I was privileged to know an extraordinary teen named Zack Peterson. Unmistakable was Zack’s vibrant red hair, a face full of freckles that complimented his steady smile; Zack’s mild mannered temperament matched his soft spoken voice. Unlike most teenagers who love to chatter on about everything, Zack only spoke when he had something of importance to say. If you had just met Zack you too, would feel a peaceful presence about him. Shortly after that you would know what Zack was all about, not by what he said, but by how he acted and treated others . In May of 2007, Zack was diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer called “Hepatocellular Carcinoma”, and on December 19th Zack was called home to God.
Recently, I stumbled across the vivid meaning of the dragonfly, and made “The Dragonfly Connection.” The dragonfly is considered in many cultures as symbol of strength, light, transformation, grace and adaptability. This creature has this ability to reflect and refract light, responsible for the dragonflies status as a “Light-Bearer.” Dragonflies exhibit the many colors of life, with maturity and time the dragonfly’s own true colors come forth revealing the insects deepest beauty as it learns to bend and shift adapting light in a variety of ways. The dragonfly demonstrates the utmost adaptability, and grace as well. No bird or other insect has the flight maneuverability of the dragonfly, which can quickly change its directions when necessary. They are experts at going where they need to be and doing what they need to do.
As a symbol of transformation in life’s ever constant process of change, the dragonfly spends the majority of its life on the bottom of the pond as a larva; however, it always rises above that. The dragonfly works its way thought the weight of the water and into the sunlight, gathering and garnering what it needs to change and unfold when it is ready it sheds its protective casing and flies away from the pond to ultimately unite with other dragonflies which have also completed there transformation.
Zack was not only a beautiful person, he sparkled. He silently and steadily battled the cancer. He encouraged and empowered others to be “light bearers” too. “He never felt sorry for himself or outwardly complained,” recalled his mom Christine. Zack exuded this light and love even in the darkest moments of his illness, when his cancer was at its most aggressive stage. He was faced with multiple surgeries, chemo therapy and prospects of more of all the same ahead for him. Zack chose to press on with school and his goals to drive a car, participate in Catholic Heart work camp and ultimately graduating from Montague High School in his Junior class, with high hopes to go to College.
The Lord’s strength had shown forth in Zack as our Church community witnessed Zack’s last months. At a time when he was most frail and weak in body, there he was at church ministering the Eucharist at Mass. We watched as he seemed to adapt, with the speed, maneuverability and grace of the dragonfly. Zack chose to accept the path that life gave him, even though it was not at all the life he had planned. Through this battle, he transformed and matured through his illness. As he trusted God with his last days, his truest colors came through even more vibrantly. Finally in his dying Zack helped us to see through the illusion of death. In the moments of Zack’s passing, his parents Christen and Bob remember that Zack left this earth, with full faith in his destination. Zack was bound for heaven with Jesus, just as the dragonfly doesn’t die when it leaves the world of the pond as a larva and a water bug, it transforms into a dragonfly. Holding its wings out straight and proud with full knowledge of where it is going.
We all must go through life gathering and garnering what we need to undergo constant conversion from sin, and our own cancers of sorts to overcome working our way up threw the bottom of the pond just as dragonflies do — just as Zack did in his own way. Although Zack is gone away from the earthly pond a while, we have faith and hope that we too will all reunite with Christ Jesus in Glory when we, have transformed and become the “Light bearers” that we truly are. I know I will never look at a dragonfly the same way again.
Copyright 2009 Marjory Erdman