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St. Mark’s releases butterflies honoring those who passed

Underneath the warm summer sunlight, around 50 residents and family members of St. Mark’s Living gathered to remember those who passed away within the last year.

Thursday afternoon’s memorial service marked the second time that a butterfly release was conducted.

It was a powerful metaphor for changes and transformation, put together by staff as a fitting symbolic ceremony to honor those who were no longer present physically.

Briana Sturm, executive director of St. Mark’s Living, gave opening remarks to the audience about the gathering and how much people have been affected by those who passed away. Sitting on a small table near the podium, was a small white box wrapped neatly with a pink ribbon. Inside, were little butterflies fluttering their wings.

Darlene Feltes, Heartland Hospice administrator, shared that the release symbolized a transformation and beauty.

“It truly is an amazing symbol of transformation, life, love and even closure,” Feltes said. “St. Mark’s has been great to partner with in the care of patients at the end of life. We’ve been working closely with St. Mark’s in hosting this joint service. It’s great to have a time where we can come together and honor everyone.”

A butterfly released Thursday afternoon at St Marks Assisted LIving rests on a column near the front.

According to Feltes, there were around 65 people who recently died and were being remembered. For the last five years, a memorial service was held to honor loved ones.

“It’s another way to support families and staff,” Felles said. “Butterflies have always been a symbol of transformation and changes. It’s a beautiful time to do a release.”

Although last year was the first time that St. Mark’s Living hosted a butterfly release, Heartland Hospice Services hosted butterfly releases during the last five years.

During the release, names of the deceased were read aloud. Some of the readers choked back tears, and others quietly and reverently reflected on the lives of those lost. A piano was softly playing music, and a singer sang a song that held themes of always remembering and never forgetting.

“We remember them,” the audience repeated back to the speakers when prompted.

With a signal, two St. Mark’s Living staff members opened up the box. Slowly releasing about 100 painted butterflies into the crowd. The attendees murmured in awe as butterflies fluttered from guest to guest, landed gently and quietly on the sidewalks and flowers, and even on some of the people in attendance as well.

The audience then walked back inside the facility for refreshments and a time of additional reflection.

“This does bring some closure,” Feltes said. “We remember the good times, and the amazing patients we cared for.”