Michael McAndrews has had a lifelong love affair with birds.
It all started with an article he read as a kid in National Geographic. It profiled homing pigeons used in wartime to communicate messages between troops. Michael was captivated by the story of a bird named Cher Ami that saved almost 200 American soldiers in France during World War I.
So he started buying his own birds and training them. In fact, his classmates called him “birdbrain,” not as an insult, but because birds were the only thing he ever seemed to think about.
A few years ago, he retired from a career as a commercial photographer and returned to his passion. Michael began ordering birds online and decided to start a small business powered by hundreds of homing doves. The initial idea was to release the white doves at weddings or celebrations. But it quickly became clear that people wanted him to release the doves at funerals.
At first, Michael was skeptical. He didn’t think he could handle being around so much sadness and death. But once he did a few funerals, he saw how the ritual of releasing the doves into the sky helped people say goodbye to the person who had died.
“People loved it. I started doing them more and more and I started to see how it helped people with their healing and closure. It was an honor the be there for what is possibly one of the saddest days of their life,” he said.
Michael showed Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing what it’s like to release dozens of birds into the sky and even introduces her to what he calls “one of his babies,” a newborn baby dove.
This story originally aired on May 27, 2017