This story came to me in a flash during one of my darkest moments. It was a cold, dark, and rainy evening in December. We were driving home from the Cleveland Clinic after hearing the doctor say, “Your son TJ may not see his second birthday.” I was reeling, frozen in a catatonic state, and in agonizing pain.
Suddenly I began to see horses and ladybugs floating in my head. I watched as the ladybug asked the horses why they were crying, and I heard the ladybug say, “But I don’t know how to be a horse. I only know how to be a ladybug.” It was these words and the peace that they brought that allowed me to find relief in that harrowing moment.
In the days following that car ride, I put pen to paper and wrote The Gift of the Ladybug for TJ. I gave it to him for Christmas and was able to read it to him countless times.
The Gift of the Ladybug mirrors the way TJ made us feel. His eyes and demeanor would say, “Mom and Dad, I’m okay. It must be this way.”
TJ peacefully passed away in April 2009 at fourteen months old due to complications from Leigh syndrome.
My profound gratitude to TJ and this story reaches far beyond words. Not only did The Gift of the Ladybug provide comfort to me and my family when we needed it most, but it helped us reframe how we looked at our circumstances. When times got hard, we embodied the story. We would remind ourselves that TJ was our ladybug and that he could never be a horse. And if TJ could face his fate with joy, laughter, love, and peace, we could find a way to do the same. Our wise little ladybug gave us a glimpse of what it is like to fly.
My hope is that because The Gift of the Ladybug was so instrumental for me and my family, it will help you, too.
To all ladybugs—and to everyone who loves them—I wish you joy, laughter, love, and, most of all, peace.