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Sending messages of love in memory of those who have passed, through a live butterfly release

'Sometimes we don't know how to grieve, and it's nice to be able to grieve with a smile' Bertha Bradley, remembering loved ones

Hundreds gathered, both young and old, to celebrate the life and memory of a loved one who has passed away, through the release of live butterflies at the North Bay Waterfront Saturday. 

This is the eighth annual live butterfly release, a major fundraiser for the the Near North Palliative Care Network, which provides care for people in their end stage of life, and support to family members. 

Bertha Bradley purchased butterflies in memory of her mom, and her son who died from cancer. This event holds a special place in her heart.

"I think it's the most wonderful thing in the world. Sometimes we don't know how to grieve, and it's nice to be able to grieve with a smile," said Bradley. "Sometimes you think you're the only one, and you think 'my gosh he's been gone for five years and you shouldn't feel like that'. And then you talk to the woman next door to you or the man sitting next to you who says, 'my wife has been gone for ten years, and I just feel horrible and I'm so glad to be here.' It is wonderful to have this event."   

Christine Breen drove from Oshawa to be part of the day. This is her third time attending the butterfly release. She bought a butterfly in memory of her dad. 

"Because I miss him. Cancer seems to run in our family," said Breen. "He passed away six years ago. I think it is a nice opportunity to be with other people, it is a beautiful day. It gives you a good feeling."    

David May bought 5 butterflies, remembering some his relatives and those of his wife.

"It brings it all home in one moment for sure. It makes me sad of course. I think of them almost everyday. When the butterflies are released I'll say good-bye."

In some circles, the butterfly is believed to be a messenger. Darren Renaud , Board Chair for the Near North Palliative Care Network explains. 

"Based on the legend of the butterfly, because it cannot make a sound, it carries a message only to the creator. So the butterfly can be sent with well-wishes and a message to remember loved ones who have passed."

The Palliative Care Network is funded in part by the North East Local Health Integration Network. The Palliative Care Network is a visiting hospice covering Sturgeon Falls to Mattawa, to Almaguin and all areas in between. .

"Our volunteers bring hospice care to the client in their home, in the hospital, in the long-term care facility, where ever they may be. We provide end of life care for the client, we provide respite for the caregiver that's in the home. We provide that impartial ear. We also provide grief services afterwards," said Renaud.

It also provides volunteer training and support for the volunteers themselves.

"It is a job that not everyone has a calling for, and it's something that is certainly dear to our hearts. Even if the client has a lot of family support, it often helps to have someone impartial who is there for the person. It's not a charity that comes to mind for a lot of folks, but it is something that absolutely touches everybody."

Renaud says its training program is being hailed as one of the best in the province, and the network is being asked for assistance by other hospices.

As for this years butterfly release, organizers hope to exceed last years total of $20,000.

The butterflies are indigenous to the area, so they are home when they are released.