More than 120 Painted Lady butterflies flapped their wings as they were released in memory or in honor of loved ones on the front lawn of the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital Saturday morning.

The release was part of the Eighth Annual Butterfly Release, a fundraiser event for the RRH Hospice. People purchased a butterfly to be released following a ceremony and reciting of the names of loved ones.

The butterflies were gently wrapped in trifold paper, slowly being warmed so they could take flight upon being released.

Dr. Larry Cosner, medical director of RRH Home Health and Hospice, opened the ceremony and served as master of ceremonies. Live music was performed by the Farris Family Singers at different parts of the event.

Celia Mills, administrator of care coordination and community health, welcomed everyone and thanked those who supported the Hospice.

“It is an essential part of our community,” Mills said. “Our mission is to provide dignified and professional care to persons suffering from a life-limiting illness, and to their families and caregivers while they take this last journey.”

Mills noted that the butterfly release is a “symbol of the continuation of the spirit and completion of a life cycle as they take flight.”

“When a butterfly lights beside a sunbeam for a brief moment, its glowing beauty belongs to our world but then it flies on again,” Mills said. “Though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.”

Tara Packer, the Hospice chaplain, provided the invocation for the ceremony, noting the memory of loved ones and the opportunity that family had with them before they died.

Hospice social worker Amanda Lockie noted Hospice is a healthcare service that blends into the background, flying under the radar until needed.

“It touches over 1 million lives nationally a year,” Lockie said. “Hospice is end of life [care], which may be a time of life that may be much sooner for patients and their families than they wanted. It is our goal to reach Hospice-eligible patients earlier than the last few hours or days of lives but ideally the weeks or months in order to make the palliative care that we can.”

Lockie noted that Hospice provides not only medical, but spiritual and emotional support for patients and their families. “Our purpose is to provide quality of life when quantity is limited.”

Tamara Tilley, director of the RRH Development Foundation, took the podium, noted that her organization was started years ago as a way to help financially support the hospital and its programs. Last year, Hospice and the foundation decided to work on raising $300,000 to purchase and renovate an open Hospice home to facilitate 46 beds. 

“They explained that individuals sometimes come to the end of their lives without family or friends to support them,” Tilley said. “The nurse told me that it literally just breaks her heart, and I knew right there and then it was a project we could move forward with. We call it  ‘Making Dreams Come True’ because it was really a dream of the Hospice to have this house.”

Tilley noted that her own father was supported by Hospice “before he left this world” and so is a project near and dear to the foundation. Nearly one-third has been raised for the Hospice House. 

Hospice nurse Julia Haccou and RRH Development Foundation board chair Geri Haradon recited the list of names for those who had a butterfly released in their memory or their honor.

The butterflies were released shortly after that from the hospital’s front lawn in batches as the winged insects took flight.