The Pond Creature

Part III

Remembrance Evening

Each year during the last week of August, the animals held Remembrance Evening. It was then that they honoured the memory of loved ones and friends who had passed on. The chosen day varied each year depending upon the weather as did so much. A quiet, clear evening was desired.

After consulting with Grenby, Bartholomew decided that the coming Thursday evening at 9 bongs would be a good time for the service. On Monday he sent messages to everyone. As was the custom, he asked them to provide the names of their friends and relatives that they would like remembered. By Wednesday everyone had responded. This year’s list would have forty-seven unique names. Some were mentioned more than once.

The swans delivered some beautiful parchment paper upon which he inscribed the names. Several sheets were required. This was the Remembrance List. As you know, most of the animals couldn’t read. Bartholomew would point out the names to each one on Thursday night. Over the years, some had learned to recognise the letters.

The location was always the ducks’ dock at the east end of the island. Earlier in the day, the squirrels and chipmunks had set up everything. Three tables, with white table cloths, were placed near the dock. The first table held many large lily pads. On the second table were short candles and matches. The last table held a large selection of paper tubes in various colours.

Neatly arranged around the dock were chairs on which everyone would sit. On the dock itself was a small table, also with a white table cloth. Bartholomew would place four large candles and the Remembrance List on it just before the service began.

Bartholomew was the first there. He wore his best dark grey suit. Everyone would be dressed formally; even Grenby would try.

He placed the candles, lighted them, and then laid the Remembrance List between them. The soft glow from the candles added a touch of additional elegance to the parchment. As the day faded to night, the effect would increase. Everything was ready.

It was a warm evening, and there was a light breeze. Despite the breeze, the pond’s surface was as smooth as glass. A slow natural current flowed west to east on its way to the creek at the east end of the pond. The current’s origin was, of course, the underground spring that Sam had found. Bartholomew threw a pine cone in the water and watched as it slowly drift eastward. Perfect, he thought.

This was a time for reflection, and Bartholomew thought of his parents. When you remember your loved ones, it is not uncommon to recall specific small events that you thought you had forgotten. Bartholomew remembered his father teaching him how to fly. It was so long ago, yet it seemed like yesterday.

“Now, extend your wings to full length, and move them up and down like this,” his father instructed.

His father was so young then. His mother always called his father, “Handsome”.

“Very good, son! Now, flap a little faster until you just start to lift off of the branch. Make sure you flap both wings equally. Then, flap slower and settle back down. I’ll show you.”

He could see his father effortlessly lifting off of the branch. He remembered the encouragement he had always given him. Now, so many years later, he knew he was blessed to have had him as a father.

A brief breeze ruffled his feathers and brought him back to the present. The raft was approaching with the first group of animals. The raft would have to make four trips to transport everyone to the island. The boat was not available because it needed a little maintenance. All had arrived before 9 bongs. The animals were familiar with the customs. They went to the tables and selected lily pads, candles, and paper tubes. Then, they began milling about and chatting with each other.

Exactly at 9 bongs Bartholomew called to them, “Everybody, please be seated. We are ready to begin.”

Each animal found a seat and became silent.

“Good evening, dear friends. Each year we assemble on this dock to remember and honour our loved ones and friends, who are no longer with us. They have returned to their eternal home with the Creator. They rejoined their friends and relatives who passed before them. Some day each of us will rejoin them also.

“This is an opportunity to recall, fondly, the many happy times we spent with them. Our lives are richer for them. It is also true that we made their lives richer with our kindnesses and love when they were with us. That is the main point I would like to make this evening. Treat each other with kindness now when we have each other. Do not wait until later. Please do not wait until the only way to honour them is on a night like this one.”

He paused. “Would you please stand and give your neighbours a hug, and wish them well,” he asked.

Bartholomew left the dock and joined in with the others.

Branna Bluebird hugged her family and sat down. She was remembering her grandmother, Beatrice. She loved to sit in the kitchen and watch her grandmother cook and bake. One of her favourites was apple-walnut pie. When she was old enough, she was allowed to help. She peeled the apples and chopped the walnuts.

“Branna, if you keep snacking on the walnuts there will none left for the pie,” scolded her grandmother.

“I was just making sure they were fresh, Granny.”

“I see. Have you determined that they are fresh?”

“Yes, very fresh,” answered Branna.

“Then, you won’t be sampling anymore, I assume?”

“No, Granny,” said Branna smiling.

Her grandmother had some special way of making everything taste so wonderful. Branna knew the answer now — Love.

Petunia Porcupine remembered her husband, Peter. They came to Ballymore many years ago with wonderful plans to open a bakery. As you know, they did open it, but unfortunately, Peter passed on. Petunia remembered Peter rising at six bongs every weekday morning to begin the baking. Donuts and croissants were his favourites. At 8 bongs every morning, he brought her a cup of tea and a pastry in bed. He was always so sweet to her. Petunia wiped her eyes.

After a short while Bartholomew returned to his place behind the table, and the animals returned to their seats.

“Now I would like to begin the reading of the Remembrance List. As always, it will be done by family. After I complete the reading, please line up on the left side of the dock with your floating candles. Then, you may place them in the water, and move off to the right along the bank.

“The Beavers. The Beaver family wishes to honour Bradley Beaver and Brigit Beaver.”

He read the complete Remembrance List and then finished with a blessing.

“May the Creator of the everlasting universe grant them and us eternal peace.”

Everyone rose and formed an orderly line. They waited, silently, for their turn to approach the edge of the dock. Each family carefully slid their lily pads and candles onto the water and moved off to the right along the bank. Bartholomew was the last one to place candles. They were in remembrance of his father and mother, Chesney and Olivia.

Everyone, lost in their memories, watched the mini-flotilla from the bank. It was dark but for the little glowing memorials drifting eastward. The red, green, blue, and yellow halos represented the lives of dozens of animals who had not been forgotten.

Nor would they be.