Yesterday I read a story in USA Today about an orca whale whose calf died shortly after birth. This grieving mother held onto her baby for 17 days, balancing it on her forehead to keep the body from sinking. She pushed her offspring for over a 1000 miles until she finally let go.
During the whale’s journey, Deborah Giles, science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, stated, “(The mother) is bonded to (the calf) and she doesn’t want to let it go. It is that simple. She is grieving,”
No one in the whale research community tried to stop her. No one gave her silly platitudes. No one spoke of complicated grief.
According to an article from the Center for Whale Research, a resident from San Juan Island reported this scene:
“At sunset, a group of 5-6 females gathered at the mouth of the cove in a close, tight-knit circle, staying at the surface in a harmonious circular motion for nearly 2 hours. As the light dimmed, I was able to watch them continue what seemed to be a ritual or ceremony. They stayed directly centered in the moonbeam, even as it moved.
Her friends didn’t pushed her to move on. They circled her as she grieved.
A mother-child bond is holy. It is deeper than the ocean that tried to separate these two. It is eternal. I wonder how much I have in common with this whale mother named J-35 or Tahlequah. After all, we were formed and loved by the same God. Our Creator designed the mother-child relationship.
I think about this mother pushing her calf over a 1000 sea miles, carefully keeping her body afloat and wonder if I do the same. I see myself posting pictures and talking about my child who died in 2013. Is it merely an effort to keep her memory alive? Is it that I can’t let go? I can almost hear this mother whale screaming, “oh no you don’t! You will not leave me now!” Is it desperation? Or is it a mother’s instinct that this relationship is not over yet?
I know something that Tahlequah can’t comprehend. My Creator is also my Savior. His death has given me life… life after death.
His death has given my child life, life eternal!
Yes, I will continue to carry my child, not on my forehead but in my heart. I will keep worrying that others may forget. Not because I’m afraid her memory will die but because her life is such a story of grace! I won’t stop posting pictures or bringing her up in conversation. She is after all, alive in the presence of Christ. I still need my friends to circle me in the moonlight when the grief is too hard to carry. But I know without a doubt that I’ll see her again.
Tahlequah, you remind me that giving birth is glorious. Losing a child is life altering. You understand we were created for relationship not loss. Your inability to let go is heartbreaking. Your Day 17 resolve to keep living is courageous. I’m thankful for your story.
Last sighting reports that J-35 is in good health and “remarkably frisky”.
Life goal: live remarkably frisky even while I grieve!