Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Where Ladybugs Come to Die

Wade and I have moved back into my house in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta, two blocks from where we lived before.

This is the home that received a house blessing from my church, was graced by two visits of my mom from California, witnessed the end of one relationship and the beginning of my present one, was blessed by two loveable and loving golden retriever/Labs, Calvin and Hobbes, and offered hospitality to overnight guests such as John McNeill, Henri Nouwen, Erin Swenson, and Rick Ufford-Chase, then the Presbyterian General Assembly Moderator. This house also hosted parties, including a reception for MCC friends visiting Atlanta for General Conference.

The year I served MCC San Francisco, it sheltered my friend Jim Mitulski whenever he came to Atlanta while serving as MCC’s regional elder, becoming also an office for him and administrative assistant Ritchie Crownfield.

During that time I jokingly called it an MCC “safe house” because of the occasional MCC pastor or denominational leader who stayed here when visiting the city. At MCC gatherings I would sometimes have people tell me with a smile that they had stayed in my “cute little house.”

This house then welcomed my former partner in recovery and subsequently others in transitional periods of their lives. All “loved” the home it provided them.

I longed to return, not so much because of the house itself, but because of its placement overlooking a green ravine and creek with long-lived tall trees, which I see from my home office windows whenever I look up from my laptop as I write this. Sitting on its small deck to do my morning prayers feels like being on retreat.

But I had forgotten about the ladybugs.

As a child, the only bug of which I was neither afraid nor annoyed was the ladybug.* It was small and cute and round and red and landed unthreateningly on me or a plant or surface. It would not be until I was an adult that I learned how beneficial they are to the environment, happily consuming plant-devouring aphids. I also learned that, possibly for that reason, they are considered lucky or a good omen.

Every time a ladybug has landed on me throughout my life, I have smiled.

As I moved some boxes into the attic space off our master bedroom, I remembered about the ladybugs. Just as Tippi Hedren discovered birds in a similarly tight space in Hitchcock’s The Birds, I found dozens of far-less-threatening ladybugs—all dead. I remembered that this was, for some unknown reason, the place where ladybugs come to die.

A few make it inside the house itself. By our bathroom sink I have turned more than one ladybug off its back and onto its feet in a vain attempt to prolong its tiny life. Adjusting the pillows on our bed, I have been careful not to hurt the occasional ladybug crawling on our headboard. But I have given up opening window screens to free ladybugs who find their way inside.

Maybe it’s the sky-blue color of our house that attracts them. Maybe it’s the warmth in colder months and the coolness in hotter months.

Maybe it’s the same thing that attracts us and all who have found hospitality here, a welcome to be what they are and a welcome to become what they will be. Maybe they come here to die because they know they will be left alone; they will not be squished or sprayed or swatted or shooed.

They only make us smile, but not without regard for their passing.

Didn’t Jesus say something about ladybugs? “Not one shall fall to the ground without God knowing”?

*I didn’t realize then that butterflies were “bugs”!

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Copyright © 2017 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. It is a lovely safe house. I am glad you are happy!

    1. And we're glad you were our first visitor after our move!

  2. Most of the comments I receive on the blog come directly to me. Here is one I’d like to share about this post from an MCC colleague, followed by my response:

    Hi Rev. Chris,

    What if, instead of the place where ladybugs come to die, it is the place they are born and cannot find a way out, so they die? I am now at my fourth and last week-long residency for the certificate in spiritual direction at Columbia Theological Seminary. Last spring when I was here for the second residency, my dorm room had 15-20 ladybugs crawling on the walls and moving in and out of the ceiling tiles. I saw them as a blessing on my call as a spiritual director. But I also spent time capturing the bugs and releasing them out the window. In my frame of reference, last fall their mother came into a small space--perhaps in a crevice in the window frame, and laid her eggs. The eggs hatched in the spring, but her "children" did not know the way out that their mother came in. And so they get trapped and consequently die.

    Thoughts (and doesn't that preach!)

    By the way, it has been too cold this week to see much "hatching"--only one ladybug has appeared so far--maybe there will be more today and tomorrow as the weather warms up. I hope so.
    In community,

    My reply:

    Thanks, though you give me a distressing alternative view of their life cycle. I had never thought of this. I'm going to copy and paste this as a comment on the post anonymously for others to think about! Maybe my view is related to the fact that I'm closer myself to death than birth, and I had viewed it as a parallel to my own life cycle in relation to this house! I'll keep an eye out for baby ladybugs! Chris

    1. Elder Nancy Maxwell of MCC gave me permission to add her name to her comment with this wonderful encouragement:

      Hi Rev. Chris-

      Oh my, you honor me in wanting to post my thoughts, so feel free to use my name-or not. Your choice!

      Thank you for being in my life each week. It's such a blessing.

      In community,