Spirits soar at butterfly release

The fourth annual Heart of Hospice Foundation Butterfly Release in Hood River drew more than 165 people to Jackson Park May 19, to release monarch butterflies.

“It’s our way of thanking the community that so generously supports our Foundation,” said Cathy Carter, executive director of the Heart of Hospice Foundation, sponsor of the free community event.

“We love hosting this event. It connects people throughout the Gorge. We’ve all experienced loss and death. It’s a common bond that we all share. And it’s so inspirational to watch and listen as strangers share their grief.”

This celebration of life was intended to help people honor their loved ones and release their grief. The butterfly has been a symbol of transformation and resurrection for thousands of years, going back to at least the ancient Greeks. That is also why it is the symbol for hospices worldwide.

The butterfly release was open to the entire community and this year was a good mix of hospice and non-hospice families. The Heart of Hospice staff read the names of more than 150 patients who had passed since the last butterfly release. Several of the staff openly cried as they read the names of people they had cared for. The names of another more than 100 people (and pets) that were submitted by the community were also read.

One gentleman commented that he was as moved by the emotions of the readers as by the number of names themselves; and he personally knew several of the people.

This event is always very emotional for our staff. When a patient dies, we often don’t have time to fully grieve their loss because we have a new patient to serve. But when we stand there and hear or read the name our patients, we remember how special they were to us. We grieve their loss again.

I’m certain this grief is transmitted to our audience. But I also know this is very healing for all of us. At Heart of Hospice we have a saying that the only bad tears are uncried tears.

When the butterflies were simultaneously released, there was a huge collective sigh. Some people were crying; others were hugging, but nobody remained untouched. Many of the butterflies lingered this year.

One woman was certain that that her butterfly contained the spirit of her deceased husband because it wouldn’t leave her for the longest time. First, it sat on her shoulder, then her arm, then her finger. She was able to talk to it and assure it that she was alright, that he could go in peace. It was only then that her butterfly flew away.

As she watched it flitter away, she smiled, but with tears streaming down her face. That’s the beauty of our butterfly release, happiness and heartache.


Clyde Sanda is Heart of Hospice chaplain.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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