Tonight, I walked past a butterfly, dead on the busy sidewalk.
I wanted to stop and draw chalk around it’s yellow and black wings spread open, tattered and dull. I wanted to bring out caution cones and crime scene tape to detour the distracted commuters. I wanted to stop the nearby busses, opening and closing doors, moving passengers between work and home. I wanted to question witnesses, find security footage, rewind the day to discover if the butterfly’s last moments were filled with dread as feet stepped closer and closer or if it died in a sudden flash of sun reflecting off the windshield of a nearby bus. What was the last flower it visited? Where was it headed? Are there friends waiting?
I didn’t do any of these things. I just kept walking, my arms full carrying groceries and my mind already racing ahead to what I would eat for dinner. Instead, I let it’s frail body disappear behind me without even a prayer.
If I had stopped would anyone pause with me?
Would we create a tiny gurney out of old business cards, perhaps folding in the edges to create a box? Maybe we would form a procession as we turned the corner to find a quiet side garden. Maybe we’d create a funeral pyre out of some twigs, sending the butterfly’s ashes to Valhalla.
I’d want to say a few words, but what could we say for something we didn’t even know existed five minutes ago.