Five years ago I visited the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver, Colorado with my (now) ex-husband, my Dad, brother, and our twins, Wyatt & Olivia. This family excursion took place during one of our trips to Denver so Olivia could continue treatment for her second bout with brain cancer.
I didn’t know it then but that day is now one of my most important and beautiful memories. It is the last day I can remember Olivia doing really well before her health tanked and we lost her just two short months later.
On that day, Olivia held my hands and we walked around the butterfly garden for hours. My precious girl who was never able to take steps on her own or even crawl, was able on that day to be a normal little kid. She stared at those butterflies, in awe at their beauty and ability to fly around her. She giggled as they flew past her face and landed on her arms.
It was such a beautiful day.
But after losing Olivia that place had become another piece of my heartbreak. I honestly thought I would never be able to go back. I knew I would see her everywhere and just the thought of doing it again withour her was too much.
Then two weeks ago our family took a trip to Denver to watch my younger brother graduate from college. We ended up renting a house just a mile away from the Butterfly Pavilion. During a trip to the grocery store with my fiancee we suddently came face to face with the Butterfly Pavilion. Immediately my heart sank and tears flooded my eyes.
I started telling Wayne about that beautiful day with Olivia. He asked if we should take the boys there that weekend. And for the first time that which seemed so impossible wasn’t anymore. And before I could think it through any further I said okay.
Then two days later we walked hand in hand through the front doors of the Butterfly Pavilion with my two little boys, my parents, and my brother in tow. And what I thought would be really sad experience ended up being filled with such joy! I did see Olivia everywhere, but when I did it brought a smile to my face. And that smile was only made brighter as I watched my little boys love each moment.
Butterflies have always been such a big piece of Olivia’s story and in my love for her since she passed. It’s only fitting that a visit to the Butterfly Pavilion would be such a healing experience.
As they say, perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.
And this life, grief and all, is beautiful.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research in memory of Olivia Caldwell, who passed away at 20 months old in October 2013 after a 16 month battle with brain cancer. To date we have given $225,000 to pediatric cancer research. To learn more about Olivia’s story or to donate please visit www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.