wpe49D.jpg (7152 bytes)wpe49D.jpg (7152 bytes)CREATURED
August 2000 Edition

This First Edition of Anecdotes
Is Dedicated to the Memory of
Ginny Goodrich
And the Wonderful Way She Knew Animals

My Mother’s Swan Song

~ Swans are beautiful birds, graceful and serene, as they glide across the water. Although I have always enjoyed the sight of them, I have never felt any special affinity with these birds until one spring, when this "swan song" occurred.

My mother was born in Barrington, Rhode Island, where her father owned a large farm at Hampton meadows with acreage extending to One Hundred Acre Cove. He was also a builder, and to add to the family income, he built six cottages along the shore, renting them out during the summer to city dwellers. That’s how my father, who rented one during the summer of 1930 with three friends, met the 16-year-old he married five years later.

Many years later, my mother, a long-time widow with two adult married daughters, came back to her home town and purchased one of the cottages her father had built, now a year-around home. Mom lived in the waterfront house for over ten years, enjoying the ever changing landscape. She especially enjoyed the different kinds of waterfowl swimming around the cove: ducks, Canada geese, white egrets, cormorants. I never heard her mention any swans.

She died the day before Mother’s Day after a short hospital stay. My sister and I scheduled a Memorial Service for her on June 4, the day after what would have been her 80th birthday. We had originally planned her birthday celebration for that particular Saturday, informing her six adult grandchildren, their spouses and families, to reserve that weekend. Instead, her Memorial Service was held, overlooking the cove.

wpe49F.jpg (22805 bytes)That day dawned bright and beautiful. My husband and I were staying at the house, along with my youngest daughter and husband. That morning while we were eating breakfast on the waterside terrace, we watched a lovely white swan swim into the cove in front of the house. It came right up to the seawall below. I had never seen a swan in that area before and wondered how it came to be there. My daughter, who tends to be somewhat mystical, commented that maybe it was "Gammy" coming to participate in the celebration of her life.

As we returned from the early morning graveside service, we realize we did not have a guest book, so we dashed to a nearby bookstore, to find a blank book to use. a picture of a swan on the cover of one made our selection easy. After a beautiful memorial, the book was passed around for all to sign. Most of the guests stayed to partake in the luncheon. Many remained the afternoon, but the swan was nowhere to be seen.

wpe22.jpg (35759 bytes)After the guests had left, family members dispersed to rest and change into more comfortable clothes before gathering again to watch photographic slides of family occasions over the past 35 years. In the quiet of the late afternoon on the high tide the swan reappeared, swimming again to the seawall in front of the house. This time my daughter found some bread to feed it as I took a few photos of the beautiful creature.

After eating its fill, the swan gracefully sailed away out of sight into the setting sun while my daughter and I watched, with overdue tears filling our eyes. The next day, when the family divided up Mom’s treasures, I claimed a little china swan that sat on the shelves above Mom’s desk. It was an inexpensive ornament that she had held onto during the years, and that I remembered from my childhood.

During the past few months, my sister visited on a daily basis, and I occasionally came to my mother’s house. But we have not seen a swan in the cove. Our family is convinced the swan appeared on the day of her memorial was a sign from "Gammy" that all is well and she is home and happy.

-Janet S. Gregan, North Branford, CT

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