Butterfly, Spirits and the Waiting

Personally, I had the “luck” to avoid tearful goodbyes. Let’s call it luck, because attending such is truly heartbreaking. I remember when my great-grandmother passed away, I was a little kid living on the other side of the ocean. We received the news, some pictures and that was all. I was too young to grieve and too far to experience the immense sadness of my family members. I could say, that all these years, I have never attended death/funeral from the very beginning. Anyway the procedure of a funeral in Germany is different from Vietnam, obviously.

In many cultures, the butterfly symbolised a transformation, freedom, hope, endurance, change, life and also the soul. In Vietnam, we believe a butterfly can be the soul of the passed loved one or, in a way, has a hidden message. I remember my parents told me a black butterfly on a funeral means the passed person’s soul came back to say goodbye to his/her loved ones. When my God-grandmother passed away, a huge black butterfly came to the funeral and flew several rounds above everyone’s head during dinner and left eventually. We said that was her, because she always took care of our filled stomach, never left anyone to go home hungry.

Someone told me that a huge black butterfly came to the funeral of her husband, and when the family members cried out loud, saying if it were him, he shall stay on his wife’s shoulder, which the butterfly did. The butterfly stayed till the ceremony was over, followed the members home and left after 3 days.

This year… as good as the year started, as painful it also began for some people I love. When my grandmother suddenly fell and broke her leg, we were all worried, but since the doctor said everything is OK and she just need to rest, no one thought much about the situation. The next day a yellow-gray butterfly came into our house when we were eating and suddenly land on the floor. I was afraid our dog would play with the butterfly so I carefully observed it. I saw how the butterfly slowly put its wings together and died, I knew it died because it lied down really long and when I checked.. it didn’t move anymore. I was slightly afraid and asked my parents what to do. My mum got the chills and went to buy some fruits to pray, as it was the 2nd of the month based on the moon calendar. We didn’t think much and were burning incense and praying just in case of a bad omen. I remember how my dad got worried the next day when my aunt called in saying my grandmother’s health suddenly got worse. To shorten the story: in between 3 days, she went comatose. My dad flew immediately the next day, whilst all other members followed the day after. We all bought a one way ticket, not knowing what to expect and when to be able to come back home…

All these years I have never waited almost the whole day, knowing the person might leave this world any minute. It is a horrible feeling not knowing when the death will come, but then again it also provide enough opportunity to prepare oneself mentally for the worst, especially because we have three doctors in the family, who could pretty much predict the situation. No one was to leave her alone.. at least one person has to sit and observe her breathing and the infusion dropping. When all visitors left around 9-10ish, some of us could switch to rest a bit. My mum told my dad to stay and carefully observe her breathing as she doubted my grandmother could actually last the night. And she was right.

23:44:38 // 04.03.2017 // 07.02.2017 moon calendar – year of the rooster


p style=”text-align:justify;”>It was for her a quick leave. She barely felt pain. The ones in pain are the ones staying behind:
the ones waiting for 2 days just to see her condition getting worse minute by minute
the ones who covered all mirrors to avoid her spirit being captured
the one who cut down the trees during the day to free space for tents and the funeral, just in case
who called and ordered food
who invited the monks and shaman
who has to buy and prepare everything in advance, so that we have everything ready for the moment no one of us wished to come so soon.

She was healthy, she was fit.. she did not remember much, but her physique was one of the best for someone who lived 88 years.

Now the ceremony is continuing, my parents and uncles have not slept for 2 days and won’t until we have escort her to her final destination in the world of the livings: her body back to earth and her soul back to heaven.


p style=”text-align:justify;”>May her sins be forgiven
May her good deed be remembered
May her soul be freed
May she be longed a long time
May she rest in peace

Na Mô A Di Đà Phật


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