A Welsh hospice has been honoring their deceased young patients in a powerful, one-of-a-kind way.
The Tŷ Hafan hospice center in the Vale of Glamorgan has been translating the names of children into birdsong so the calls can be played through the speakers in the medical center’s memorial garden.
To create the birdsongs, sound engineer Justin Wiggan translates the children’s names into Morse code. He then works with hospital staffers to select a bird which best represents the deceased child so he can sample its unique chirp and use its sounds to spell out the name in Morse code.
As the birdsongs are played in the hospital’s memorial garden, each name is followed by one second of silence for every year of the child’s life.
What makes the hospital’s “Birdsong Project” so unique is that birds can hear the names being played in the garden and mimic them in the wild, thus immortalizing a child’s memory in nature.
“In terms of inspiration for the project, the care team wanted more of a unique way of remembering the children who pass away,” Tŷ Hafan spokesperson Dani Harries told Good News Network. “Before Birdsong, the names would be read out at an annual memorial service held at the hospice, and although this was lovely, it was very long and was only going to take longer.
“That was when we teamed up with Justin Wiggan on a soundscape project to explore the possibility of a more innovative way to honor the children with a personal and special touch.”
Wiggan and the hospice team have already translated the names of more than 300 children who have died at the facility, and they don’t plan on stopping their emotional tributes any time soon.
“Now, the bereaved parents can pop into the hospice memorial garden, sit down and just listen to the birdsong which is played all year round, and listen out for the song that represents their child,” says Harries. “And the thought that this song could be mimicked by birds in the wild means that the child’s name really could live on forever.”
Pauline Harvey, whose 10-year-old daughter Abigail was one of the children memorialized by the project, described the initiative as a “humbling, breathtaking” experience.
“I stood in the Memorial Garden gazebo listening as the individual birdsongs came from different areas of the garden,” she wrote in a blog post. “All the songs were very different from each other, unique and beautiful. And a surprising thing happened—it felt as though the emotional downpour lifted and the sun came out from behind the clouds (the actual real rain continued unabated, the weather was horrific and clearly had no sense of occasion).
“I felt overwhelming warmth and comfort. I was no longer waiting to hear Abigail’s name, that didn’t seem to matter anymore. She was part of the chorus, she was part of every birdsong, the silences celebrated each individual short life, but it felt like all the children were together in the song of each bird.
“Abigail is not alone,” she concluded. “She is with friends and they are joyfully singing.”
(LISTEN to the 2018 BBC interview on the project below)
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