Written November 5, 2013
With the cold of winter just around the corner, I find myself reflecting on what could best be described as a pivotal moment in my life. This personally all-important fork-in-the-road started on a summer afternoon just a couple of years ago. I recall it was a day like any other, except for one thing—I just so happened to notice a solitary white butterfly playfully frolicking among the vegetation near my home. While insects of this type are fairly common where I live, what I remember most is pausing because of how uncommonly beautiful this creature was. It’s not an exaggeration to say this singular butterfly had an ethereal quality about it—the way its wings shimmered as it fluttered about. Still, being the perpetually-distracted type, I didn’t give it much thought—at least not until it zigzagged in and out around my head. For the fourth time.
Crazy as it sounds, I sensed the insect was trying to tell me something—but not in the delicate whisper you’d expect from someone with paper-thin wings. This was more of a bull horn approach in the form of a biologically-based dive-bomb. Viscerally, I felt the message was intended as a kind of wake-up call, but in relation to what exactly I wasn’t sure. Perhaps a more appropriate question would’ve been why now?
The answer began to unfold later that same evening. To her credit, my step mom tried to reach me prior to my logging onto Facebook, but even as the devastating news of my dad’s death trickled in through the 21st century’s grapevine, I found myself thinking back to that butterfly–my butterfly. Jarring as it was, in that moment of reading about my father’s passing I somehow knew the butterfly was his way of reaching out to me with an important message. The only question was what was he trying to convey?
What followed is what does for most folks, I suppose—a whirlwind of travel plans, ceremonies, and heart-felt condolences. Not surprisingly, caressing my father’s cold lifeless hand was yet one more reminder of just how few of us live the lives of our dreams, not to mention how distracted many of us become as the years race by. Such had become an all too familiar theme in my own life. To my frustration, as hard as I tried to extricate myself from the frenzied pace and problems typically seen in the early part of the 21st century, I just couldn’t quite escape the feeling of being a rat trapped inside an emotionally-numbing maze.
Over the weeks and months that followed, I was delighted to find my step mother and I had grown much closer. To this day I consider ours to be a meaningful relationship—a precious gift left to both of us by my father. In one of our numerous email exchanges she suggested I contact a high school buddy of my father’s. “He’s a writer—you should have a lot in common,” she informed me. Of course I was hesitant, mainly because I wasn’t sure I was done licking my wounds. Having a father who had a love affair with the bottle tends to have that effect.
It wasn’t long after our conversation that the universe once again tapped me on the shoulder. This time I was working on my first novel when I saw the half-dreaded email message come in. Holding my breath, I read how Ted had been my father’s friend back in high school and how my step mom had invited him to communicate with me. My heart began to pound wildly. Hitting the reply button might result in opening a Pandora’s Box—but to not do so would be nothing short of rude. Still, I knew that by sending a return note, I would likely find myself confronting my father’s teen years. For heaven’s sake, I was still grieving! Did I really want to know what I didn’t already know?
Suddenly I could hear the clinking of ice cubes and the glug-glug-glug of vodka playing like an old faithful rerun in the back of my mind. I’d always assumed my father would die before his time in one of his violent alcohol-induced car wrecks. To my happy surprise he’d survived those horrific years, going on to live an average-length lifespan without killing anyone else in the process. It’s unsettling how those old ghosts haunt us decades later. Even worse is how distracting they can be.
Nervously I replied back to Ted, politely thanking him for reaching out while trying to calculate where all of this was going. To my surprise, after a few more messages I discovered just how incredibly warm, intelligent and funny this man was! I couldn’t ignore the fact that here was yet another unexpected gift…
Ted, known to most of the rest of the world as author T. Emerson May, told me stories about when he and my dad were in their late teens…about cars and girls and cigarettes and about how well-dressed and cordial my father was. Before I knew it, I began to remember snippets of the man he was describing. And that’s when it hit me. I realized we all have those dark parts within us. Each and every one of us is like a two-sided coin—one part light and goodness and the other dark and in need of work. This life lesson was one I would later incorporate into my DARK STAR science fiction/fantasy series. Already, Ted had influenced my writing…without even knowing it!
As our friendship grew, Ted and I talked more and more about the art of writing. To his credit, he answered a number of basic questions while at the same time listening to a lot of whining from me about all of my frustrations and distractions. “Just stick with it,” he’d say as he recalled his own early struggles. We agreed on the enormous challenge of learning how to write dialogue that’s not only interesting, but that moves a story forward. For me it was wonderful to hear directly from someone who had learned these lessons the hard way. Since Ted had gone on to write 23 books, I suddenly had hope that I too might reach this lofty goal one day.
Today, I’m happy to report that through Ted’s gentle brand of encouragement along with my sheer determination, I’m beginning to feel like a real writer now. It seems after years of slogging away at this, the light within me is beginning to find a voice of its own. Additionally, I’m more at peace with the memory of my father—also in large part because of Ted.
It occurs to me that my dad understood what a treasure Ted would become to me, especially at this time in my life. Instead of giving me nightmares, the Pandora’s Box had unexpectedly given me the rare and precious gift of a true friend and mentor. To this day I’m convinced that Ted is one of my Earth angels—a tender guiding force, helping me to become reacquainted with the best parts of myself—parts that had become buried beneath the noise and distractions of life.
Looking back, I don’t believe what happened was coincidence. In fact, from where I’m standing, I’m certain meeting Ted was the product of divine intervention. It may sound funny, but it seems the magic potion for getting me back on track in my own life consisted of an angel, a butterfly, and maybe a little smattering of cosmic dust thrown in for good measure. I believe it was fated that only through a precise combination of people and events, would I be able to get back to where I belonged—firmly planted in the year 2045 and beyond. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not cognizant of Ted’s influence on my work.
Of course all of this began with that one ethereal butterfly. My butterfly—sent by my father as an urgent wake-up call to stop being distracted and start living the life of my dreams.
Message received, Dad. 🙂
Until next time…
Danica Cornell is the author of the forthcoming DARK STAR Science Fiction/Fantasy Series soon to be published by Cool Geek Books. Please visit http://danicacornell.com/books.html to learn more.
To learn more about T. Emerson May, and his diverse collection of books please visit his author’s page.
Fans of science fiction and those interested in remote viewing may especially enjoy reading the following works by T. Emerson May: