LONGVIEW (The Longview News Journal) — About 175 butterflies were gently cradled by loving hands Saturday morning awaiting release in the garden at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.
The 100 or so people who gathered for the fifth annual Compassionate Friends of East Texas Butterfly Release stood under a calm sky and listened as the names of family members no longer living were read aloud.
One of those names was Ruby Jo Stone Ellard, who founded the Longview chapter of Compassionate Friends after her only child, Laura Shae, died 11 years ago.
Ellard died unexpectedly March 18.
Organizer Brenda Upshaw was in attendance to honor the memory of her 26-year-old daughter, as well as Ellard.
“She was one of my best friends,” Upshaw said. “Many of us are here today because she kept us going.”
Terry Ray Smith was another one of those named.
Smith’s mother, father, wife and two grandchildren stood quietly, enveloped by a soft breeze as they remembered the 55-year-old man who died of cancer March 15.
“Last night, eight of us went and got tattoos as a memorial to Terry,” said Smith’s 74-year-old mom, Nita, showing a small red heart with a teardrop on her ankle. “Seven of us actually did. I imagine he’s looking from heaven and laughing because I gave him so much grief when I found out he had one.”
The silence was broken only by a fountain in the nearby pond and the words of organizer Elgin Lay as he spoke of the group’s importance.
“We don’t always know the answers to how to survive the loss of a child, but we can share what we know — and that is, there will be laughter and happiness again,” he said.
Poems were read, and a song recorded by Tony Melton was played. His mother, Dian, cradled a butterfly in his honor.
“God is amazing in how he sends his smallest creatures to bring us the biggest comfort,” she said.
Then with a fluttering of wings, the butterflies were set free.
If you go
What: Compassionate Friends of East Texas, Longview Chapter
When: 6:30 pm on the second Monday of each month
Where: First United Methodist Church
Information: (903) 806-8927