By her side

Pastoral Messages | August 22, 2018

A little less than a month ago, a pregnant, endangered whale captured international attention. The mother orca is part of a pod being observed by the Center for Whale Research near San Juan Island, just northwest of Seattle. The organization works to protect the critically endangered species and studies their migration over time.

Late last month, the whale, named Tahlequah, gave birth to a calf that lived for less than an hour. And what happened next was equal parts heartbreaking and beautiful.

As the mother grieved her loss, she continued to carry the calf with her, pushing it through the water with her fin or on her head.

“She must be in anguish,” one biologist noted. “What’s beyond grief? I don’t even know what the word for that is, but that’s where she is.”

Day after day, the mother continued to carry her calf with her, displaying an image of deep grief not unlike that of humans. And as time went on, so did the interest in her well-being and the emotional heartache of people around the world observing such sorrow.

However, the researchers were quick to point out that Tahlequah was not alone. She was surrounded by her entire family. Day and night, they kept vigil, never straying more than a few hundred yards away. For 17 days, and over 1,000 miles of traveling, the other 70+ orcas did nothing but stay close by, offering protection and care as they let grief take its course. And, in due time, the whale returned to its typical behavior and was seen once again frolicking with the rest of its pod.

I won’t pretend to know anything about the emotional needs or mental health of marine creatures. But I do think there’s a reason this story struck an emotional chord with so many people. We’ve all experienced deep grief. And we’ve all seen others with broken hearts and wondered how we can help.

Perhaps we can take our cues from the orcas. I don’t know how whales communicate, but as far as I can tell, there was no one trying to convince this mama whale that she needed to move on quickly. No friend or family trying to cheer her up or distract her. Just their presence was all it seems she needed. Swimming by her side. Giving her space for grief and sadness. And maintaining her place in the midst of the larger group.

The same thing happens throughout scripture. When Job has lost everything and his heart is broken, the best thing his friends did for him was simply sit silently and make sure he wasn’t alone. And when Jesus saw his friends in deep grief, he wept right alongside them.

It’s hard for any of us to see another person (or whale, as the case may be) struggling or hurting. But maybe our greatest gift of help can come in the form of presence and care. There are no words that can instantly heal a broken heart or grieving soul. So, instead, consider sitting, standing, or swimming right beside one another. It might just be the greatest gift you can provide.

-Katy Warren, associate pastor

24 Comments on “By her side”

  • Betty Dresselhaus

    August 25, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing Katy. Pets definitely grieve. When my husband passed, our cat, Max, had a very difficult time. His master and best friend was gone and he had a terrible time adjusting to life without his best buddy.

  • Jenn Peitscher

    August 24, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    This is so moving. Thank you Katie

  • Pat Koranda

    August 24, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Very emotional article Katy. We at St Paul are so blessed to have such a wonderfully talented and diverse pastoral staff. You all have your talents and make the very most of them. I so enjoy how well you all communicate and find a way to touch us in the weekly blog. 🙂

  • Paul Olsen

    August 24, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Beautiful story, beautifully written.

  • Phyllis Hofer

    August 24, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Just beautiful! So very true. That is all we really need at the time. We were privileged to observe a pod off of San Juan Island a few years ago. I think of them so often and of their “humanness”. One of the older females had adopted a small orphan calf from another pod. She was so protective of it. So touching.

  • Chelsea Guerin

    August 24, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for sharing with us Katy! I followed the story about the whale for a couple of weeks and found it so powerful. Nature is amazing!

  • Chelsea Guerin

    August 24, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Thanks for sharing this with us Katy! I followed the story of the whale for a couple of weeks, and found it powerful. Nature is just amazing!

  • Cathy Crampton

    August 24, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Beautiful story!!!! It really touched my heart. Yes, we all have a different
    way of grieving.

  • Barbara Mansholt

    August 24, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Lovely article.

  • Kathryn Graver

    August 23, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks for a reminder of how we all grieve in different ways. How helpful for those who are grieving or trying to help others who are.

  • Diana Holland

    August 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Beautifully stated.
    Thank you Katie.

  • Irene Hanssen

    August 23, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    When I lost my husband I not only grieved, but my golden retriever grieved with me. The only difference between us was that I had some understanding and she only knew she had lost her best friend. Yes, animals love and grieve as we do.

  • Darlene Schluensen

    August 23, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks Katy!!! You hit the bulls eye with this one!!!

  • Linda Hoepner

    August 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Katy great article you are exactly right “presence and care”❤️

  • Audrey Keeney

    August 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you, Pastor Katy. I too listened to that story. Thanks for bring home the point we just need to be present to help, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Deb Lamp

    August 23, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Great message Katy, and so true, we all grieve and knowing we have others near helps so much. Just being there.
    Thanks Katy

  • Priscilla Hull

    August 23, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    This is a keeper…thanks, my friend!

  • Joan Moroney

    August 23, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you Pastor Katie!

  • Vicki Felger

    August 23, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    A beautiful narrative capturing the grief of any mother and how much we need each other during our times of sorrow. Thanks Katy!!

  • Jack Miller

    August 23, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    I followed that story in the paper and tv, what an amazing show of comfort for someone or whale who grieves. Thanks for the story

  • Patrick Montgomery

    August 23, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Just a lovely and touching pen, Katy. It made my day!

  • Kristin Post

    August 23, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Nice message Katie; thank you for sharing.

  • dave jessen

    August 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    nailed it katy. just being in presence of those grieving is showing you care and are there for them if needed. we need more of that for sure! thanks for the reminder

  • Debby Rehn

    August 23, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Great read, Katy!

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