human condition 021019 (toned)

Before my husband, Rodney Gatzman, died in August 2001, he was a patient of Hospice of Baton Rouge. After he died, I became a member of a wonderful grief group at Hospice, and Esther Sachse was the coordinator of our group.

Esther told us there are always signs that our deceased loved ones are near, but not everyone reads them. Well, Esther, this is to let you know that I read the signs.

My sign is a little yellow butterfly that shows up whenever two or more of my family and I attend an outdoor event.

In October 2001, my granddaughter was married at Stage One. The wedding was held outside in a gazebo. At one point, I glanced away from the wedding and saw a little yellow butterfly land on a flower in the water feature. In my heart I said, "Glad you could make it Rodney." I turned back to the gazebo and later looked back toward the butterfly. The little butterfly was flying off, but he had another little butterfly with him. In my heart I said, "But you didn't have to bring a date!" Guess I needed to lighten the moment. At the reception, I told my children about the butterfly. They told me "Mom, that wasn't a date, that was Old Maw Maw (my mother)."

The second time the little yellow butterfly appeared was at Paris Island, South Carolina, where a large group of us went to see my grandson, Cruise Gatzman, graduate from Marine Boot Camp. After the ceremony, we were all standing in a circle on the parade ground when the little yellow butterfly appeared, flew through the circle and flew about 6 inches from my face.

My daughter, Kim Bondy, and I went to Seattle, Washington, in July to see her daughter and my granddaughter, Audrey Roussel, in the National Special Olympics. Guess who showed up? The little yellow butterfly. Audrey won two gold medals and one silver medal in bowling. At the first of three award ceremonies held on the baseball field of the University of Washington, the little yellow butterfly flew by in front of us. It was the only butterfly we saw. There were lots of birds but only the one little yellow butterfly, so I knew Rodney had made it to the Special Olympics.

This summer, a group of us were together on Lake Lanier in Georgia on a friend's boat. The rest of the family was in the water, and I was on the boat anchored in the middle of Lake Lanier when the little yellow butterfly flew right in front of me. It was the only butterfly we saw the whole time we were there on the lake.

Esther, I want you to know: "Yes, I believe that there are signs that Rodney is near, and I read them!"

— Gatzman lives in Baton Rouge

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