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Thirty-four. That’s the number of monarchs I raised and released last year. 

As I drove home through a fog-laden dawn, with only our three girls and the soft glow of a slivered moon after dropping my husband off for surgery, tears began to fall; warming my face, reminding me that I still feel, no matter how much I harden my exterior. 

Fear has a way of seeping through the cracks sometimes, so I use it, turning it into a lesson I can manage, but sometimes, sometimes the fear is just there, resting on my heart and running down my face. 

The voice over the radio weaved its way into the air, the monarchs have arrived in Mexico to overwinter and their numbers are up 144% this year, and I sobbed. 

I began my garden two years ago, with nothing but tears, a shovel, and a baby on my back...moving soil to heal my broken heart from a child we’d lost along the way. My garden, it saved me. 

The monarchs started off as just two little caterpillars that I happened upon one day, one male, and one female turns out. In the following months those two butterflies turned into Thirty-four eggs, I hatched and cared for them without fail, even during the worst of my husband's illness. Those were the days where my husband barely knew me, the days where I was more lost than I ever thought a person could be. The caterpillars turned into a chrysalis in the days right after his first two major seizures, and a part of me felt so silly continuing to tend to thirty-four hungry caterpillars as our entire world was falling apart, but I did. Two weeks later the butterflies began to emerge, I would sit and watch with mixed emotions as they would, one by one, enter this world again, changed, beautiful and shining; each emergence as touching as the last. I started sitting my husband outside in a chair every day so he could watch them emerge too, sometimes he would fall asleep, but sometimes he would stay awake and marvel with me at these stunning little creatures, each butterfly brought with them the only moments of joy we could see at the time outside of our children. 

Thirty-four monarchs, 

Thirty-four moments of joy, 

Thirty-four promises, 

Thirty-four beginnings, 

...and then it came to me, my husband is thirty-four too, what a beautiful coincidence. 

The sky began to warm with spirit of the morning as I drove the rest of winding road home, quiet and alone I smiled, through the tears and the pain and the uncertainty, I smiled, they had made it, my monarchs.

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04 November, 2019

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