Author Archives: Susan Butterworth

rainbows and loss, Uncategorized

A tribute to David and rainbows…..

Rainbows remind me of my late husband David and his love of seeing them. Since today marks the 18th anniversary of his death, I wanted to share this picture of David making the shaka sign under this rainbow in Maui. Given our world’s pandemic of Covid, the symbolism captured in this snapshot restores my hope for today and our days ahead.

I knew I had saved this picture, but it took me quite a while to find it. I started rummaging through the attic boxes, and as I sifted through our hidden treasures it was like watching a movie of our family over the years before and after David’s death. I found everything from baby clothes, Star Wars toys, VHS tapes of Disney Movies, boxes of pictures, and then I happened to come across a Muppets CD with Kermit the Frog on the cover.

To my surprise, the Rainbow Connection song was the second song on the CD. I have been playing the Rainbow Connection song over and over again and sometimes crying as the lyrics of the song really get to me. The words written by Paul Williams and Kenny Asher that touch my heart most are “and someone believes it.”  To me this line means believing in the powers beyond the science of the magic of rainbows.  It means making a connection from the distance under the rainbow to over the rainbow.  Rainbows often show up when I need a lift in my spirit.

 Finally, I found this snapshot of David under the rainbow last night at the bottom of the last box of pictures in an album from our past.  The way David was waving his right hand with the shaka sign in this picture has a greater message for me this year. Seeing his optimism after the rains while visiting Hawaii helped me realize that everything is alright no matter what! Even in times of unspeakable losses around the world, I believe in vision of rainbows! Thank you David for always showing me that everything is alright!

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Happy heart story, heart warming story, It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, twin story, Uncategorized

Happy Heart Story

I’d like to share a happy heart story to brighten the day. Two years ago, I moved to a new neighborhood within Richmond closer to the James River. This is a great place to call home, and I totally identify with Mister Rodgers in his well-known tune of “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” I love hiking by the river, admiring the sunsets near the Nichol Bridge, visiting Maymont Park, watching trains carrying passengers up and down the tracks behind my home, riding my bike to the Farmer’s Market, but most of all I love my neighbors.

A young family of four children under the age of 5 including four month old twin girls lives very nearby. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived close to a young family. It’s also my first time of knowing twins since birth. Children bring so much joy into our lives, and twin babies are just adorable! I’m learning new facts about twins with each visit. Every time I see their little faces I find myself smiling inside and out!

Recently, I asked the parents how the twins were sleeping. Their dad told me that they had been sleeping through the night in their… crib… for a while.  I was shocked that they slept together in one crib. They described how they placed one of the twins at the footboard and the other one at the headboard at bedtime. Then in the mornings, they find the two of them together snuggling and often holding hands. That just made my heart melt. I thought about the two babies rolling towards one another to hold hands and feel the warmth of the other.

This bond between twins is exceptional. This need to connect with others is innate in all of us. Babies just seem to do this naturally. Reaching out to others with kindness, grace, and love is a gift meant to be shared. I am so grateful for my neighbors. The image of the twins embracing makes for a happy heart story to brighten the day. As Mister Rodger’s said, “So let’s make the most of this beautiful day.”

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Grief, Love over hate!, Making our neighborhoods safer., Uncategorized

Love Attracts Love is more than words on a shirt!

I wore my love attracts love shirt on Monday to work out in.  I hadn’t heard the heart-breaking story that was featured in the news earlier that morning. A senseless tragedy took place at Carter Jones Park during a community picnic on Sunday evening around 7:25 p.m. A lovely summer day ended with two children suffering gunshot wounds after someone fired 24 times from somewhere near the basketball courts. Stray bullets changed the lives of everyone there and claimed the life of an 8-year-old girl named Markiya Simone Dickson who was fatally wounded. The 11-year-old boy Jacquez Moses sustained life threatening injuries, but he is expected to recover.  How could this happen to two innocent children in a park that is meant for recreation and rejuvenation for all who go there? If love attracts love then, what do we do when anger and hatred enter into our lives causing havoc and chaos?

With a heavy heart, I drove by Carter Jones Park this morning, and saw a few paper hearts on the rocks on one of the borders of this community park. I recently moved to the Southside of Richmond, and my thoughts drifted to the playground where my sons had played when they were younger. What if this had happened at Mary Munford Playground? Would I hover over my sons and let them play after such a thing as this? Would fear or courage rule my choices? Are we at a crossroads in Richmond? Do we work together to make our small corner of the world a safer place? Love attracts love is more than words on a shirt! What will we do?

