Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn An Oasis for Birds and Birders | Page 16

Great Blue Heron by Lori Harris A Majestic Presence: Wildlife Sightings at Committal Services by Tom Johnson, Family Services Coordinator The appreciation of birds within Mount Auburn is not limited to bird watchers and other casual Cemetery visitors. For the family and friends coming to Mount Auburn to commemorate the life of a lost loved one, the presence of birds and other wildlife can provide a sense of comfort at a time of tremendous sorrow. One example of the power of wildlife to soothe the bereaved took place on a cold winter day in February of 2010, while a family gathered for a burial service near Willow Pond. As the widow read a poem over her husband’s grave, the mourners stood in quiet surprise as a Great Blue Heron gracefully flew overhead and then landed on the snow- covered ice of the nearby pond. Some attending the service may not have known that the man being laid to rest was an avid birder, but for those aware of this fact, the Heron’s presence was a fitting, though unexpected, tribute. Though the appearance of wildlife at funeral services isn’t usually quite so dramatic, it is not uncommon for creatures to make themselves known. Whether it is the soothing songs of birds floating down from overhead, or the quiet fluttering of a butterfly passing from flower to flower, the presence of wildlife can be a powerful reminder for those attending a service to find hope and inspiration beyond the sadness. Even when wildlife is not to be seen, references to birds are regularly incorporated into funeral services. As winged beings, birds are seen by many cultures as a symbol of pas- sage from one life to the next. The poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” a popular choice for memorial services written by Mary Elizabeth Frye, uses the image of birds flying overhead to help comfort those left behind: 14 | Sweet Auburn Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep . . . When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight . . . The purchase of burial space or the rental of our chapels and grounds at Mount Auburn helps to preserve the beauty of this important place for those already buried here as well the wildlife that call the Cemetery home. If you are interested in learning more about burial options, chapel rentals, or the use of our grounds, please contact our Cemetery Services Department at 617-547- 7105 or email [email protected].