DRAPER, Utah (ABC4) – One of the great symbols of change and hope for many can be found by looking at butterflies. The peaceful winged creature’s metamorphosis from a crawling caterpillar to a beautiful, colorful butterfly is one of nature’s great metaphors for transformation and growth.
“A lot of our customers and for a lot of people, they see butterflies as this really special creature that, you know, comes out and flies away and it’s free. To them, I think it represents their loved ones. It’s a way to represent and remember them and kind of feel like they’re a little bit closer,” Michael Bautner, who runs Riverbottom Butterflies in Draper with his brother, Parker, tells ABC4.
The unusual business, which provides growing kits and live butterflies, came about as Parker’s family was experiencing a trying time in 2018. Shortly after her birth, one of his daughters was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. Around that same time, Bautner was growing butterflies on a shelf in his house as a hobby. As his daughter progressed through her treatments and experienced many “miracles,” the butterflies in a cup on the family’s shelf proved to be a constant sign of support.
“Riverbottom Butterflies is now committed to supporting other families going through the same trials Parker’s family faced, through the beauty, grace, and hope found in a butterfly,” reads the company’s About Us page on its website.
The company now offers a drive-thru storefront in Draper where customers can pick up their growing kits in addition to selling the kits online. The brothers and their wives are the only employees of the start-up business, growing and feeding the butterflies in a greenhouse that Parker had used previously for a wholesale plant business. As part of their offerings, Riverbottom also provides butterflies for weddings and photoshoots.
For one local family, having butterflies and getting their picture taken is a huge part of the grieving and healing process.
Josie Gasu’s family has a yearly tradition every April 28 in which they celebrate the life of her daughter Miliama, who passed away four years ago at three months old.
Each year on her birthday, the Gasu family gathers for a photograph with a framed picture of baby Miliama and releases butterflies into the air, representing their late daughter and sister.
“We always just put one in our palm and then just say things to her. ‘Happy birthday, we miss you,’ you know, just a little message to her and just let it fly away,” Gasu explains.
Usually, the Gasus will go through a company in Florida to acquire their butterflies for their annual release and photos. However, this year, they found Riverbottom and got their butterflies through the Bautners. The brothers made the process a special one for the family, providing the Gasus with a white butterfly, a departure from the usual black and orange Painted Lady butterflies they usually sell.
The butterflies were also delivered in envelopes with a custom note, reading “Happy Birthday Miliama.”
For Gasu, having a small tradition like releasing the butterflies is something she recommends to any family looking for a way to celebrate and remember a loved one.
“This has also helped my kids heal,” Gasu says. “It’s made it really, really special for them too. So I wanted to involve and help my kids heal between me and my husband. It’s really, really helped them.”
She says this year, thanks to the white butterfly and the help of Riverbottom Butterflies, was the best birthday celebration yet for Miliama.
“This year I would say it’s been the happiest for us. I feel healing and growing. The kids are and we are not so sad about it anymore because we know she’s in a better place, and we’re okay. I’d say it makes us stronger and this just gives us something to look forward to every year.”