You could see the smile on Sharon Caldwell’s face as she released her bouquet of balloons.

They left her hand which was clutching a memory of her mother Zouella Crawford Hargrave, 94, of Edmond, who died on Aug. 3. Others standing there on a patio outside a section of the Epworth Villa Retirement Community released their balloons; together they rose up into the mostly sunny sky, rising toward heaven.

Epworth Villa, a not-for-profit organization founded by the Methodist Church located near Quail Springs Mall on Pennsylvania Avenue, is accredited by the United Methodist Association for its spiritual and mental fitness programs.

Wednesday afternoon, residents, staff members and family members gathered to remember two residents who recently died. They gathered to pray, share, grieve and sing. Remembrances about the dearly departed were read. Notes describing a memory were written. They were tied to the balloons which were taken outside and released.

“The balloons are an important symbol of the spirit rising up and going to heaven to be with God,” Epworth Villa Chaplain the Rev. Lisa Crone said. “We also write a tender message to the person. In a way we’re sending a message to them by sending forth the balloons.”

Crone said she hopes the family members who come to the service know that their loved ones were valued by others in the Epworth Villa community, where they were remembered and loved.

Following the balloon release, Caldwell said the Epworth Villa community is wonderful. Her emotions came to the surface several times as she spoke about recent occurrences. Staff members also attended the event. Hearing the memories about her mother reinforced how the staff treated her as someone important.

“They cared a lot about them, not just for them,” Caldwell said.

During the service, Quality Life Hospice Chaplain Adrian Martin was one of those who spoke fondly of the dearly departed. Martin spoke about Zouella’s spiritual side. She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Edmond.

“She loved her Lord,” he said. “She put her Lord above everything.”

She also loved to sing, Martin recalled. Her faith guided her life, he said. Zouella, who was born in 1918 in Pecan Gap, Texas, graduated from the Dallas Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in 1939 as a registered nurse.

In today’s world, people think grieving should be over with by the time the funeral is finished, Crone said.

“But the truth is, it can take a year or more,” she said.

Accordingly in June, Epworth Villa hosts a butterfly release for loved ones based on the same aspect as the balloon release, Crone said. In December, there is another opportunity to remember.

For more information about Epworth Villa, call 752-1200 or visit epworthvilla.com. The community welcomes all faiths.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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