It was a typical humid August day in Yadkin County, NC. I had been in my hometown for just a few days with the family for our annual summer trip. On this morning I was sitting outside in the early hours alone, just thinking – a rarity for a normal day. As I savored my last few sips of coffee, I realized I had seen three yellow butterflies close enough to catch.
Reluctantly moving on with my day, I gathered up my gym bag and headed to the local YMCA. While driving there, I spotted yet another butterfly. Why was this significant to me? My book cover designer claimed a single butterfly months before as the visual representation for freedom on the cover of my book, The Attractive Trap. So for me, these colorful and symbolic creatures now rarely go unnoticed.
Once at the gym, I checked the box on my swim then headed to the stationary bike. Within minutes of choosing my ride for the next hour, a companion cyclist made her way to the bike beside of me. Something on HGTV caught our attention at the same time and in unison we commented to each other. This was the beginning of what will be a long remembered conversation.
Velma introduced herself as we continued our talk. Maybe we were chatting to pass the time, or perhaps it was that we both sensed there was something deeper to our new connection. Ultimately we discovered it was the latter. Velma, a spry 72 year old beauty, had recently moved back to the area to be with family. As our talk progressed, the commonality stunned me.
Velma, one of eight children, had left home right after high school to be with someone she had met on a whim in NYC. She put herself through nursing school, worked hard, and was a strong, purposeful woman. In spite of her spunk, and maybe even because of it, Velma had attracted and married a “trapper”.
Velma continued to stay in NYC, knowing all the while she was being abused. But “it wasn’t that often”, and rarely physical. With so many miles between her and her family in NC, she opted to stay, even though her few eventual confidantes encouraged her to leave. For more than 30 years, Velma stayed in the trap. One day, with an earthshattering awakening, Velma broke free. That was seven years ago and now, she was back home in NC, on a bike – the first claim to freedom for all of us.
The sweat started to surface on Velma’s yellow shirt as she rode and talked. From my vantage point, it was as though the tears cried inside of her had been collected all of those years and were now releasing through her skin. Our collision wasn’t a simple coincidence. It was heaven-breathed. I was Velma and Velma was me.
As the sweat continued to cool Velma, I felt it too. Those were my tears and part of my labored course on the path to freedom. Like Velma, I became free and transformed into a butterfly. That was the part of the story that brought smiles to our faces as our encounter came to a joyful close.
Velma was the last butterfly I saw that day, but I’ve continued to see them. And most of them, like freedom, show up in the most unexpected places.