Relatives in Ottawa honor their loved ones by releasing butterflies

It was a symbol of rejuvenation and remembrance when butterflies were released into the Beechwood Cemetery for the annual Butterfly Memorial organized by Bereaved Families of Ontario-Ottawa Region.

“Uncle Kevin, I miss him and I love him,” said Autumn O’Reagan, who shared a private moment with her butterfly as she mourned the loss of her uncle with grandmother Pierrette Tessier.

“It’s only been eight weeks and I hadn’t had a chance to really show my emotion,” she said of her brother-in-law who died of cancer in March. “Today I can let go of those emotions.”

More than a hundred people attended, marking the group’s first face-to-face meeting in two years.

“There’s a lot of emotion at the ceremony because people’s names and photos are on the montage,” said Michelline Lepage, board member at Bereavement Families of Ontario-Ottawa. “Everyone we’ve talked to who’s part of the groups says the groups saved lives because they’ve had nothing else.”

Behind the stage was keynote speaker, Tina Boileau, who expressed love for her son Jonathan Pitre. DeRussell, Ont. teen was known as the “butterfly boy” because of his rare skin condition. His skin is said to be as delicate as butterfly wings and his inspiring outlook on life put him in the spotlight for several years until his passing in 2018.

“I think this is symbolic for him,” Boileau said of the event. “And honestly, you really can’t get over grief. You’re just trying to figure out what your new normal is and do it day by day.”

The volunteer-led organization hopes to raise more money to support peer-to-peer programs similar to this throughout the year to provide a little comfort to those who need it most.

“I feel like this is the beginning of us starting to accept that Kevin is gone,” Tessier said.

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