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Butterflies Released in Rye Honor Past Loved Ones

RYE, N.Y. – People released butterflies into the wild Saturday at the Rye Nature Center to symbolize a loved one they lost recently.

The butterflies represented recently deceased patients who were taken care of by Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester of White Plains. Bruce Page of hospice, said the Monarch and painted lady butterflies will live about six weeks but by the time their grandchildren are born, those butterflies will have migrated to Mexico to seek warmer weather.

The butterflies should arrive south of the border by Nov. 1 which is the “Day of the Dead,” a holiday where people celebrate their deceased ancestors. Page said as far back as the Mayans, people believed the migration of butterflies represented the deceased. Page, who also is a Christian minister, said the group got the idea to release butterflies after observing a similar event involving doves.

“We've had good support this year even though we had a little bit of rain this morning,” Page said. “If you look at Western tradition, a butterfly is seen as something of a transformation. We let people make their own connections and keep it as neutral to world religions as possible.”

David Conklin, of Lake Peekskill, said he came to the event because he lost his fiancé to cancer in July 2011. Conklin said butterflies are a fitting tribute to her since they are beautiful and can be free.

“It’s been hard, but we are not forgetting about her,” Conklin said. “It’s nice that this helps keep her memory alive. Learning all about the spiritual beliefs of what the butterflies symbolize makes this day even more special.”

The event, now in its second year at the Rye Nature Center, had so much demand this year, the hospice had to have two sessions. Mary Spangler, the hospice's executive director, thanked the people in attendance for letting the organization care for their loved ones in their final days.

“We remember precious lives with help from a greater life,” Spangler said. “Just like butterfly wings, they bring us great winds and memories.”

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