Butterflies Soar Off into the Sun

Hospice Event Honors Lost Loved Ones


The butterflies, some of them eager to be free and others needing a little encouragement, fluttered into the air and then quickly flitted away, captured by a brisk breeze beneath clear blue skies. Smiling, a woman in blue, pulled out her cell phone and followed one that had come to rest nearby on the grass.

“There you are,” she said, snapping a few quick images before it, too, flew away.

More than 65 guests gathered at the NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement Center on June 23 to celebrate the lives of their loved ones during the first-ever butterfly event.

“The butterfly is our hospice symbol,” Linda Pribble, NorthBay Hospice Bereavement Coordinator told the group before the launch. “They are a symbol for transformation and change.”

In welcoming the crowd, she reminded them that they each had something in common: “We have all loved someone deeply. And we are here to honor them.”

Gretchen Shilts, NorthBay chaplain emeritus, spoke to the crowd in more detail about why the butterfly so aptly represents the grieving process.

“Before this creature becomes a butterfly, it has been through three stages. The third is as a pupa where the caterpillar inside the chrysalis is tightly confined. It is a safe place for it to experience its change and in 7 to 10 days it emerges, tired … and then ready to start flying,” she said. “I don’t know if butterflies have feelings but if they do, this must be wonderful. They are free to fly wherever they wish.”

She called it an appropriate metaphor for the process of grieving a loved one.

“It is human to be afraid of pain and to look for ways to avoid it and that is especially true in the death of a loved one,” she said. “But there is no way out … only through and when we submit to that reality we can emerge stronger and wiser and be transformed and ready to face life.”

Following the ceremony, guests enjoyed an open house at the bereavement center, complete with butterfly-shaped cookies and refreshments.

NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement is marking its 30th year of helping patients and families in Solano County.