It was a symbol of rejuvenation and remembrance as butterflies were released at the Beechwood Cemetery for the annual Butterfly Memorial hosted 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 grieved the loss of her uncle alongside her grandmother Pierrette Tessier.

“It’s only eight weeks and I hadn’t had the opportunity to really show my emotion,” she said of her brother-in-law who passed away from cancer in March. “Today is going to allow me to release those emotions.”

More than a hundred people were in attendance, marking the group’s first in person gathering in two years.

“There is a lot of emotion during the ceremony because people’s names and photos are up on the montage,” said Michelline Lepage, a board member with Bereavement Families of Ontario- Ottawa. “Everyone we’ve spoken to that are part of the groups say, in light of not having anything else, the groups have been life savers.”

Behind the podium was keynote speaker, Tina Boileau, expressing love for her son Jonathan Pitre. The Russell, Ont. teenager was known as the “butterfly boy” for his rare skin condition. His skin was 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 of him,” said Boileau of the event. “And truthfully you really don’t get over grief you just try to figure out what your new normal is and take it one day at a time.”

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

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