There I think to live a sedate life rocking a chair in an old folks home and out of the blue stands a tall California-tanned woman beside me hitting me with a wide smile followed by a warm embrace, right in front of a man who was braking up my quiet breakfast of poached eggs on home-made bread and coffee, who now with open mouth follows my unexpected but very welcome warm welcome.
Now, isn't that a glorious way to start a day.
I met the lady who was as she is now, visiting her ill mother a year or more ago in this facility, and from that time on visits her every few months. My visitor excused himself leaving the lady and myself talking about the coming butterfly event of Menno Place and about the wishes going with them on their way to Mexico.
“A wish is not only like a prayer,” she said, “it is a prayer. Do not be wishy washy about it but know what you are wishing for and consider where the wish is addressed to.”
She flashed again that lovely smile.
“OK, if I would release a butterfly in your name with a wish just for you, what would you like that wish to be,” I asked her. She did not wait long with her answer
“I would want that wish to be - that my offspring all would love the Lord,” she said. She colored slightly, so I knew that she meant what she said but had difficulty to say it publicly, which I understood.
Still, I pondered about that one.
How come we feel often uncomfortable talking about our faith more than when we're talking about other personal topics like being overweight for instance. Before I was ready to ask her about that she said
“I'll be around for a couple of days, so we may sea each other again soon.”
However we didn't.
I talked to the young Indo-Canadian woman who supervises my pill intake about wishing
“My wish would be to have a good tan to hide the blue spots on my arms, a tan something like yours,” I said, adding that I was going to hang my arms outside in the sun to obtain that.
“I know better,” she said, “why don't we exchange skin color.” After I swallowed successfully my pills she carried on
“Why is it that we often so desperately want things we know we cannot have?”
“Do you think that a person is allowed to pray for something like that?” I asked. She smiled
“If it would change my skin tone to yours, I would sure go on my knees,” she said.
“Is it so important to you?” I asked. “And if it doesn't work?”
“Have you noticed a difference?”
“Are you telling me that you really did pray about that?”
“People wish for all kinds of things and pray for it as well, but when we approach god formally in prayer we must come to him only for important things. I can live with my own skin, I am not that that desperate, and besides – I am married.”
Tomorrow hundreds of beautiful butterflies are being released from Menno place on their journey to Mexico.
That in itself is a wonder if one considers that such vulnerable insects are going by the tens of thousands worldwide on a journey of that magnitude without maps or parents to lead them to a place not larger than an acre, thousands of miles away, carrying hundreds of wishes.
Today is the day that butterflies are going to be released to start their journey to Mexico.
I feel an urge to join them, it is dark and rainy and if the weather does not change fast to being a little warmer the poor butterflies will perish.
First I attend the annual memorial service at Menno place chapel, in which all patients and residents who passed away in the bygone year are remembered by name and photograph on a large screen.
The chapel where the dignified service is held is filled to capacity, without a sermon, but with appropriate passages out of the bible and suitable poems, alternated by some of the most loved hymns sung solo by a young colored woman who sang them with so much feeling, it filled me with joy one moment and with tears the other.
I remember some I have been close to – Dave, 102, born in Siberia, who at birth was going to be thrown away by the woman assisting his mother because 'he was a weakling who would not live anyways'.
Bernie, 93, a born again Christian who frequently asked a blessing before our lunch, and spend the war years in northern Manitoba as punishment for being a conscientious objector.
Maaike, 87, born in Berlikum, or Beltsum as we called the town, that was only a stone-throw away from where I was born. One year ago near Christmas Maaike and I sang together the angel song Ere zij God in dutch, (glory to god) before a few dozen female university students volunteering at Menno place.
The butterfly release ceremony afterward, was started a few years ago as an additional ceremony, and to me the most important part of this ceremony are the wishes going with the colorful fluttering creatures, the least likely beings to go on such a long and dangerous journey.
What were the wishes of my great grandchildren?
I haven't got the faintest idea, perhaps they didn't have any, but I had.
I wished a happy life for my children steaming into retirement age.
I wished a happy life for my grandchildren who have taken over or soon will.
I wished a happy life for my 13 great grandchildren, 2 girls and 11 boys.
I wished a happy life for a very important friend in Fryslân, including her family, and was helped with that by Dea, the only one who was held by my wife only months before she died.
The release of the butterflies was fun but short as the fluttering creatures were anxious to leave for a warmer destination and I don't blame them.
There is a Native legend about wishes and butterflies that goes like this -
A Native American Legend
If you desire a wish to come true
you must first capture a butterfly
and whisper your wish to it.
The butterfly will carry
your wish to the heavens.
As the butterfly makes no sound
its voice cannot be heard
by anyone but the Great Spirit,
Who will grant your wish
as a reward for setting the
butterfly free to return to Him