Her Faith Was Restored by Mother Goose

Her Faith Was Restored by Mother Goose

A grieving mom is inspired by her interactions with a pair of feathered parents-to-be.

Elizabeth Barbera clasps a photo of her departed son Jason.

Easter Sunday had a powerful new meaning for me ever since my adult son Jason died in a car accident. I knew Jay was alive and happy in heaven, and that I would see him again one day. But as I looked at Jason’s picture carved into the headstone that Sunday, I wished for more.

For nearly 30 years I’d been his mother. I’d talked to him, listened to him, helped him, taken care of him. All the things mothers do. Now he was gone.

I laid roses in front of the headstone. The plot was already covered in tributes: a heart wreath from Valentine’s Day, wind chimes I brought in the spring. I took good care of the grave, but it was a poor substitute. Show me how to be a mother now that my son is with you, Lord.

My son Eric helped me to my feet. “I’m going to plant some flowers here,” I said.

“I didn’t know you gardened, Mom.”

“I don’t. But I’m going to learn.” I had to care for something. That’s what mothers do.

Eric pointed down the row of headstones. “Look.” A pair of Canadian geese walked over the grass. It wasn’t unusual to see geese in this cemetery, but I’d never seen them come so close. “They were only a few feet away,” Eric said as we got back in the car. “They kept looking at us. I wonder what got them so interested.”

By the following weekend I’d forgotten all about the geese. My mind was on my gardening project. I planned to find a professional and ask for advice. First I stopped at the cemetery to take another good look at the grave site, maybe get some measurements so that I could describe it to the people at the nursery.

I hoped to have something planted by Jay’s thirtieth birthday, which this year fell the day before Mother’s Day. How will I ever get through it? I thought as I approached Jay’s grave.

Someone had beaten me to the spot! A Canadian goose stood in front of the tombstone gazing at Jay’s picture. What on earth is she doing? I stepped closer, careful not to scare her. That’s when I noticed the decorations from the grave all piled together in a heap. The goose was standing on top of them!

Had she moved them herself? What would a goose want with wind chimes and silk flowers? Why had she made such a mess?

The valentine’s wreath lay face up on the ground. Everything else—ribbons, trinkets, notes—was inside it, mixed in with grass and downy feathers. Even the wind chimes were tucked among the silk flowers. The wreath was buttressed on either side by the two angel statues I’d placed in front of the headstone.

At the top of the pile was the cross from Palm Sunday. The goose was standing on it, still as a statue. She didn’t move, even when I came even closer. She did, however, let out an eerie hiss.

The hiss was answered by a furious honking. The second goose—her mate—stalked across the grass, flapping his wings. The meaning was clear: Get away from her! He chased me back a safe distance.

That’s when I realized what I was seeing. The goose on Jay’s grave was making a nest. She was going to be a mother. A wave of emotion washed over me at the thought: wonder, excitement, sadness, envy.

I remembered preparing a room for my own children when I was pregnant. Jay’s crib might have had a musical mobile and stuffed animals instead of goose down and old petals, but the idea was the same. She was making a place to care for her children. And out of all the graves in the cemetery, she’d chosen my son’s.

Obviously there would be no planting today. I drove home and looked up all I could about Canadian geese. It looked like I wouldn’t get anywhere near Jay’s grave for weeks until the goslings hatched and they marched into the lake for their first swim.

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