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grace during grief, Grief, Inspiration, surviving the anniversary of a loved one's day of death, Uncategorized

Seventeen Years of Understanding Loss

This day marks the seventeenth anniversary of losing my fun-loving husband David and dedicated father to Andy and Ben. It was a Thursday much like today with lots of white puffy clouds against a sunny blue sky. The beauty of the spring day faded later around dusk.  David suffered a fatal heart-attack on the basketball court while playing with Andy and some other boys after school. Even after all these years, my heart beats to a different rhythm as I rewind the events of that day. It is a challenging day, but time has given us ways to remember all of the goodness that David shared and lives on in each of us. I catch a glimpse of him when Andy and Ben smile. I hear his laughter when his best friend from childhood comes to visit. I feel the strength of his hugs when Ben or Andy give me a tight hug around my shoulders. I see his compassion for others lived out in all of us as we try to help brighten someone’s day.  I jump with his sense of joy when his beloved Virginia wins the Final Four.  I see his hope and radiance in his grand-daughter’s face as she sees a bird flying in the sky.  I feel my heart expand with the warmth of his love when I draw closer to my family, friends, and even strangers on this journey of living life to the fullest! Seventeen years brings understanding to loss and gives me a deeper appreciation for the one and only David Butterworth.

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Hope, Inspiration, Life, light

I love seeing the sun shining brightly on the trees this spring.

The sun seems to shine more brightly this spring after our dreary winter. It’s really nice to wear sunglasses again! The rainy weather of winter dampened my spirit of hope in much the same way as the mighty waters flooded the banks of the James River.  The sunny skies with bright hues of azure lifted the heaviness of the blues that were weighing me down.  The greening of the trees has quickly filled in the emptiness of the barren branches of the trees and ushered in the transformation of nature and my heart. It’s amazing how good it feels to embrace life this spring.


Every evening as the sun starts to set, I go outside to marvel at the brightness of the sunlight striking the tops of the trees on the embankment above my deck. The darker forest green leaves at the top of the willow oaks are illuminated by the rays of sunshine and they appear chartreuse for those final moments before sunset.  The warmth of their greenish yellow appearance causes me to pause in awe of the wonders of creation. I know that there is always light in the midst of darkness, but it is often hard to find that light in the shadows. I cherish the brightness of each spring day’s final bursts of sunlight that remind me that there is always light in every day. My perspective shifts, and I see hope in all circumstances.



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Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Yesterday I started writing about hope. Ultimately I caved after the sun didn’t show its’ face all day. My writing was as bleak as the sky of another wintry day. Mary Oliver the gifted poet died and so did my words on the page. I just wanted to sit down in my despair and stay there. I sat on the couch whining about my fractured fibula and decided to not move a muscle. Being immobile added to the depression gripping me and hope seemed like an impossible dream. My pen only managed to write the next paragraph.

Gray skies outside seem to be our new normal in Richmond. I’m not sure if Seattle gets as many rainy days as we do these days. To make matters worse, every day brings more tension between our politicians and the many people who are currently not working due to the government shut down.  The lamenting of those suffering from unthinkable tragedy in Nairobi ways heavy on my heart.  Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

The sun came back out today, and my gloom shifted. I wonder if the light we see around us is a ray of hope in these valleys of the shadows.  Sometimes the light of hope surprises us where it shows up.  Today it arrived while I was making a cup of tea.  My Yogi teabag quote prompted me to pick up my pen and finish what I started yesterday. The quote is, “Spread the light: be the lighthouse.”  We may be down, but we are not defeated as a fitness coach once told me.  I want to be a light every day, but days like yesterday come and throw shade my way. The good news is that when we are down, others seem to have been spared from that pit. I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it emerges every time we reach out to others. I will spread the light and let it shine just like those who have helped me rise up out of despair.


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Inspiration, Life

Practicing the Art of Being Kind

I’m trying to break out of the negativity that the world news ignites in me.

I’ve decided to embrace two words that keep turning up on random corners in my neighborhood.  Yesterday I noticed a hand-painted sign in a nearby gallery in plain letters saying, “Be Kind.” When I saw the same words on a white washed board with red hearts in my neighbor’s yard, I decided to find out if this was some kind of local movement.  Maybe you have spotted some of these Be Kind signs too. My curiosity sent me to the web where all answers live these days.

I learned that this message is more than just a local movement. It was created here in Richmond by Gini Bonnell.  After struggling with the myriad of bad news that enters into our daily lives, she responded by painting a white board with Be Kind and placed it in her yard.  Her neighbors liked it so much that they wanted one of their own. Then the requests for more Be Kind signs snowballed with calls from not only our community but schools, businesses, groups, and individuals from as far away as Australia.  An article appearing in Boomer magazine in July stated that Gini had now made more than 550 signs.  She is really excited about how many people have joined her in carrying this message into the world including our Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

Seeing those Be Kind signs helped me realize that to be kind one must take action. Seeing and doing are not the same. I can practice the art of being kind in my small corner of the world. Even though I’d like to be kind, I’m skeptical sometimes.  The homeless man who sits on a bucket even on rainy days near the expressway with his crumpled cardboard sign of “anything helps” haunts me as I turn the corner wondering if he is really homeless or just looking for a handout.  My judgment and good intentions often limit my actions, but I’ve decided to take action on being kind for the next 30 days. Kindness to my neighbors or the strangers.  Be Kind! I’m telling you so that I can be held accountable, and to invite you to join me in practicing the art of being kind. I’d love to hear your stories.  Please contact me through my blogsite at

