Butterfly release brings healing, closure

Butterfly release brings healing, closureThe annual Butterfly Release, like every other signature event and celebration in our culture, is not immune to statewide restrictions on public gatherings. So this year’s observance will be limited to a virtual watch party to set free scores of Painted Lady butterflies in the memory of our loved ones. There will be music, but no shoulders to cry on, no one to share lighthearted memories with, no one to hug. It’s hard to imagine the event without any of these things.

For a decade, the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital has used this event to raise funds for the Hospice program. My family and I have been to each one, singing for and praying with attendees in a communal effort to financially benefit Hospice and provide emotional comfort to those saying goodbye to loved ones.

Then, in 2017, my children lost their adopted grandmother, who had died from complications of brain cancer just a couple of months earlier. Like many of our senior residents who suffer from life-threatening afflictions, she had chosen a treatment option that was as noninvasive as possible in hopes of maximizing the quality of her remaining time on earth. But like many junior residents in our culture, my children were still unprepared when it was time to say goodbye.

So when we received our invitation to perform at the Butterfly Release a couple of months later, I decided to encourage my children to participate in the release this year along with the bereaved. I purchased butterflies for our children, but I still felt almost like a voyeur intruding on an affair that I was meant to provide behind-the-scenes support for. My children rose that morning and took particular care in selecting their wardrobes. For once, I did not have to coax them into a socially acceptable grooming routine. They arrived with my husband and I in their Sunday best and stoically sang beside us.

At the end of the ceremony, they soberly accepted their captive butterflies. Notably absent was the giddy anticipation from previous years as we waited for the culminating release. Then something magical happened — when the children opened up those butterflies and watched the delicate creatures stir to life and take off, their grieving little spirits exulted.

The lightness we gained from the Butterfly Release remained with us. After two months of sorrow, our family was filled with a renewed gratitude for having known our loved one and the confirmation that one day we will share in the transformation and reunion of spirit.

So as I ponder whether this year’s Butterfly Release will have the same impact as it has in previous years, I have to remind myself that the true release has little to do with the representative insect and everything to do with turning sadness into hope.

I can think of few causes more worthy than one that walks the ailing among us through their final days, offering them comfort and us reassurance. Watch the Butterfly Release on Saturday, May 16, at 11 a.m. from the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital Facebook page. Then, if you can, make a donation to benefit Hospice through the RRH Foundation (www.rrh.org/butterflyrelease). I’ve learned that the benefit is not really for them, it’s for us.

— Rebecca Neipp

Pictured: Peter Neipp opens his Painted Lady butterfly at the 2017 release ceremony. — Photo by Rebecca Neipp

Story First Published: 2020-05-15