Aaron Clamage

Depression, butterflies and indelible transformation. We're taking it day by day.
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Photo by Aaron Clamage, clamagephoto.com

It was time to release the butterflies from my daughter’s habitat.

They say the final stage of grief is acceptance. I always seem to forget the stages that come before that, but they don’t really matter anyway. The point is, my life, “as it was,” is over.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with butterflies? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s a metaphor. Maybe it’s a distraction. What I know is that yesterday was a low point for me.

My wife is my rock. It’s not her choice to fill that role, but in our current situation, that’s what she needs to be. And so, she is. She’s the one who has been looking after these little guys anyway. The butterflies.

Our life was good. I made good money. I had a job I loved—my own business. We have kids—one girl, one boy. A house. Even a dog.

Then darkness came. I have friends and family who laugh it off. They think it’s just an attack on this president. “Overblown” they say.

I have other friends who have suffered great losses, far greater than mine. Loved ones have died. So what right do I have to complain that I’ve lost my livelihood?

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Photo by Aaron Clamage, clamagephoto.com

My daughter’s eyes are wide. Will the butterflies escape now? Fly away? No, not just yet. As she laughs, my heart aches.

What were the other stages? There was something about denial. No, this is definitely happening. Anger? Bargaining? Oh, depression. I know that one well. It’s easy to get lost in my own misery, to feel sorry for myself. Too easy.

Wait. He’s at the top of the net now. He’s orange and black, and unremarkable, but somehow still beautiful. My daughter watches closely. Will he fly away? I don’t know why I can’t just move on. Oh right, acceptance. I guess I’m not quite there yet.

I never had much confidence. I never thought I was a great photographer. What I had, though, was pride. Satisfaction. I built this up from nothing. My artistry, good or bad, was mine.

Control! That’s what I had. It’s gone now. And this could go on for days, weeks, months, years. There I go sinking into my depression once again.

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Photo by Aaron Clamage, clamagephoto.com

She’s holding him now, completely unaware of the pain I’m feeling. This one is the special one. His chrysalis fell down. My mom—an elementary school teacher—said he would never make it. She has experience in these matters.

Somehow, though, he was the first to emerge. But then he didn’t move much for two whole days. I suggested making him disappear, for my daughter’s sake. My uncle, who bought her the gift of the butterfly house, said he was a fighter.

A day later I saw him at the top of the habitat. I don’t know how he got there. But he definitely earned his right for a chance to survive.

I wonder what will happen as I struggle to use these cameras that have been gathering dust for months. We place him on a flower, the rest of the butterflies eagerly awaiting their chance to burst into flight.

What’s the point? I think. But my wife, my rock, still puts him there. “Day by day,” she reminds me. That’s what she told me yesterday, too.

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Photo by Aaron Clamage, clamagephoto.com

I remember how much my daughter cried when we told her this butterfly would probably not hatch—and when he did, and his wings were deformed, that he would probably die. We had to be honest, though.

She argued with us. “Maybe he’ll be okay.” For now, anyway, he is. Sitting on that flower.

Maybe I just have to accept that things have changed.

Wait! Here they come. She lights up as the others fly away.

I’m looking at her smile and suddenly nothing else matters. I have to be strong for her…for them. Things are different now. And they probably will be for a long time. But that does not mean life is over.

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Photo by Aaron Clamage, clamagephoto.com


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