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Living with ALS: The fragility of life, a metaphor for Monarch butterflies

Written By | Apr 29, 2019
Fragility of LIfe, High School Reunion, Monarch Butterly, Migration, Bob Taylor

Monarch butterflies migrate each year and are a scientific phenomenon (Courtesy: Kenneth-Dwain-Harrelson-Pemission-granted-under-the-terms-of-the-GNU-Free-Documentation-License)

CHARLOTTE, NC:  Sometimes Mother Nature defies the laws of science to present the world’s greatest thinkers with curiosities that ultimately lead to solving some of the world’s most perplexing problems. For example, scientists say that because of their body structure and weight ratios it is aerodynamically impossible for bumblebees to fly.

The layman’s response to that is bumblebees don’t know they aren’t designed to be airborne so they just do it anyway.

Monarch Migrations – delicate wings flying thousands of miles

Recently, my former college roommate explained a similar phenomenon regarding Monarch butterflies which are known for their amazing mass migrations that sometimes journey as far as 3,000 miles.

Scientists continue to study this incredible wonder of nature in a species whose average lifespan is only 6 to 8 months.

Like all butterflies, Monarchs begin life as eggs that hatch to emerge as beautifully colored black-orange-and-white adults which emerge born to fly.

Fragility of LIfe, High School Reunion, Monarch Butterly, Migration, Bob Taylor

Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels –

Monarchs born in late summer and early fall are actually different from those that do so during the longer days of summer. Later arriving butterflies are the ones which make the mass migration due to the changes in weather

By the time next year’s winter migration begins, several summer generations will have lived and died and it will be last year’s migrator’s great-grandchildren to make the trip.

Yet somehow these new generations know the way, and follow the same routes their ancestors took—sometimes even returning to the same tree.

And therein lies the miracle of the Monarch

Transition now to a 50th high school reunion in 2013. As with any large group, the original number of graduates has diminished over time through attrition.

In my case, our graduating class of roughly 450 is approximately 25% smaller due to war and other natural causes.

Many people, for whatever reason, shy away from reunions. In our case, however, 50 was a magical elixir. A tonic for the soul, that brought us together again in numbers that none of us expected.

Whether it was modern science, healthy living or simply following the path of our principal, D.K. Pittman, whose motto:

“Remember who you are, and where you are from”

These were words none of us ever forgot. There was something eerily unique and dynamic about this particular renewal.

All of were a little fleshier and obviously more mature. However, oddly enough, the youthful images we knew five decades ago were remarkably familiar and unchanged.

In fact, even the personalities and individual characteristics that had been so familiar to us for three years were still the same.

It was, to say the least, a festive serendipitous gathering that none of us could have anticipated beyond our wildest imagination.

Untimely passings

During the course of the weekend, one of our classmates spent much of his time recording the festivities on video. Tragically, within a few days after we had all returned home to our daily routines, our longtime friend became another member of the class to pass on.

It was during this moment of grief and reflection, that my former roommate came up with the idea that perhaps we should reunite more often.

Not in an elaborate official capacity. However given the sudden reminder of the fragility of life, maybe we should send an invitation to the entire class. Anyone and everyone who could spend a weekend together was welcome to meet on some sort regular annual-ish basis to re-renew our lifelong friendships.

Since that time there have been three such mini-reunions with approximately 50 of us, including spouses, who have managed to regroup for a weekend of fellowship that is unlike any other.

One group, many members

As with all large groups our class is an eclectic bunch. We are made up of teachers, lawyers, musicians, theologians, artists and the full gamut of occupations. Indeed several members of the group journeyed considerable distances. From as far away as New England, New York and even all the way across the country from Washington state.

Over the course of the years in which we have done this, someone from another class, a different year and a different school was amazed at the camaraderie we share.

“Why do you do it?” he asked my roommate.

The answer was in the metaphor of the lifelong journey of the Monarch butterflies.

You see, they begin as naive little creatures that undergo a metamorphosis to emerge as brilliant colored adults with a new lease on life.

Their journeys are diverse and unique but, in the end, many of Monarchs return home to their roots.

Fragility of LIfe, High School Reunion, Monarch Butterly, Migration, Bob Taylor

MonarchWanderungKlein Wikimedia Commons

To understand you need to reflect upon that bumblebee. You see, we simply did not know we were only to migrate back together yearly.   So we just did it, thinking that everyone else was like us.

Since then, we have learned that ours is a special relationship. Despite being separated for years, we are brought back together again.

Now in the twilight of our lives, we have magically come to understand the value of those lifelong friendships that can so easily be lost along the way.

In a sense, it’s a bit sad that other groups are unable to recapture those glorious memories. Or to share to their dreams of the future.

There’s a special joy in being a member of our caring and loving little clan of Monarchs.

While time has a relentless march, it cannot erase or steal our memories. Not as long as we are determined to perpetuate the joys of friendship we never knew existed until we were fortunate enough to rediscover them.

Long live the Monarchs!

About the Author:

Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Read more of Bob’s journeys with ALS and his travels around the world

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.