EFFINGHAM — For HSHS Southern Illinois Home Care and Hospice and for families of those they have helped, the butterfly is the perfect symbol for a loved one's transition into the next phase after life.

Twenty-four painted lady butterflies were released by area residents and HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital and Southern Illinois Home Care and Hospice staff on Thursday at the hospital's Healing Garden. The gesture is in memory of those home care and hospice patients who have died recently. Sixteen loved ones were honored by name at this year's ceremony.

One such loved one was Angie Goebel's infant daughter, Maggie. Goebel, a Newton resident, said she lost her daughter when she was 3.5 months old, and the butterfly release was the perfect way to honor her.

"We came to release a butterfly in her memory," Goebel said. "We have done butterfly releases in her memory. We have done a 5K at Sam Parr in her memory for seven years, and we always did a butterfly release at the beginning of it."

Connie Smith of Cowden released a butterfly in honor of her late mother, Maxine Oeltjen. Smith said her mother was in the hospice program while at Heartland Christian Village in Neoga.

"It will be a year July 9," Smith said of her mother's passing.

Smith's butterfly stayed on her palm longer than the other insects, and Smith's friend, Ann Platt of Effingham, said it was Smith's mother visiting for a while and checking in. Smith described the experience as "special."

Hospital Volunteer Facilitator and Outreach Representative Valerie Engelbart said the butterfly release is a way for Home Care and Hospice to reach out to the committee and acknowledge that a relationship still exist between the program and the families even after a loved on has passed on. Engelbart described the release as the culminating event for Home Care and Hospice, which also hosts the Butterfly Ball fundraiser.

"The butterfly is a symbol for hospice, and it represents how we transition like how we go from a caterpillar to a butterfly, so that's what we look at as a life span," Engelbart said. "We do the butterfly release just in memory of patients or anybody else in the community and we tie it back to our community."

Just before the butterflies were released, Engelbart recited a poem called "As I Sit in Heaven" by Hazel Birdsall. One line seemed to fit the mood of the release and the notion that butterflies are signs from those who have passed, according to Home Care and Hospice.

"I see you wish the days away, begging to have me home, so I try to send you signs so you know you're not alone," Engelbart read.

In addition to Maggie Goebel and Maxine Oeltjen, others honored by name during the program were Vera Pollard, Jessie "JP" Pack, Gene Rhodes, Pam Smith, Shawn Rutherford, Tom Rutherford Sr., Scott Schlipmann, Bob Cohorst, Art Brumleve, Brad Ghast, Marian Thompson, Ted Hanfland, Joan Rutherford and Bo Arvin.

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