda (Cote) saw it, and a couple of other people said they saw it,” Pam noted.

Another butterfly encounter was witnessed by Kent away from the cemetery.

“Brandy told me that she had gotten off of work (in Ahoskie) about a month ago and was stopped at a stop sign when, out of nowhere, this butterfly landed on the windshield wiper blade of her car,” Pam recalled. “She said the butterfly just looked at her. Brandy told me she could feel this sense of peace come over her.”

However, the butterfly would not make itself visible to Pam during her many visits to the cemetery. That changed several months ago when two family members accompanied Pam to the cemetery.

“We were just standing there, chatting and reminiscing, and I was telling them about all the times I had been out there and never seen the butterfly that it seemed everyone else had seen but me,” Pam recalled, the tears filling her eyes. “Then, all of a sudden, my niece said look, and there it was, a beautiful yellow butterfly floating over top of Heather’s headstone. I broke down….I wasn’t sad, it was happiness. Heather was telling me that she’s okay; she’s free of all the pain and suffering. It made my day.”

There was another instance when a butterfly made its presence known to the Wilson family….this time at their home.

“The grandchildren (her son Michael’s three children – Andrew, Ayden, and Micheala) were over and having a good time outside,” Pam remembered. “All of a sudden right there in the middle of the children was a butterfly, just like it wanted to join in on the fun. Heather always loved those children, and they loved her right back. Again, that appearance was Heather’s way of letting us know everything was alright.”

Butterflies are part of this year’s Christmas décor at the Wilson home. The family’s main tree in the home’s spacious living room has butterflies as part of its decorations and a holiday wreath is also adorned with these winged creatures.

“Last Christmas, when Heather was in bad health, we purchased a small, four-foot, white Christmas tree to go in her bedroom,” Pam said. “Heather, being Heather who always loved bright colors, decorated it in pink, purple and yellow. This year I brought that tree downstairs and made it the focal point in our dining room….and of course it’s covered with butterflies.”

It was Heather’s love of butterflies that prompted her mother to make the request on FaceBook.

“All I asked was for those that wanted to, please place a butterfly on their tree in remembrance of Heather, take a photo of it and send it to me,” Pam said.

“This all might sound so strange…all these butterfly stories and me making such a strange request on FaceBook, but when you know deep down inside your heart of things that may appear to be unusual, out of the ordinary, they are things that are the truth,” she continued. “Maybe some will blow all this off as happenstance, but I believe that those butterflies made their appearance for a reason. What all these people are doing by hanging a butterfly on their Christmas tree…..all I can say is what Ashley told me, it makes my heart happy. What I’m doing to keep Heather’s memory alive keeps my heart happy rather than making it ache so badly.”

The biggest lesson learned through this simple request is that people still remember Heather, eight months following her death.

“Christmas will be tough around this house this year, but the response I received, the outpouring of love for our daughter, will make it a bit easier to bear. Thank you to all those who remember, whether or not you placed a butterfly on your tree,” Pam concluded.

It’s been noted that angels have the ability to take on many different shapes and forms. In the afterlife of Heather Wilson, she floats free and easy as a beautiful butterfly.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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