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Blogging, Grief, Inspiration, surviving the anniversary of a loved one's day of death

Reflections of our loved ones

Seventeen years ago, my Mom died of a fatal heart attack. The melancholy that drifts in around the anniversary of her death threatens to overcome me each year.  I decided to take a walk around the gardens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to shake the blues and the dreariness of this winter day.  As I rounded the edge of the museum, I was surprised by the peacefulness that swept over me.  The 24-foot-tall sculptural head of a girl named Chloe carved by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa summoned my attention.  The gray barren branches of the large oak tree behind her stood in stark contrast to her meditational visage, radiant even with closed eyes.  Chloe’s powerful pose reminded me of my Mom’s determination to raise her 3 daughters to be strong women. I could always count on her encouraging words whenever life became hard to navigate. She often ended those conversations saying, “Everything will work out, and I’ll be thinking about you. Hold your head up high!” These words have been implanted in my heart, and I often use them to encourage my sons in their own challenges. As I turned to leave, I took this picture that shows the strong presence of the oak tree next to the imposing presence of Plensa’s Chloe. These towering images both represent to me the reassurance of my mother’s words. Her comforting words are as permanent in my mind as the images of oak and marble that spoke to me from that image.  Throughout the seasons of our lives, the words of loved ones can anchor us over time and space.

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Heart on the Sole of my boot and the Christmas Rush!

Today while scurrying around my bedroom in the Christmas frenzy which happens every December, I happened to see a heart that I had picked up on the sole of my favorite Frye boots. It made me pause to wonder how it got there. Regardless of the way it adhered to my right boot, I realized that I should really slow down and stop this madness.  A timely reminder just as I was about to head out to go shopping for gifts for my family and friends. Maybe this heart is a sign to change my focus in giving to others. Will a pair of wool socks really make a difference in my son’s stocking or should I just dedicate an hour every week to meet him for coffee?  I think a cup of java and heart to heart conservation is the obvious answer to that question! So, I decided to post this heart on the sole of my boot as a way of keeping me anchored in love rather than obsessing over finding the perfect gift for everyone. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season. In the meantime, I’m heading out in my Frye boots with my special pink plastic heart glued to the sole of my right foot.  May your journey be filled with love always!

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amazing golden retriever dogs, dog love, grace during grief, Grief

I love the way my dog loves me!

Almost 16 years ago at Thanksgiving, my family and I adopted a golden retriever who has given us unconditional love every day. I’m so thankful for her undivided attention by our sides all these years. When we selected her, I recommended that we get the runt of the litter. My sons and husband stared at me like I had lost my mind. They thought that was a terrible idea, but I persisted. I reminded them that our other 2 golden retrievers had been roly-poly fluff balls and lived relatively short years. (Our first golden named Nugget had died at 6, and our second golden named Kelly had lived to be only 8.)  After an hour of playing with the puppies, they decided that I could make the final decision.

I chose the smallest and slimmest girl puppy, and we began our journey back home. While traveling, we had a fun time trying to think of names that suited her.  Finally, I said, “Let’s call her Maggie after my grandmother,” who had died when my sons were very young. Without hesitation, we all agreed that was a great name for our darling golden girl.

Maggie continues to be a ray of sunshine in our lives. She has traveled over the miles of ups and downs that we have seen in her long life. Maggie loved retrieving in her younger days. When she was a puppy, I taught her to retrieve the newspaper and take it to my husband David in bed. On the days after David died, she would grab the paper in her mouth at the mailbox and race upstairs to make her speedy delivery.

After several weeks of watching her frustration and confusion as to his whereabouts, I sought help with our dog trainer Sally. She confirmed that Maggie was grieving just like all of us. Sally took her to her home for a month until we could begin to manage our own grief better.  When Maggie returned, we were better equipped to cope with our grief and to love Maggie in spite of our sadness.  She still wanted to take the paper up to our room, but I was able to teach her to take it to one of my sons instead. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about her wanting to bring the paper to David after he died.)

The days and years that followed our loss have held changes for all of us. But, Maggie has remained our faithful and loving companion all the way. She doesn’t move so quickly these days due to her arthritis, but her devotion to us has never faltered. Maggie takes her sweet time when fetching up the paper, but she can almost knock you down racing to her food bowl. She’s kind of a dog foodie.

Her reddish furry coat is turning white especially around her face. Our time together won’t last forever, but I know I’ll treasure her devotion and unconditional love forever.  She loves me with all of her heart!  As I think about her almost 16 years of greetings, handshakes, boundary border keeping, running, walking, swimming, fetching, begging, eating, hiking, exploring, and ever present desire to settle in by me, I just love how my dog loves me!


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