I've read that dragonflies signify change, power, living in the moment, or something sinister (sometimes said to have been sent by Satan to cause chaos and confusion). They are revered by the Chinese and Japanese, and reviled by the Welsh.
Dale, a man who lived and worked in our neighborhood, fell on hard times. I knew Dale well enough to say hello; he seemed like a pleasant enough fellow. But what do we know of our neighbors, really? I'd been told of his struggles and indiscretions, but other than seeing a beer in his hand fairly regularly, I had no inkling of his inner demons.
Dale loved and lost. Then he lost his job, his home and his way in the world. Bad decisions were compounded by more bad decisions. He refused offers of assistance, wanting to isolate himself. His family, weary of his errant ways, decided to let him figure things out on his own. His one desire was to be with the one he loved.
At first, he stayed with friends and overstayed his welcome. His poor choices and bad habits never left him...and he was left to fend for himself. This summer, he began living in a tent in the nearby woods. It must have been horrible for him, the heat has been unrelenting. Subsisting on a meager unemployment check, he eked out an existence for a while. Still hopeful that he could rekindle his romance, he tried repeatedly for a reconciliation, but his erratic behavior caused problems, and he was rebuffed again and again, and sometimes the police were called to restore peace.
His unemployment compensation ran out a couple of weeks ago...he was running out of hope. Like the dragonflies, he flitted and hovered nearby, apparently directionless. Dale was often seen walking in the area, looking dirty and disheveled and increasingly fragile physically and emotionally. He was yearning for his old life, yet knowing that he had burned his bridges and couldn't go back.
A few kind souls offered him food and water and allowed him to wash up and they did his laundry, but these acts weren't enough to sustain him and help him find a way out of the woods, literally and figuratively.
A few weeks ago, he hanged himself in those very woods, his hope depleted. His note, left on Marcia's door, said "I'll see you on the other side". This Saturday would have been his 50th birthday. Instead, his family and friends are left feeling guilty and lost by his absence.
I haven't seen any dragonflies since that day, perhaps their travels, like Dale's, have come to an end. I'm not sure where the dragonflies went - maybe our recent rains have helped them to return home. Dale is in a far better place now, and I hope he's enjoying his eternal rest.
I hope if I see someone struggling with their demons that I'll have the wisdom and courage to offer a hand, and not flit by like the dragonflies, intent on my own destination.