Last Saturday was my mother’s funeral. She was about 7 weeks shy of being 88 years old. For the last 8 years she had been struggling with the effects of Parkinson’s and a stroke. For the two weeks prior to her death she had been fighting pneumonia. While her death didn’t come as a shock, it is still such a big loss. I’ll miss being able to pick up the phone and talk but I know she’s listening wherever she is.
We had a beautiful and simple service for her at the church that she helped found. Since much of our family was from out of town, we decided to forgo the evening visitation the night before the funeral and have a simple viewing at the church before the funeral. The funeral home did a lovely job in setting up a viewing in the parish hall.
Our family had a tradition of having a family reunion picnic in Prairie du Chien, WI the first Sunday in August each year. These gatherings were the highlight of my summer as a child. The extended family of great aunts and uncles and their families made for a large gathering of family. In more recent years it was the descendants of my mother’s immediate family—our family and my five uncle’s families that gathered. My mom was one of 6 children and the only girl. Mom loved those gatherings and it was hard for her to not be able to go to the picnics when her mobility failed her after the Parkinson’s and stroke. It was a 3.5 hour drive that her spirit so wanted to make but her body just wasn’t capable of. It hurt so much when she’d say she wanted to go to the picnic and I knew we couldn’t make it happen for her.
So here at the church our extended family was gathering to honor her life and I thought how pleased she’d be to see us together. I walked to the area of the room where mom’s body was available to pay last respects–a corner of the room with a screen creating some privacy with two tall windows in the corner on each side. I looked out the window and right outside the window were two ducks, a female and a mallard looking in the window at me. There is no pond anywhere near the church. The ducks continued to look in at the family gathering. I wondered at them for a moment, felt comfort in their presence and then got caught up in greeting family members.
Days later I’m still thinking about those ducks. Feeding the ducks at a pond near the river was an outing we’d often make, my mom, dad, sister and I when I was little. Those ducks at the funeral seemed to have a purpose in being there. Could it be that the spirits of my mom and dad were using the ducks to tell me it was okay? I had spent the two days prior to my mother’s death telling her that it was okay to go that my father was waiting for her. He had passed away in 1987. Mom carried on but I know she missed him terribly. Those two ducks looked like a happy couple. They stuck together looking in the window for the longest time. If it was my mom and dad checking in, they saw the family gathering that my mom would have so loved.
I did a little research on duck medicine from the Native American tradition and found one site that said ducks bring the message of family connections, emotional healing, and calming influences. It further said “the duck teaches getting in touch with your deepest emotions in order to get to a calmer state. Ducks are family oriented and enjoy companionship. If a duck visits it could mean it is time to return to your roots and spend some time with your clan. . . . Duck medicine teaches us not to hold on to our past troubles and to live in the moment. ” I’m a little awed by how perfect that message is. I thank those two ducks at the funeral for the comfort they brought me.
I believe that the universe sends us messages of hope and faith when we need it, we just have to have our hearts open to receive them. And yes, I believe the message can come from two ducks at a funeral.