Saying goodbye to duck symbolic of loss

On a sunny afternoon, a small group of neighbors gathered at a culvert on NE Wardwell Road to put George, the duck, to rest.

The night before, the residents of the Derby Downs community were notified that a resident mallard who spent his days floating in the Murden Cove wetlands with his partner in a canal along the roadside had been killed by a car. A flurry of emails shared stories of how much the ducks meant to the community and was a beloved part of daily life. Others raised concerns about the potential dangers of driving quickly through this unique wildlife habitat when animals are present.

Through the messages, we discovered that children in the neighborhood gave the ducks names. George Washington and Harriet Tubman were the feathered duo.

I was sad to learn of George’s passing. I cried for this little guy because he was the bright spot in many of my isolated COVID days, and I left my house to find his remains and brought him home. In my sadness, I sent a note to my neighbors inviting them to a mallard funeral the next day on Wardwell Road.

At 3 p.m., five people arrived to pay their respects to George Washington.

The roadside funeral had all the elements to mark one’s passing. John used sage to bless the ground, where George was returned to the earth under young trees. Sharon, Mary and Toria shared how George had brightened their days, and they wondered how Harriet would manage on her own.

Just as Mary left some lovely roses, and we took our leave, a duck couple floated down the babbling brook and walked up onto the embankment past the burial site. We were surprised and suddenly hopeful that Harriet had found a new mate, which made us all feel better knowing she wouldn’t be alone.

At first, I didn’t know why having a funeral for George was so important to me. But, after witnessing my neighbors’ thoughtful and kind gestures, I realized that this was the only funeral I’ve been able to attend since losing friends during the coronavirus.

The ritual of saying goodbye to George was vital because it allowed us to take a moment to remember the little guy who brought joy and comfort to our community during the pandemic when we were disconnected.

RIP, George; you will be missed.

Nancy Treder is a reporter who covers Bainbridge Island for this newspaper.