Choosing Hospice was the “best thing that we ever did”

Reserve your butterfly for the upcoming Memorial Butterfly Release

Submitted by St.Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation

Choosing hospice care is never an easy decision. But for Catherine Rose Ethier-Etmanski (or “Casha” to everyone who knew her) it was something she knew was right for her. 

She had heard many positive stories about the two-bedroom hospice in Barry’s Bay, operated by Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care. So, when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer, she knew that’s where she wanted to be.

“She said she wanted to finish her life in Barry’s Bay,” her newlywed husband Paul Ethier said.

The two had met decades ago when Paul helped her file her income tax. He was drawn to Casha’s incredible sense of humour and outlook on life. Plus, they had lots in common; both had served in the military, and both were proud parents. Casha had Shawn and Paul had Celine and Marcel.

Upon retirement, the two divided their time between Florida and a trailer at Riverland Campground in Madawaska, close to Casha’s extended family. It was easy for Casha to make friends wherever she went; she was always the life of the party.

When Casha was experiencing back pain in 2022, she was referred by a physician at St. Francis Memorial Hospital for tests in Pembroke. Casha was quickly diagnosed with bone cancer in mid-October. It was aggressive and had spread to her lungs and other parts of her body.

She had made her intentions known to her family that she wanted to spend her final days at Madawaska Valley Hospice. In December 2022, she was transferred from Ottawa General Hospital.

“It was the best thing that we ever did,” Paul said. “She was amazed at how wonderful Hospice was.”

Not only did she receive exemplary care from staff and volunteers, but she also had peace of mind knowing that Paul was cared for. He was able to stay overnight at hospice to be close to Casha every step of the way. They were even able to plan one last party, where more than 20 loved ones stopped by for a spaghetti dinner.

Casha passed, surrounded by family, at hospice on December 22, 2022. She was 68 years old. Paul, along with Casha’s many other family members, were grateful to Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care for lightening the burden for them during the difficult time.

Memorial Butterfly Release planned for July 14 2023

Memories of the 2022 Butterfly Release. Photo submitted.

Many families have benefited from that same care and compassion offered by our local hospice palliative care staff and volunteers. Every year, many of those families return to the annual Memorial Butterfly Release hosted by the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation and Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care. Butterflies are an international symbol for hospice/palliative care because they symbolize change, hope, and life.

The Memorial Butterfly Release is intended to be a time for families to reflect and honour their loved ones who have passed. The 7th annual event will take place on Sunday, July 30th, 2023, at the Water Tower Park behind the Opeongo Seniors Centre. There will also be an option to pick up your butterfly and release it at home.

The event will feature music and guest speakers, including a healing message from Julie Keon, Life Cycle Celebrant. Those picking up butterflies for a home release can tune into our Facebook page for the live feed that day.

Since it takes time to raise the butterflies, pre-registration is required. The deadline to reserve a live butterfly is Friday, July 14th, 2023. The cost to reserve a butterfly is $35 each or three for $100. Proceeds go toward hospice palliative care services in our community. Please note whether you will be attending or picking up on the enclosed form and return it along with the payment to SFVH Foundation (P.O. Box 129, Barry’s Bay, ON K0J 1B0) or call us at 613-756-3045 ext. 217.

Alternatively, butterflies can be reserved online at If you are picking up your butterflies, it is very important that you bring an ice pack and an insulated lunch bag or cooler to keep your butterfly cool and dormant during transport.

As part of our grief and bereavement program, we hope that this event will provide an opportunity for you to honour your losses during this challenging time. Your support of hospice palliative care services in our community is appreciated.

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