Matt Jeffrey was a Niagara man, through and through – he played football for Niagara District Secondary School and always enjoyed a tour of wine country.
His only sister, Lisa Jeffrey, honoured his life and commemorated his death on Saturday at Niagara-on-the-Lake Palliative Care’s second annual butterfly release.
“I was a little hesitant at first because it’s still rather fresh,” Jeffrey told The Lake Report.
She said her brother passed away unexpectedly at the age of 48 less than two years ago.
“I feel that (releasing a butterfly) is more about his honour. I have to upkeep his honour and live as he would want,” she said.
Before the butterflies were released, jazz musician Juliet Dunn dedicated a performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to her lost loved ones, including her late husband and musical partner Peter Shea, who died last August.
Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa then read off the names of the loved ones each butterfly was dedicated to and attendees released them into the field neighbouring the Community Centre.
Coming out to the NOTL Community Centre for the release was especially important to Jeffrey as the rest of the family couldn’t attend.
Matt Jeffrey’s wife and three children live in Louisiana where he settled down after receiving a full scholarship and graduating from Kansas State University.
Jeffrey’s mother is bedridden with a traumatic brain injury and her father is her caregiver.
“We’re a small family. It was just the two of us, just my brother and I so we’re really close,” Jeffrey said.
NOTL Palliative Care has worked with the Jeffrey family before, offering lender equipment to the family after Jeffrey’s mother was released from the hospital.
“They’ve been such a great organization.”
The painted lady butterflies were hatched specifically for NOTL Palliative Care to release and are indigenous to the region, so they will happily reside in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“It’s another way to keep (my brother’s) memory alive,” Jeffrey said.