In a talk on The Power of Storytelling Jay O’Callahan tells this story to illustrate the power of images:
Years ago I was in Detroit and a woman came up and said:
“I want to tell you about my work.”
She said: “I’m working with children who are dying of leukemia. I was working with Jonathan who was eleven years old and Jonathan got very sick and he said, ‘When I die, cast my ashes on Lake Michigan.’”
“Well Jonathan died and his parents and Charlie, Jonathan’s five year old brother, went out on Lake Michigan. They had a nice, old, green boat with a motor and they cast Jonathan’s ashes.”
“Jonathan’s mother said, ‘Look at that butterfly! Isn’t that colourful? That’s Jonathan!’”
“They went out again and the Mother said, ‘Oh, it’s a monarch butterfly. It’s Jonathan!’”
“Another time they were on the beach and Charlie, the five year old had a stick and Charlie was stirring up the sand and an old grey moth flew up and he said, ‘Look! That’s Jonathan but he’s wearing a different shirt!’”
Jay O’Callahan concluded, “What an image for death—wearing a different shirt!”
He added, “I told that story on National Public Radio and Jonathan’s Dad called and he said, ‘You know, when Charlie said, He’s wearing a different shirt, that was the beginning of a long process of healing.
“An image was an agent of healing.”
Jay O’Callahan, The Power of Storytelling, Fresh Creation, 17 September 2010.
Image: “They went out on Lake Michigan.”