Gabbie told me she was taking a relaxing stroll through her favourite section of a nearby park when a shocking vision stopped her in her tracks. She loved walking along a path that skirted a creek that burbled over rocks jutting up from the creek bed. A moment of dizziness gripped her and when she looked down at herself, she was covered in blood. And the left side her face ached, as if her cheek had been hit with a steel fist. She felt compelled to look at a nearby picnic table under a tree, then gasped. Someone was lying face down on the ground!
The picnic table area was empty. Her anxious feeling lifted.
Gabbie turned around and hurried home. Her husband, in the midst of preparing dinner, noticed her odd expression, put down the salad forks, and asked what was wrong. She told him what had just occurred.
His eyes grew wide. “Oh, my God,” he said. “Do you know what happened in the park yesterday?” She shook her head. “A man and a woman were murdered in the park. I’ve got the newspaper article here; I was going to show it to you later.”
Gabbie hated newspapers because she didn’t like reading bad news, but hearing this story trumped all her anti-newspaper feelings. Her mouth fell open as she read about a couple that had been shot and their bodies were found at a picnic table! The police had no suspects, and couldn’t theorize about a motive. The man had been shot in the back, as if he had been trying to run away, while the woman had been shot in the face—
The newspaper slipped out of her hands. Gabbie began to cry, and her husband enfolded her in a hug.
She was quiet for the rest of the evening and sat in the bedroom, alone with the lights out, while her husband gave her space by staying downstairs watching TV. Gabbie knew nothing about this woman, but she felt a kinship to her, and prayed that the woman’s soul had found peace. She said another prayer for the woman and her companion before going to sleep, and vowed to never walk in the park again. Violence had polluted the area for her.
Gabbie woke up the next morning with a changed mind. She was not going to let an act of brutality change her world. In fact, she was going to draw on Buddhist ideas she’d read, and go to the picnic table in the park to pray for the couple and help cleanse the area.
Thinking one thing and doing that thing is another. Gabbie’s heart began beating heavily as she walked along the creekside path. As she neared the picnic table, the air pressure felt heavy and she wondered if she was doing the right thing. Could the shooter be watching her at this very moment? Maybe it would be best to go back home…
Movement in the corner of her eye froze her. She looked cautiously over her shoulder.
A white butterfly was circling her. It landed on her shoulder and unfolded its wings. All fear drained from Gabbie’s body. The butterfly floated into the air, then circled Gabbie’s head and shoulders, and landed on her other shoulder.
“I felt protected,” Gabbie later told me. “I thanked the butterfly, closed my eyes and said a prayer for the murdered couple, then headed home.”
“Do you still take walks through the park by the bench?” I asked, the pendant around her neck catching the light.
Gabbie thought for a moment. “Not as much as I used to,” she said with a sigh. “I feel protected, yet I also know to be vigilant.”
The pendant, I saw, was a butterfly.
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