See me in a butterfly,
Free upon the breeze.
Why the butterfly? Did she like butterflies? I wanted to ask but found myself afraid of the pain it might well up within Laurel Fraher. Biting my lip, I turned my focus away from my coffee and back to Laurel. There was no point in avoiding this precious muse. I decided to ask Laurel about her daughter, Julia, who inspired her new children’s book, See Me In The Wonder.
Julia was Laurel and Robert Fraher’s first daughter. At the age of 2, she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away one year later. “There will always be pain when I think of Julia,” Laurel says. “The pain doesn’t go away. But I’m never upset when people ask me about Julia. It’s a blessing when I get to share her memory with others.”
Laurel describes her daughter Julia as a very bright child; mature for her age. She remembers how Julia would make up games to make sense of her reality and bring it into the world of a 2-year-old. “I think she was an inspiration to a lot of people. She was so strong through it all,” Fraher says.
Fraher’s love poem, See Me in the Wonder, filled her heart soon after Julia’s death. The birth of her second daughter, Lily, sparked a desire for something greater. While holding her newborn baby girl in her arms she thought of Julia and how much she was still a part of their lives. “How am I going to share Julia with Lily?” she thought. That’s when Laurel knew she had to turn her love poem into a children’s book. “I wanted Julia’s sister, Lily (now 10 years old), and brother, Henry (now 3), to know that she would always be a part of their lives.”
Her love poem encourages us to look at the wonder of life around us. It is a reminder that those we lost are still with us. Even though we may not be able to see their smiles, hear them laugh, or wipe away their tears, we can see them all around us in the blossoms of spring, the wispy summer clouds, the crisp autumn leaves, or the first, delicate flakes of winter’s snow.
With every turn of the crisp, glossy pages of her book readers will find not only words of love and beauty but soft and vibrant images: like a sunrise filling the pink glow of morning or the bold wings of a monarch butterfly floating amidst a powder-blue sky.
Butterflies have always reminded Laurel of Julia. “It’s funny,” she says. “Shortly after Julia passed, I learned that Julia (Julia Heliconian) is the term given to a species of North American butterfly. I also think that the butterfly is very symbolic of change and how the end of one thing is often the beginning of something new and very beautiful.”
Like the butterfly, Laurel’s poem and plan for the book evolved over time. Creating has always been a part of her life. She grew up in a home where creativity was encouraged but never had any formal training in art or writing. “My husband Robert is the writer,” Fraher tells me. “He would guide me during the final stages of the process and help me fine tune the flow of my poem.” Now a professor of graphic design at UW-Stout, Robert also helped Laurel develop her website. He was tremendously supportive of Laurel during the summer months. He’d care for their children so she could focus on her paintings for the book’s illustrations.
Throughout their marriage, Laurel and her husband have partnered together to create many children’s stories and have hopes to publish more in the future. For now, the most important thing for Laurel is sharing her message with others. While the book is intended to help families talk about death and the beauty all around us that keeps us connected to those we’ve lost, she says that it can be so much more. “I think my intentions for the book are clear,” Fraher says. “But I intentionally left the message open-ended to give freedom to readers and allow them to connect with the poem in their own way.”
As we finished the last sips of tea and coffee, Laurel shared a photo of Julia. Her playful ponytail and bright smile were heartwarming, but her eyes were striking. I looked at her sparkling eyes and felt that Julia understood more about the beauty of life and living in ways that we – as adults – often ignore. Whether this book helps give peace to any of you dealing with loss or it reminds you of nature’s beauty, don’t forget to savor life’s quiet moments and soak in the wonder.
See Me In The Wonder is for sale at The Local Store in Eau Claire, Bookends in Menomonie, and seemeinthewonder.com