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Matthews House Hospice releases butterflies in symbolic gesture

July 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments

For some people, a caterpillar becoming a cocoon then emerging as a butterfly represents a new beginning and a transition.

Matthews House Hospice in Alliston continued a tradition they have by releasing hundreds of butterflies on Sunday, July 21, in memory of people who have passed away.

The Hospice has been doing the butterfly release for ten years.

Normally the Hospice would host a gathering at its Wellington Street location and read the names of people being honoured as the butterflies are released.

This year, however, because of restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event took on a virtual program.

The public could still order butterflies, then pick them up at the hospice and release them later in their own ceremony.

The virtual program actually attracted people from across the country. As butterflies were released the Hospice made a video with the reading of a name so people from as far away as Vancouver who participated could see it on-line.

The butterflies arrive at the Hospice in a cooled box. When the lid to individual small boxes holding each butterfly is opened, the insects react to the warm air and once they regain their senses – it usually only takes a moment – they fly away.

“We doing a drive-through pickup of the butterflies, then people take them home and release them in the garden or the cemetery or where ever they want,” explained Andrea Roylance, Director of Fundraising at the Hospice. “We have volunteers here and a list of people who are picking up the butterflies. We have pre-ordered 270 butterflies.”
There is a company in Ontario who specializes in breeding and selling butterflies for special occasions.

“The butterflies are called painted ladies,” Ms. Roylance explained. “They have to be kept cool. When you open the box and the butterfly becomes accustomed to the heat, they fly away.”

Releasing the butterflies makes for a nice event to remember a loved one.

“It’s a celebration of life and a memorial event,” explained Eryn Manchanda, compassionate care lead at the Hospice. “The butterfly is a symbol of transformation from one existence or from way one of living to another way of living. For a lot of people, when they see a butterfly, often they think of their past loved ones. Historically a butterfly has been a symbol of loss, transformation, and hope.”

With the virtual program allowing people anywhere to take part, many people bought butterflies to be released in the name of a family member or friend even thought they couldn’t be there at the time.

Hospice volunteers spoke the name of the person and released the butterfly while all was recorded on video.

The day provides many people with the opportunity to do something special to remember and memorialize a lost loved one.

By Brian Lockhart


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