was the perfect setting for an annual memorial program hosted by the Hospice and Palliative Care Center of Westchester. Nearly 300 people took part in two butterfly releases over the weekend.
Hospice community liaison William Dawe said the center has hosted an annual memorial service for more than twenty years, but the butterfly release has clearly touched hearts the most and brought out record numbers to participate.
After explaining the life cycyle of the monarch butterfly–the insect migrates over several generations during a journey between the United States and ending in Mexico in concert with the November observance of the Day of the Dead–and likening the metamorphic transformation to the human experience, hospice staff read the names of individuals who had received care during the previous year.
Relatives and friends stood by in the Rye Nature Center clearing ready to release their own butterflies. As each of the packages were opened, the insects emerged. They fluttered their delicate wings, some flew up and away while others lingered on fingertips and shirtsleeves to the delight of the children present and the comfort of those imagining a symbolic moment with their loved one.
The beauty and hopefulness of the butterflies is perhaps the reason why people responded so powerful to the ceremony. "So many people responded, said bereavement intern Kim Gordon, "we decided to have two."
People often have difficulty dealing with hospice, Dawe said, even though it is an important service and component element of care. “It’s the next step in care,” he said. While some people think of hospice as a place to go when nothing else can be done, the concept of hospice care is focused on “care rather than cure” and incorporates spiritual and emotional support into a patient’s plan of care. According to the Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester’s website, ninety percent of services are provided at home and the non-profit also runs several locations around the county providing coordinated health care and counseling services.