The Dragonfly is known to have 3 life stages. First, Dragonfly eggs are deposited directly onto aquatic plants or dropped into the water. Dragonflies begin life as a nymph living underwater. This nymphal stage can last for as long as four years for some species. Many species overwinter as nymphs in ponds and marshes and emerge in the spring as adults. When the nymph is completely grown and ready to become a dragonfly it will crawl up the stem of a water plant and emerge out of the water. The nymph is now ready to change from an underwater insect into an aerial one! The adult dragonfly emerges from the skin of the nymph. After emerging from skin, the dragonfly body and wings grow rapidly as it pumps fluids into to them. From this point on, the Dragonfly will spend the rest of its life flying in the air.
I spent the afternoon with another chaplain at the hospital. I really appreciated the opportunity to once again observe how these men minister to people who find themselves in some of the most difficult and vulnerable circumstances. I continue to be impressed with how well they listen, how gentle they love and how meaningful their compassion is to all the people they visit.
On this particular day, we spent some time on the pediatric floor. The chaplain had a unique way that he comforted these young patients...origami. One of his favorites creations was the dragonfly and as he would construct this flying insect out of paper, he would educate the patient about the life cycle of a dragonfly and then tell this story:
One day, a water bug was swimming in the water with his friends when he noticed someone was missing. Yet, this was not the first time something like this had happened. Over time, many of the friends they had swam around the pond with suddenly disappeared.
"Where do you think they have gone?", one water bug asked.
"I don't know", came the reply.
"Then we must make a pact", said the first water bug. "If one of us ever finds out, we must come back and tell the others."
"Yes we must", they all agreed.
And then one day, one of the water bugs decided to crawl up a tall plant extending high above the water. And when he reached the top he realized something had changed. He had shed his water bug skin and beautiful wings had emerged. He began to fly high into the air and the feeling was wonderfully more than he had ever imagined...and then he remembered.
"I must go and tell my friends. Now I know and so must they."
Yet as he descended upon the water, he realized he could not go back. He would bounce off the top of the water. Now that he had wings, he could not descend beneath the surface. He watched his friends as flew in the air and realized, "They will join me soon enough. And they will be so glad when they do."
The chaplain would tell this story as he made the insect out of paper. If someone had lost a loved one, he would relate this story to heaven and the promise of God for those who trust Him. If a child was frightened, he would encourage them with the promise that things will get better. It was a wonderful tool that he would use to communicate a most important message in a most gentle way.
Another lesson learned from the chaplains.