I’m guilty of being sucked into sensational news. I’ve passed this not-so-admirable curiosity on to my youngest who reads tabloid headlines out loud while we wait at checkout to purchase chips and bread. Thankfully, the reporting on a beautiful pod of orcas, or killer whales, has captured my attention over the last two weeks.
You've probably read, or heard, about it. Seventeen days ago, off of the coast of British Columbia, an orca named Tahlequah gave birth to her calf. The calf died shortly thereafter. The touching event that has taken place since has tugged on the world’s heartstrings.
“The whale, known as Tahlequah or J35, is one of just 75 Southern Resident killer whales left in the ocean, and her calf — which died minutes after it was born last month — was the group’s first live birth since 2015. Tahlequah has been spotted in waters off the Pacific Northwest multiple times over the past two weeks, often pushing her calf’s corpse through the water or swimming with it balancing on her forehead.
-Here's the kicker-
Other members of the pod have even taken turns carrying its body.”
(according to TIME)
In some capacity we can relate to this mother’s broken heart. We can understand her inability to move on from this insufferable loss.
It’s her pod, though, from who we can gain a valuable lesson. They’re not leaving her to carry her grief alone. Eventually her deceased calf will be abandoned to a watery grave. Not now. Her pod isn't choosing to distract her. They’re not encouraging her to move on. Instead, they’re entering into grief with her; carrying her sorrow as their own.
We’d rather there not be such loss, but we have no control over that. We only are in control of our response.
I’ve had more conversations than I can count, some recently, about the difficulty in knowing what to say or do when it comes to ministering to those suffering loss. The answer is that we never truly know what to say or do.
We can all recount a time when we approached a hurting soul. Maybe we practiced what we’d say, knowing no words existed that could provide healing in that moment. Maybe we hugged extra hard and long, willing our heart to communicate our pain on their behalf.
We might have made a casserole, bought a plant, donated to a Go Fund Me account, or sent a card. Whatever it is that we've said or done, it wasn’t so much about making them forget their sadness, as if that could happen. The note we wrote likely didn't have wisdom to make sense of their situation. Our casserole wasn’t about filling their hungry bellies, as if having their stomach filled eased their pain.
We entered into grief with them. We reminded them that they’re not alone. We offered them a little extra strength to get through the day.
We will never be able to eliminate someone’s grief. We can only hope that we’ll ease it by offering to walk alongside the hurting. We can help carry the unbearable load they bear.
Entering into grief with others isn't pretty. We grapple with words. We're often frightened by this darkness in which we have little light to offer. But sharing in someone's grief is deeply beautiful; and an act of love we're all called to.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.