Butterflies Cannot Be Caged

This week’s beautiful and thought-provoking blog was given to us by Susan Handle Terbay, who I was fortunate to have met in Dayton, OH several years ago.  She has been an inspiration to me and I feel will be one to you when you read her words:

Butterflies cannot be caged, nor should our spirits

Even though we are under the control of old man winter, I search for the signs of spring and with that, all living creatures who bring about the beauty of life.  As I sit at the window and look out upon the cold barren world, I feel caged and long to be free from the confinements of the cold.  I long for the sounds of the robin in the morning and the scampering of squirrels up and down the trees and the fluttering of butterflies atop twirling daisies.

In so doing I’m reminded of a summer when I had a part-time job as wedding co-ordinator for the chapel at the university where I work. At one wedding in particular a young bride wanted to release butterflies from a box at the end of the ceremony. The vision of seeing such delicate winged creatures fly into the sky was quite lovely. However, the young woman found out that most of the butterflies would have been dead within such a confinement and the thought of dead butterflies at her wedding lost its appeal.

This made me think of our own spirits and like butterflies, our spirits should not be boxed or caged because like the butterflies our spirits will surely die.  Then I thought of other aspects of ourselves.  How often do we box our dreams? Do they remain neatly wrapped with ribbons and bows to be opened upon our death? What about love? Do we box that up as well? Keeping it tightly to our chest and not allowing anyone to even approach the possibility of being receptive to it or we being receptive to theirs? And what about all the wisdom and experiences we have faced in this life of ours? Do we box all of that away into a safe corner of our heart – never to be shared – never to be a way of reaching out and helping another woman; another child?  Will everything we have done in life die within the cages we have so diligently built these many years?  Or do we take a chance – do we let our spirits, our thoughts and our love be free to be?  Wow, can we?

The following is from an article I have that was written by Erma Bombeck in the Dayton Daily News dated February 4, 1996; “As a crusty female admiral once said, ‘A ship is safe in port – but that’s not where a ship was meant to be.’  She’s right. It was meant to challenge the elements, ride the high seas and risk being sunk.”

The life expectancy of a butterfly is very short and yet our world is touched and forever changed because of its brief moment on this earth.  So too, our world is touched and forever changed because of our moment in time on this earth.  We must not allow ourselves or others to cage us in.  Let us free our spirits, our dreams, our love and life experiences to find the adventure, the love and the joy of being and to flutter upon the flowers of life; allowing our being to touch and change the world as no one else can.


Susan Handle Terbay is administrative secretary at the University of Dayton in the Department of Social Concern in Campus Ministry.  She is a mother of six children and grandmother of five.   In 1997 she co-authored the book Gifts, (New Horizon Press) a compilation of hospice stories about death and dying from a professional caregiver’s point of view.  For the past 10+ years to the present she writes a column for the website www.catholicmom.com.  She is also featured as chicgrandma at the website www.chicmom.com  In addition to these writings she has published articles in Amazing Grace for Mothers (Ascension Press) and the Marianist Soundings (a publication by the NACMS North American Center for Marianist Studies) and ALIVE magazine published by Society of Mary.  She also has had articles and poems published in the National Catholic Reporter.  Her website www.susanhandle.com features additional stories, poetry and reflections