To me, the butterfly will always represent my friend, Jennifer. She passed away from cancer ten years ago and her connection to the butterfly became a symbol for all of us who lost her. When she was sick, about a year before she died, Jenn got a tattoo on her calf of a butterfly with the Chinese symbol for “live” as the body. Jenn wanted to live. She wanted to travel the world and see and do things and then she got sick and it was all lost.
Jenn and I met working at the local movie theatre and became fast friends. Over the next ten years, we went through a lot together. Friends came and went, boyfriends, room-mates. She was always the one first to jump in the lake, climb up a cliff or welcome a new person into the group. She loved Abba, Saturday Night Fever and pretty much anything else from the ’70’s. Jenn was always full of life and eager to try anything new. She was a unique human being and I can say with all certainty, that I have never met, and will probably never meet, another person like her.
In 2001, Jenn talked me into taking the Office Admin. program at Yukon College. Being a high school drop-out, I was looking at a glamourous future in either the food service or retail industries, so school seemed like a good idea. School was a good place for the both of us. It turned out we were good at it, although Jenn, being a high-school graduate and all around smarty, was much better than me. She aced the accounting courses and was a speedy typist. I had to go in for extra help in accounting, of course. Math is still not my strong point, but I did end up getting a certificate as an accounting clerk! Jenn talked me into it, and school changed my life.
About two months before we were done the course, Jenn discovered some weird lumps on her neck. They were around her collarbone area. It was strange, and I thought maybe they were something like a calcium deposit. They turned out to be cancer. After she was diagnosed, we figured it was just a matter of something to get though. She was young and healthy and the cancer she had had a high survival rate.
It turned out that she had probably had the cancer for a year before her diagnosis. She had been itchy and had gone to the doctor repeatedly to find a solution. She was told a variety of things like change your soap, change what materials you are wearing, change your laundry detergent. It turned out that itchiness is a symptom of the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma she had.
After three years of chemo, radiation, sepsis, hair loss and all of it, Jenn let go. I was seven months pregnant with my daughter at the time, and I really think that everyone was keeping how dire things were from me. The day they medevaced her to Edmonton, the last time I talked to her, she told me to take care of my baby. My daughter will be ten this year and I like to think I’ve done a pretty good job. I also like to think she’s got her own guardian angel. Perhaps they even crossed paths, one soul coming in and the other going out.
Jenn really is the reason for why I do some of the things I do. She was always the one to seize the moment, so I feel like I have to do the things that scare me, because she would have told me to suck it up and do it anyway. Like making art and displaying it in a gallery for all to see. Talk about being naked. Or going back to school again, this time to get my Bachelor of Fine Art. Or even this blog. She’s still an inspiration for me, and I know that others who knew her feel the same way. She was like the sister I never had, and even though she’s been gone for over ten years, I still miss her. Today is her birthday and she would have been 38.
So, that is my affiliation with butterflies. I don’t know for sure where Jenn went, but I still feel her sometimes. I got a butterfly tattoo in the same place on my leg that she got hers. It’s like I have a piece of her with me all the time. And every single time I see a butterfly, I know it’s her. And I always make sure to point it out to the kids.