Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley

Butterfly release celebration

honouring loved ones


by Sharon Simpson

Menno Place hosted their first-annual Butterfly Release Celebration for seniors, families and staff in the one-acre landscaped courtyard that is a jewel of beauty at the centre of the 11 acre campus-of-care.

Residents, family members and staff were encouraged to purchase butterflies for release on this very special occasion. Proceeds from the purchase of butterflies went to the gardening programs for the Recreation Team.

Joanne Sweeney, Recreation Manager, was very familiar with the way a Butterfly Release Celebration opens up joy and symbolizes hope for seniors.

“This is the first time we are holding this special celebration at Menno Place,” said Joanne. “We were a bit worried that it would rain or be too cool, but God answered our prayer and the sun came out and shone down on us. It is a thrill to see seniors release their butterfly and watch those butterflies flutter about, sometimes resting on individuals before they set off into their new world.”

The Butterfly Release is a celebration of life and can be used to symbolize the transitions we face, the joy we have in the moment, the honouring of someone we love, the remembrance of someone who has passed and the wonder of the world in which we live.

City of Abbotsford Deputy Mayor Patricia Ross and Councillor Les Barkman were on hand to say a few words and share the moments of joy and remembrance. Both made personalized buttons that commemorated the day and shared a person whom they were remembering as they released their butterflies.

More than 200 people participated in the celebration. Throughout the courtyard, groups were clustered together to share joy and sorrow. Many butterflies landed in the newly landscaped butterfly garden before carrying on in their freedom.

Designed in anticipation of this event, the garden is full of long-blooming flowers known for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. There are many sculptures of butterflies “growing” among the plants.

The celebration was sweetened with homemade cupcakes from the Menno Place baker, Mirelle. She hand-pressed and airbrushed tiny butterflies which appear to gently land on the swirled frosting of each cupcake. Using the beautiful posters as inspiration, she said, “Some of the butterflies are shiny. Some are not. Some are releasing a butterfly for joy, some for sorrow. Creating these is my heart and my passion.”

The Butterfly Release Celebration followed a site-wide Memorial Service where a quilt was unveiled and blessed. The quilt is 12 feet by 10 feet and has a gradient of dark blue to white fabric behind a cluster of butterflies in flight. It will be used in the end-of-life journey to cover a person’s body after they have passed from life to eternity.

Covering a body with a quilt is a dignified way for a resident to leave Menno Place for the last time. This ritual of draping the body with a quilt is a way for Menno Place staff to say goodbye to people they get to know well during their final years and will bring a touch of warmth to a difficult time for families.

“What a joyful and wonderful event!” said Karen Baillie, CEO of Menno Place, “A care home does not need to be a place of depression and isolation. We create moments of joy for seniors every day! We provide excellent end-of-life care, both palliative and spiritual care. Our care and values shone through today in a big way.”

The Butterfly Quilt is a gift of love, skill and generosity by the Menno Positives Quilting Club who honour the long-held Mennonite tradition of quilting and found each other through Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC.

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