The butterfly’s multi-hued, ethereal beauty serves as a metaphor for transcendence, resurrection and the soul in many cultural and religious traditions around the world.
For the last 13 years, Avow Hospice has employed that symbolism to enable people to celebrate the lives of loved ones who’ve passed away at the nonprofit’s annual butterfly release. The community event, which features a walk-through exhibit containing more than 500 live butterflies, inspirational readings and a name-reading ceremony honoring the departed, was held recently at its traditional home, Cambier Park in Naples.
As always, the event closed with the opening of the tent housing the exhibit, releasing the butterflies to the world beyond.
“We love butterflies and the release is a beautiful thing to see,” said Paul Gilson of Naples and New Jersey, who was there with his wife Maxine. “We lost a child and we’ve heard that butterflies are messages that they send to us, so that’s why we’re here.”
The couple’s 31-year-old son, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, died nine years ago after suffering a catastrophic brain injury in an attack not associated with his military service.
Anyone wishing to have a loved one’s name read during the ceremony could do so by donating $50 a name to support Avow’s hospice and community programs.
Olga Blanco and Magda Munoz of Naples are regulars at the butterfly release, both memorializing family members they have lost.
“I think it’s a great event because we’re here to honor our loved ones. Last year, I lost a cousin and my dad and I’ve been coming every year because of my two cousins, who left us too early. So I brought four butterflies this year.”
Munoz celebrates the memory of her father, Moses Licourt, as well as that of Blanco’s late father, Pedro Blanco.
“Avow Hospice is one of the places where people can go and have a lot of relief from being a caregiver for their loved one, before they pass on,” said Munoz. “This is a great organization and we also do this in memory of them. They’re so loving and so helpful and they teach you about the process of grieving and also letting go of your loved one so they can be in a better place.”
The ceremony also included a welcome from Jaysen Roa, Avow’s president and CEO, and a reading of encouragement from Avow’s head chaplain, Henry Braga, entitled “Birth is a Beginning.” The hospice’s music therapist, Laura Seipert offered a song of inspiration, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” before the reading of names by Avow staff members. Next, Rev. Donald Treglown, senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Naples, gave a blessing of the butterflies before the tent was opened and they took to the wind.
“May the spirit of those who we mourn today be remembered as events pass away in a very special way and may this be the start of healing for all,” said Treglown.
For more information on Avow Hospice, call 239-261-4404 or visit avowcares.org.