A butterfly lights beside us like a sun beam, and for one brief moment its glory and beauty belongs to our world. But then it flies on again, and although we wish it could have stayed, we are thankful to have seen it all.

This is the inscription written on Renee’s daughter, Carly’s headstone. She was a bright light for her family and for the whole world. She was a smart, funny, beautiful girl with her whole life ahead of her. She had struggles in her life as well after losing her boyfriend to one of her best friends. In addition, she did not get accepted to the art school of her dreams.  Her self esteem took a hit. She then started dating a boy with a history of drug abuse.

Carly’s family and friends would never have guessed in a million years that Carly would ever make the choice to use heroin, but she did. Even when Renee suspected drug use and confronted Carly, the rest of the family, friends and even Carly’s doctor remained convinced that Carly was too smart to use drugs. The first lesson that I learned from Renee is that heroin doesn’t care how smart or pretty you are. It doesn’t care if you use it once or a hundred times – it still kills.

The second lesson that I have learned from Renee is one that gave me so much encouragement. Carly died eight years ago now, but Renee still feels Carly with her all of the time. The stories that Renee shares today about feeling her daughter’s presence in nature lifted my spirit so much. Whether it is dozens of monarch butterflies covering a bush in the yard the day after her sister’s bridal shower or the frequent experiences Renee has with red tail hawks, the stories will make you smile.

Renee feels like God gives her these little gifts all of the time. She does not go looking for them, but if you keep your eyes open, you will see them. As Renee says, ‘Carly and our children are only a breath away.’