Crowds gathered in Oregon not to mourn death, but to celebrate life July 8 as they filled the fields with beautiful butterflies.
For five years now, Serenity Hospice & Home, 1658 Ill. 2, Oregon, has provided families a way to pay tribute to their deceased loved ones in a unique way: the Memorial Butterfly Release and Gazebo Dedication, where names are added to the gazebo memorial and butterflies are set free in memory of cherished family.
“It’s symbolic to release a butterfly, like setting their soul free as the butterfly flies away,” said Cathy Warren, Bereavement Coordinator for Serenity.
The ceremony began at 10:30 a.m., with a prayer from Darrell Ropp, Serenity’s chaplain, followed by the reading of names on the gazebo memorial, the veterans memorial, and those having butterflies released for them.
Concluding the ceremony, butterflies were released into the southeastern fields - not just in memory of family who stayed at the hospice home, but anyone who wanted to remember and honor someone special.
“This is one of my favorite things we do,” said Warren. “It’s not just a service to families; we actually get to reconnect with people who visited regularly, and that’s good for us too.”
Approximately 312 butterflies were ordered, and Warren said they sold out.
The butterflies are stored in small envelopes and kept in cool, dark places until distribution, keeping the butterflies calm and preventing overheating.
One big difference this year is that the center normally orders Monarch butterflies from Swallowtail Farms, California, but could not get them this year.
“They told us they cannot ship them across the continental divide,” said Warren.
Painted lades were ordered instead, which Warren says were just as beautiful, albeit smaller.
The butterflies were certainly beautiful, but they’re representative of the reason everyone came out: their families.
Peggy Proud-Edwards made the trip from Aurora to hear her father, David E. Proud, honored with the veterans.
“It’s a lovely event, I’ve never been to one of these before,” said Peggy. “It’s all very moving.”
Proud-Edwards’ brother and sister, Dan Proud and Kit Reynolds, played a duo of harps through the event, their second year in a row.
“It’s a fantastic event, and the butterflies are beautiful,” said Reynolds.
“It’s a great setting; so very pleasant,” added Proud.
After the butterflies fluttered about, finding flowers, rocks, and other places to perch, visitors enjoyed refreshments and company before heading home.