After 17 days and 1,000 miles, a mama orca let go.
She dropped her dead baby into the ocean after being surrounded by friends who helped carry her 400 pound calf across the ocean. They were her village and they fill a special place in history where they have demonstrated true compassion, community, and solidarity in a time where human community is fading.
We’ve watched in awe and heartbreak as we yearn for that level of fellowship in parenthood.
At the news of Tahlequah leaving behind her baby and with reports of her being healthy and strong, I realized that the role of her village not only bore her grief, but gave her renewed life. With tears streaming down my face I remembered the years of screaming inside of my own head “What is it like?” begging to know the village for myself and my children.
Time and again it echoed back unanswered as if I was alone in a vast sea of emptiness.
Like so many around me, I continued pressing forward trying to do motherhood alone on what seemed like a 1,000 mile journey when one day a small whisper came back… but instead of asking what it was like it dug a bit deeper.
Who is there to bear my grief and share my burden?
Who will show up to help break the cycle when stuck in an inescapable rut?
How am I distancing myself from others?
What could I do to show up for someone else?
Can anyone help me if they don’t know what’s wrong?
So as we’ve sat and watched the story of Tahlequah, her calf, and the female Orcas around her, we’re all so touched by the compassion shown to her. We deeply feel the need to connect this way as humans especially in times deep loss.
But It takes tragedy to feel the village.
It takes commitment to doing life together to know the village.
And it takes effort to be the village.
Those female orcas showed up to do the job of helping and even carrying a dead baby whale that wasn’t theirs because it was a part of helping bear a mother’s grief with her and for her. Grief shared is grief divided and they showed up because they truly felt it. They knew their role. They knew the need.
I have learned that all too often we’re too willing to carry our pride without dropping our guard. We hide behind thinly veiled walls of perfection, thinking vulnerability is a weakness, when in reality it is the true strength of any village.
We ache for help, but we must be present enough to rise up to help others too. And we must take a lesson from the female orcas who refused to let Tahlequah carry her burden alone. Like them, we must be ready even if it is 7 times longer than normal or 14 times longer than expected. It doesn’t matter.
We rise to fill the need no matter how great or how long, because grief and burdens are things that can linger and they always have to be carried.
Can I challenge you?
Will you join me in being the village even when it hurts, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s inconvenient?
Will you be the female Orca?
Will you rise up to fill the need?
Will you search out the needs hiding behind the masks we all put up?
Will you share the grief and share the burden even when you have your own to carry?
Because it takes a village to give hope and renewed life in moments of pain and to simply not have take the 1,000 mile journey of parenthood alone.
Don’t know exactly what your kids need in a Village?
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!