By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Children laughed and a few tears were shed as brightly colored butterflies fluttered across the St. Luke United Methodist Church courtyard on Sunday afternoon.
The butterflies were released as a part of the North Mississippi Medical Center Hospice’s memorial service, honoring patients who have died within the last six months. Family members of more than 20 patients were there to release the butterflies and reunite with the hospice’s staff and volunteers.
NMMC Hospice keeps track of families for up to 13 months after a family members’ death. Each year the hospice has a memorial service, but this was the first time that butterflies, which are a hospice symbol, were included in the ceremony.
Carrie Leach, 29, of Mooreville, attended the service with her family to honor her grandmother, Mary Gray, who died in December.
“We can all do our grieving together,” she said, referring to both her family and the NMMC Hospice staff. “This is something we will all remember.”
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson spoke at the service. His father, Jimmy Johnson, passed away in hospice in December 2006.
He praised the NMMC Hospice team. He asked the audience to raise their hands if they had received support from the hospice, and nearly every hand went up.
“Y’all have affected a lot of people,” he said.
Jamie Grissom, bereavement coordinator at the hospice, said the memorial service was an important day for both the staff and families.
“When we come into your home, we get close to you,” she said. “You become our family.”
Karen Medlock, a registered nurse and patient advocate at the hospice, said the butterfly is a symbol of rebirth and transformation.
She read Jill Haley’s poem about butterflies just before they were released.
“As you release this butterfly in honor of me, know that I’m with you and will always be,” read part of the poem. “Now fly away butterfly as high as you can go; I’m right there with you more than you know.”
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.