I attended a very small private liberal arts college in the Southeast. Along with a beautiful campus and a strange mascot (the Blue Hose; long story), Presbyterian College took great pride in a pair of geese that had been donated to populate the small body of water that was more puddle than pond.
The geese were loyal lovers to one another, as geese mate for life (and there were no other geese in the area even if one goose were to have wandering webbed feet). They were also the terrors of the Quad, as they were not afraid to attack passersby or those “studying” on the green lawn.
One night, we received a cryptic campus-wide email (the new fangled way to communicate via intrawebs) stating that one of the geese had been killed. Leaving the details to our imagination, we were told only that the goose had been struck by a car and was sadly no longer with us. ‘Twas a sad annoucnement, to be sure, but not one I expected to linger on in my memory.
The night following the tragedy, people in my dorm overlooking the ponddle (portmanteau word created for this strange, smallish body of not-so-fresh water) got even less sleep than usual. The reason? The bereaved goose shrieked and cried continuously through the night in one of the most painful sounds I have ever heard to this day.
Everyone thought it would stop after a day or two. but the grieving goose continued for well past a week. Unless my memory escapes me, I believe the goose was finally removed from the campus because its grief could not be contained or quieted.
It’s strange the things that have stuck with me from college. While I have long since forgotten Organic Chemistry and the names of countless sculptures from Art Appreciation, I vividly remember the grieving goose.
The further I get from college, the more I find myself fighting to learn from that brave bereaved goose. Having both having walked through my own seasons of disappointment and also walked with close friends who have lost parents and children or who are fighting cancer or dealing with the cancers of addiction, I see how we would do well to learn to grieve more like geese.
They grieve long and loud. They don’t attempt to rush through the strange and often surprising cycle of grief. They don’t try to numb themselves or keep their pain tucked up neatly in hospital corners.
As our culture continues to be ripped and riddled by racism, terrorism and the other -isms, I find myself needing more room to grieve and wanting to allow others more room to do so as well. When we try to speed up or clean up the grieving process by jumping too quickly to potential solutions or glossing over real losses, be they emotional, phsyical, social or spiritual, we end up stymied by suppressed grief.
May we learn to grieve more like the goose.