She had chronic lymphocytic leukemia the entire time I knew her, but she hardly mentioned it. It was just something that happened in her life, it wasn't her life. And at times it seemed it was kept at bay. She would go through a rough patch and then be in remission for years at a time.
In our family, Cynthia was famous for being the person who always sent birthday and anniversary cards. She never failed. Her ability to get your card to you ON THE ACTUAL DAY was nothing short of uncanny. I would sometimes think she should be in charge of logistics for UPS (or a small country) because she was that good.
In fact, it was a birthday card that was the first indicator to us that something was wrong. We received James' card on the fifteenth of August like clockwork, but Willy's card was a little late for the 30th of August, his birthday. Only two weeks later.
I didn't think anything of it at first. I waited for him to come home from school and then we opened it together. Inside was an inscription from one of Cynthia's friends, saying she was helping Cynthia send her cards because she didn't feel up to it.
That's the kind of person she was. So giving. Still trying to get a card out to a five year old, despite what she was going through.
She died on Sunday, September 16th at the age of 54.
She worked as a microbiologist and called me her fellow "bug girl". She would say, "You like the big ones, and I like the little ones". So, more than anyone else in our family I associate her with insects.
We drove to Maryland on Friday to attend services. After the funeral we went to their house to visit with the family.
Right when I got out of the car I found this.
And of course it made me think of Cynthia. Something beautiful. Something ephemeral. You can see it's not a young butterfly. It's a little worn around the edges. Maybe it had a rough time, but it's no less beautiful.
It's not easy to find an insect that is no longer alive but not already destroyed by other insects. It's typically not long before the ants and other critters come in to haul off any bug in the wild. This is even more true of lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. Their bodies are soft-- not as resilient as a beetle's hard shell for example-- and they just don't make it for long out in the world.
I've only found one other dead-but-not-ruined moth or butterfly in my life. It was a luna moth that I found in the summer of 1992 in North Carolina.
So it seemed even more amazing when my son Willy found this later in the day.
It was in a parking lot off a highway. Not exactly a nature reserve. Not really a place you'd expect to find a butterfly, but there it was.
Again, somehow gone but not destroyed.
I don't know if I can say what this "means", but I know what it means to me.
A reminder of a person who always listened. Really listened.
Who was even-keeled and kind.
Who was giving, thoughtful, and among many many things-- a lifetime of things-- never forgot a birthday.