Lessons of Compassion From Monarch Butterflies

Nature has it’s own doctrine of Life’s  journey. It’s creatures great and small instinctively fulfill their life’s tasks. They cling close to their mother for safety. Animals respect their parents’ lessons and know their place in this world. Animals mature, find mates, raise their own family and pass down lessons learned. When the time comes for their own young to stretch  their wings and go out into the world, animal parents relinquish the bond as is the way of Nature.

Even beasts that Mankind might not give much conscious thought to make their indelible mark with each generation. The tiny sea life provide important nutrients to the larger animals, the birds and grazing mammals consume seeds that are then distributed elsewhere to spread flowers and trees and beauty everywhere.

And then there are the lowly insects. The beatles and ants are so very important to help break down decomposing matter and help it return to earth. Our bees tirelessly pollenate countless flowers and crops.

And yes, the butterfly. Symbol for transformation, these glorious fluttering stained glass windows seem to be manifested for the sheer sake of beauty and whimsy. So fragile, so exquisite, like diaphanous bits of nature’s finest.

All God’s creatures unquestioning fulfill their place in the grand scheme. Nature, for all it’s beauty, can be harsh and cruel. They don’t question what happens. It just is.

Which is why I find myself helping creatures in distress. I know it’s nature, the Circle of Life. I get that. But still I cannot bear to see any animal, ANY animal, in obvious distress and not feel compelled to do my best to relieve it’s pain and make it feel safe.

So we are back to the butterfly. I have several Milkweed plants in my back yard. Milkweed is a favorite of Monarch Butterflies. I often find 10 to 20 coccoons nestled around my straggly plants. I can usually find at least a few Monarchs flopping and fluttering about most months of the year.

I was coming home from work the other day. It had been a long and hard workday and my arms were heavy with bags of groceries. It’s a good distance from the street to my house and I was straining to get all the bags up in one trip.

I wrestled with my grocery bags, getting them into one hand so I could unlatch the gate. I fumbled with them again as I redistributed them back into both hands. My eyes caught something rippling in the dog’s water bucket. It was a Monarch butterfly. Waterlogged and barely on the surface, it flapped it’s orange wings uselessly. Without a thought, I tossed all my groceries to the ground and scooped up the soggy little insect. How could I have been so careless to leave the water bucket so close to the Milkweed? The butterfly tried to flop it’s wings in my hand. I swear I could almost hear it cough! I gently placed the wet insect on a rose bush and let the sun dry it’s wings.

A few weeks later and once again I come trudging up the walk, my arms heavy with groceries. This time a cold wet drizzle hastened my pace. In my arms, a hand-tied bouquet of fresh flowers for my neighbor. My house had been under renovation for weeks and she had been so kind as to let me use her shower when mine was full of plaster dust and tile. I owed her big time.

The flowers were pale shades of peach and creme. Hyacynths smelled divine but I was in a hurry to get them in water, even in this drizzle. I opened the gate, and once again, a soggy Monarch lay before me. It tumbled and flopped on the sidewalk, at the mercy of the elements. A newly opened chrysalis still clung to a nearby branch. How sad to have come so far and made such a miraculous transformation only to be reborn in the cold rain. Yet this little butterfly would not go quietly into this long goodnight. It was fighting to stay alive.

My arms were full and I was trying so hard to keep the flowers from getting crushed. What to do? Carefully I scooped up the soggy bug and nestled it amongst the flowers while I ran through the rain up the steps and into the house.

I set the flowers, complete with soggy butterfly, on the dining table while I put the groceries away. The Monarch seemed happy to be out of the rain and explored the bouquet.


Don’t ask me why I scooped up a wet butterfly and brought it in out of the rain. I don’t know why except it was all alone in this world and it was struggling. I can only believe if it’s placed in my path it must be for a reason.

I watched this little orange and black critter fumble around the bouquet as I changed out of my wet clothes. I watched as this critter tromped across my flowers. Maybe my maternal instincts kicked in. It must be hungry! I went into the kitchen and mixed up a tiny bowl of sugar water. I dipped my finger in the sugar water and dabbed it over the flower buds. Almost immediately, this little butterfly started lapping up the sugary concoction using it’s proboscis. Soon it was twitching it’s wings and happily warming itself under the desk lamp.

But I needed to give those flowers to my neighbor. I still needed to trim the ends and arrange them in a vase. Mr. Monarch was now very much at home with a sugar filled tummy and warm dry wings and I could hardly put him back outside in the rain, could I?

I carried the bouquet, butterfly and all, into the kitchen. I clipped, arranged, and fussed the flowers all the while Mr. Monarch stayed firmly put on his hyacynth. I raised an eyebrow and pursed my lips.

My neighbor was still at work but I had keys to her back door. I placed the bouquet on her dining table to surprise her when she came home. The butterfly merrily festooned the bouquet as if it was now his job.

A few hours later I heard a knock at the door. “Were those from you?”  “Yes. Is there still a butterfly on them?” I asked. “YES! He’s just sitting there flapping his wings. I had been watching one of the chrysalis on the Milkweed waiting for it to open. I wanted to photograph it opening and I thought I must have missed it. Do you think it’s the same one?”

Sure enough, the chrysalis she had been watching was empty.

Had the Universe conspired to have me save “her” butterfly and place it on a bouquet meant for her? I acted without thinking. I simply saw a tiny being in distress and cradled it in what I thought would be a comforting environment. Was Heaven working in it’s mysterious and wonderful ways? All I know is my neighbor and I winked at each other and the Monarch butterfly is still sitting on her flowers on her dining table.

Nature’s creatures leave this earth so soon after beginning. I realize butterflies are on this earth for mere months and yet this tiny, delicate, exquisite jewel of a creature touched both of us and taught me that compassion is always rewarded.

2 thoughts on “Lessons of Compassion From Monarch Butterflies

  1. Pam Dinkowitz says:

    What a wonderful story….

  2. Linda Bogert says:

    That’s such a beautiful story Kitty, feels wonderful to save them,I have saved many dragonflies, beautiful moths from spiderwebs ,set them free I felt they were a sign of perhaps being tested,as I felt watched !

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