A Contemplative Moment with a Ladybug

May 10 / Mary Hally
My daughter, Ella, recently discovered a solitary ladybug crawling about her bedroom window. She immediately called me in to join her sense of wonder by how this small insect appeared so content and lively during the coldest of the winter season. Ella immediately ran to retrieve a cardboard box from our garage that she would use as a temporary house for Buddy, the ladybug. I was touched by her tender hospitality as she skimmed our fridge to gather juicy grapes and gently retrieved a leaf from a houseplant to provide treats for her special guest. To my surprise, this ladybug was not only a visitor for Ella’s sense of wonder. Buddy also came into my awareness to teach me about a moment of grief as a nurturing mother.

Over the weekend, Ella read facts about ladybugs. She discovered how much they appreciate the sunlight. Yet, they also enjoyed shade. After observing Buddy quite often, Ella concluded that Buddy specifically preferred the sheltering shade within his cardboard box. She also noticed how often Buddy would return to the grapes and droplets of water that her small fingers would drip near Buddy. Ella became so touched by this ladybug that she couldn’t resist sharing the things she had been learning and the joy she felt with visiting friends and those who called by phone throughout the weekend.

By Sunday, Ella decided to move Buddy from her bedroom to our dining room table which sits within the center of our home with lots of light shining through the windows. Throughout the day, Ella would stop by Buddy’s box and see what he seemed to favor at the moment provided through her kindness. To my surprise, I noticed that she kept Buddy on the table, rather than carry him to her bedroom at bedtime.

On Monday morning as we were getting ready to leave for school, Ella noticed Buddy was missing from the box. She immediately expressed through watered eyes and a shaky voice her concern for Buddy to fly out of our home into the winter cold. I assured her in a frustrated rush that Buddy had most likely moved from his box to another area of the house. While hoping Ella would allow herself to move on from her anxious feelings out of the inconvenience it was a school day, we got in the car and drove to school. During our drive to school, I recall a brief conversation about the situation while hoping (again) she would just move on from Buddy’s disappearance. As she got out of the car, she seemed content and capable of being at peace for the time.

Within 30 minutes of dropping her off at school, I received a call from the school nurse about Ella. She had developed a headache during writing class which caused her to visit the school nurse. While speaking with the nurse, I immediately associated the headache to Buddy. I’ll be honest, I was upset! The consistent reoccurring COVID cautions and snow days made me feel like my kids were hardly in school. I had been carrying overwhelming feelings about whether my kids are getting a consistent enough education. Questions have revisited my thoughts including: Are they becoming unambitious? Are they having opportunities to develop life skills that will provide structure for successful, independent lives for survival? Are they being socialized within community enough?

After explaining the Buddy moment with the patient nurse, I then asked to speak to Ella. As I asked her if the headache was connected to the ladybug, she began to cry. I questioned if she could get through the day to stay in school. She said that she could not and that she just wanted to be home. Plus, because she had a headache, I had to pick her up because it was a symptom of COVID and would need clearance from her doctor for her to return to school.

When I arrived at her school, she made her way to the car, while walking with a sad disposition embracing her backpack like a holding comfort. On the way home, she cried as she shared she wasn’t able to say goodbye to Buddy. In the moment, it entered my mind how she was in a moment of grief. The ladybug was a temporary visitor who provided Ella companionship in a tiny form, inviting her into tender hospitality – to contemplate, play with her through her curiosity, and welcome her heart to love. Then, as this visitor departed, Ella’s friendship was replaced with the guest of grief. Grief is defined as deep sorrow, especially that is caused by a death. However, although Buddy just transitioned into another area within the same space, Ella experienced a loss within the feeling of absence.

After we returned home, I laid next to Ella. Her back to me, I extended my hands to embrace her shoulder. I could feel the thin, softness of her 9-year old frame slowly shaking with her soft cry. It then came to me to remind her that Buddy had moved to another place within our home. Ladybugs aren’t designed to be contained within cardboard boxes. She acknowledged this truth and repeated she would just like to see him again. I laid with her for a while within her sadness. The words, “Meet her where she is“ came to me. Along with the poem, The Guest House, by Rumi.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

After reflecting upon this memory paired with Rumi’s wisdom, I recognize my hesitation to have entered into Ella’s state of grieving. My own heart’s discomfort to witness her beautiful willingness to surrender to the freedom to feel so deeply. However, as she continued to display a willingness to meet her invitation, I recognized it was also an invitation for me to be open to the heart of God. To love her through her pain, while surrendering to the voice of the love within myself. However, her cardboard box was “the guesthouse” for a creation of the Divine it also carried a moment to explore the feeling of unexpected sadness.

I look back at this time with Ella and it still triggers some grieving and unsettledness within myself. Knowing this was a moment in Ella’s life that was a taste of the grief she will be encountering throughout her own journey. I continue to contemplate how God is using my role as a mother to heal in infinite ways along my life. I recognize my own moments of grief continue to resurface feelings in times when I join in on the grief with others. It is uncomfortable and even painful. Yet, Rumi continues to remind me, Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

How are you open to the unique invitations to grieve?

How do you respond within such moments?

Are you providing a welcoming guest house to each of your “visitors”?

Mary Hally

Mary Hally is a Spiritual Director who enjoys accompanying individuals of all ages to build an inner confidence of connecting and discovering invitations from God within their days. Her own experiences of encountering the Holy in our midst inform Mary’s gift for helping others to recognize the possibility of divine presence both in beauty and in life’s challenges. To contact Mary, please email her at maryetroy@gmail.com.