by Yael Flusberg

White Butterflies

What I remember the most about that day are the white butterflies. From my vantage point twelve stories above where she landed in fetal position, like a baby in a deep sleep, they circled her body, celebrating the first day of summer. It was only after I saw them that I noticed the boys playing football in the middle of the street, their game shadowed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. They hadn’t seen her free fall onto the ledge, damaging the bushes in front of the building where I had grown up. But a man, standing half a block away, did. He looked up, straight at the bedroom window where she had summoned every last bit of courage and jumped, and where I was now hovering.

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The articles in this special section:

White Butterflies

by Yael Flusberg

Ordinary adolescent yearnings intersect with the macabre. Her Holocaust-survivor mother killed herself when Flusberg was 15, leaving her orphaned daughter a survivor, too.

Can You Be a Family Without a Mother?

by Lynn Davidman

A sociologist understands the gendered effect of her own mother’s death after she interviews women and men who’ve had a mom die on them when they were children.

The Shame of Having No Mother

by Francine Cournos, M.D.

Dad dies when she’s 3. Mom when she’s 11, and the kids are abandoned to foster care. Here’s how Cournos came through, ventured motherhood herself, and turned her pain into empathy as a psychiatrist.

Mothering Without a Map

by Karen Paul-Stern

The author's mother, orphaned early, had trouble bonding to her own children, replicating in a second generation the distortions of motherloss.