March 17-23, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 10
On God’s Wings
By Father Michael Bassano,MM/ SUN contributing writer
THAILAND — Some experiences in our lives are difficult to explain or put adequately into words.
Last year I wrote to you about a young man named Pisanu who was at our Aids hospice in Lopburi at Wat Phiabaat Nampu Temple.
He died recently from HIV/Aids the week I was away on retreat. Pisanu always dreamed of one day walking again to enjoy all of creation, especially the birds and flowers. I was saddened by his death, that I could not be there in person during those last moments of his life. I was even angry with myself for going on retreat knowing that Pisanu was not feeling well. But something was to happen to reassure me that we had been in communion all along.
While walking up a hill enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, I saw two butterflies coming toward me. One flew around me and landed on a nearby tree branch. The other had beautiful yellow, red and blue colors and landed right in front of me, completely still, on another branch. I drew closer and had the strange feeling that Pisanu was trying to communicate with me.
I felt the presence of Pisanu in this beautifully still butterfly before me. Then I told him how sorry I was for not being at his side when he died. I felt deep within that he was alive in a new way and freed of HIV/Aids, and I said, “Not only can you walk, but now you can fly!” I laughed and smiled as the butterfly remained peacefully still. Then, feeling that it was time to say goodbye to each other and move on, I began walking down the path waving goodbye. When I looked back to see if the butterfly was still there, it had flown away. We had made our peace with each other and Pisanu was continuing his life in a new way.
The terrible disaster of the tsunami earthquake affected not only the people of Thailand but people in 11 other countries as well. It touched us all. We were saddened by the deaths of more than 280,000 people, with millions left homeless and so many children orphaned.
Yet in the midst of such tragedy, new life emerges. Generous people and nations around the world responded, though much work still needs to be done. In Thailand, a nine-month-old child found floating on a mattress on one of the beaches in Phuket was rescued alive. In Indonesia, the Coast Guard found Rihaz Shakputra, a 23 year-old-man, alive after hanging on a tree branch for eight days in the ocean. Then there was Tilly, a 12-year-old girl from England, who, months before coming to vacation in Thailand, had studied about tsunamis in her school. When she saw the ocean recede, she knew what was happening and told her mother. They warned the people on the beach to run quickly for safety. As a result, hundreds of lives were saved, and she was called the “angel of the beach.”
Whether it be angels or butterflies, there are mysterious events in our lives that we have yet to comprehend fully. Easter is a celebration of a great mystery. It is the story of God compassionately enhancing our human suffering in Jesus, transforming all tragedy and death into the hope of new life that continues forever. It is a call to communion, believing that in each of us there is a butterfly rising, whispering deep within that we are all connected to each other and are one in the living God.