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]