Hubby and I have been watching this special on TV called, “Serengeti.” What it is, is a dramatic look into the lives of the animals in the Serengeti region of eastern Africa. The mini-series gives viewers a front row seat to witness how the animal experience isn’t so different from our own and features animals in their natural habitant year-round. Who they are, how they survive, (how dependent they are on one another for food, even as rivals)… it’s amazingly the circle of life. Everything that God created serves a purpose. Humans, animals and even bugs, namely, the annoyingly little gnat, each have a purpose. But anyway, the show narrates how they hunt, how they relate to each other and with the other habitants of the land, and most importantly I found of interest, the genuine love and care the “mothers” have for their “children.” It’s really an interesting show. Very enlightening to see their daily struggles and how they face them.
We can learn a lot from the animals. Even though I am not one who wants to get up close to any. My family and I have had a somewhat long-standing debate on making one of our Christmas vacation trips a safari. But I don’t think I’m ready to give up the beach life for that of one in a jungle, amidst the animals (and the bugs, whatever purpose they might serve). Although to watch on TV I am rather intrigued at the prospect, if only for the scenery. Some of the scenery in the Serengeti is absolutely breathtaking.
Anyway, in watching the animals, there came a point where a male lion, rival to that particular tribe, killed a lion cub. All the while, the mother of that lion cub had done everything she possibly could to keep her cubs safe from harm. But this particular day, the cub was chasing after a rabbit and wandered away from the rest of the cubs and the mother’s protective care.
You could sense the fear in the mother as she was hunting for her cub. She was breathing heavy, calling out for it, frantic with worry. Frantic at the thought of what could happen, knowing she is unable to protect it from the unknown. Realizing she is unable to protect it from harm.
I have certainly felt that fear, and might you have as well, if you’re a mother. Knowing that you have done everything in your power to protect your child from harm, but could not keep them from what was coming, or perhaps what was somehow “meant” to be.
As the mother lioness continued to search, the lion cub was spotted by the male lion. Quite a dangerous thing. Lupito Nyong’o , the actress who we have come to know from “12 Years a Slave,” “Black Panther” and most recently, “Us;” who narrates the show tells us that male lions will kill cubs immediately upon sight. They do this not only to destroy the line of that tribe, but also so that the females will want to mate and have other cubs. The female lions are somewhat forced into starting a new tribe with the male lion as her protector. Even if he has killed her cubs. It is important to note just how much a mother yearns for her child. Especially if she has lost one.
So the male lion sees the cub in a thicket of the grassland, where the cub who has also seen the male lion and tried its best to hide. I cannot imagine the fear that poor little cub felt, lying there, away from his mom, without protection. And the rest was history. The show did not have to fully televise the gruesomeness of the scene and truthfully I was glad not to see it. But with one swipe, as the camera showed, the cub was killed and left lying in the field.
The mother lioness who was searching for it, almost instinctively knew that something wasn’t right. And she walks in on the scene and discovers her cub, dead. With really no time to grieve, she lets out a wail and purposely walks away immediately looking to protect her remaining cubs, Lupito continues to narrate.
As I saw this I was reminded of the day I (we) lost my son, Joseph. Like that mother lioness, I know I did everything in my power to protect him. I know I loved on him, kept care and watched over him from the day he was born up until the last day I saw him at 22. But of late, I had been struggling with the idea, “Did I?” Had I done everything I possibly could to protect him. Was there something I could have done, should have done, to save Joseph. And I had been wrestling with the thought, “I could not protect him.” The Lord has been and continues to reassure me what had happened to Joseph, was far beyond my power and way beyond my control. And that there was nothing I could have done to prevented it.
Side note: For those who have lost a child. Please don’t beat yourself up. Treasure the memory you have of your loved one. Cherish it. And release yourself. There is nothing YOU could have done to protect your child from that dreadful day. If you know that you have loved your child to the best of your ability and even beyond, know that you have done all you could. There is a freedom unlike any other, when you release and forgive yourself.
I never saw the danger, so I could do nothing about the danger that would come his way. Unlike the lioness, I wasn’t fearful about what was coming Joseph’s way out there discovering things on his own (as the cub did with the rabbit), but I certainly tasted that fear when I learned about that accident. And how, no matter how hard I tried, I could not protect my Joe from what was to be. And then in that moment when he breathed his last breath and the doctor made that dreadful announcement, l had the intense desire to protect those who were remaining. My girls. Christian. My husband. They gave me the strength to carry on. They gave me the strength to breathe, albeit crying, wailing, on the inside.
But you could see, I certainly could, and hear the pain in that mother’s cry, in her eyes at the death of her cub. I’ve witnessed it in other animals too, as the TV show continued, a hyena lost her cub, a zebra stood far off as her cub was attacked and killed. The show also told of a female monkey who lost her infant and she was grieving, so much so that when the mother of another infant was killed, she stepped in and become that infant’s mother. Again, how strong is the need to mother, especially after the loss of a child.
Although I didn’t need a reminder of the difficulty and grief in losing a child, in watching this series, I got one through the eyes of an animal in the Serengeti. And with that also came the revelation that grief is a never-ending walk, in which we will always be reminded of those we have loved. And we will always experience the triggers. The pain is both overbearing and overwhelming (no matter who the mother is, human and animals). And it is one that we all share. We may be different, but we grieve just the same.
In the shadow of my grief, from Joe's mom,
Joseph Malik Fannell
1/14/93 - 6/5/15