By Malorie Spreen, Life Enrichment Director, Wesley Homes Lea Hill
The Arbor memory care at Wesley Homes Lea Hill held a party for butterflies, symbols of summertime freedom, rebirth, hope, a beautiful beginning, transformation and joy.
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Colorful handcrafted tissue flowers the size of basketballs hung from the ceiling and walls with delicate, silky butterflies hidden within them. The Arbor residents lovingly created goodie bags for guests while butterfly nectar shone in the sun, and the table lit up with translucent reds. Sun hats were worn by all on this glorious day.
Life Enrichment Coordinator Carla Lopez-Wilkerson envisioned an enchanted release party for the butterflies so that residents could witness their transformation from cocoons into careful and delicate butterflies. She invited The Children’s Therapy Center, who utilize from our pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to join in the fun. Residents gathered in a loosely stitched circle in the courtyard surrounded by well-loved flowers, strawberry plants and welcome shade. The five winged guests of honor waited patiently in a netted enclosure on the sun-warmed sidewalk. They enjoyed bananas and the breeze, blissfully unaware of the anticipation and joy that was growing like a wave heading toward shore as each new guest arrived.Children trickled in with their parents and swim therapists. The courtyard filled with laughter as residents struck up conversations, shared fruit salad
and passed out goodie bags. Some children, fingers sticky from popsicles, produced stream after stream of bubbles while others threw balls, played bean bag baseball and gently admired the soon-to-be-free butterflies. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was enjoyed by all, and we giggled and pondered how one little caterpillar could eat so much. An assistant, a young boy with curious eyes, was called upon to help introduce the world to the butterflies.
The release was not so much a crash and a roar as it was a quiet introduction. Silence had never been as heavy in the courtyard as it was at that moment. The butterflies had decided they were not coming out! We explained to the crowd the butterflies’ inability to understand the possibilities the outside world holds. That they can’t know how sweet strawberry leaves feel on their small feet since they’ve never experienced it. We also explained how – just maybe – they were nervous about the change. So we helped them by bringing in a leaf to encourage their steps. One by one, they were carried softly into a new life. Those still happy on the banana slices were carried around the circle for a closer look, always careful not to touch. As they adjusted to the possibilities of a larger world, they began to fly!
The volume was turned up in the courtyard as loud, excited laughs burst forth from those the butterflies decided to land on. Age was not a part of our reality during these moments. Resident laughter mirrored the children’s. With eyes closed and heart’s open, we couldn’t tell the difference. All eyes sparkled and all lips turned up. In the course of a few short hours, a bridge was built between generations. It was built over memory loss, mobility loss and communication differences. It was built over time and years and experiences. On that particular day, it was built over butterflies.