Hard Choice

I usually refrain from commenting on current headlines.  

I’m not a fan of inflammatory social network back-and-forth.

And I’m pretty sure that if this post is circulated outside my typical readership, someone will react badly to what I say.

But I believe I can offer some perspective that might be missing from the voices yelling at each other over the recent sad incident at the Cincinatti Zoo.

So here it is:  I have buried a child.  

I know exactly what that mother and father would have faced if their child had been the one taken out of the enclosure lifeless.

And while I am deeply saddened by the loss of a beautiful, majestic and endangered gorilla, my heart cannot make peace with the idea that there was any other option than to secure the safety of that child.

Before I go further let me say this:  I am an animal lover.  I have always been an animal lover.  

I rescue spiders and moths and take them outside.  I step over worms and beetles.  I grow flowers for butterflies and feed the hummingbirds.  I don’t use pesticides on my yard.  I don’t kill snakes.

I respect life in all its forms.

But I think that we need to go beyond blaming/not blaming the parents and blaming/not blaming the zoo personnel to a root issue.

Sometimes we are left with hard choices that have to be made in a very short time.

Animals, especially endangered animals, get a lot of press these days.

Internet websites, videos on Youtube, traditional news outlets and glossy print magazines splash beautiful and moving pictures across our computers, phones and television screens.  I’m thankful that the hearts of humans are turning from exploitation to conservation.

And I’m glad there are programs like the one at the Cincinnatti Zoo working to save species that are otherwise headed for extinction.

The death of a child rarely gets the same attention.

Unless the death is the result of a sensational act of violence or a media-worthy accident, children die every day with only an obituary mention in a local newspaper.

So I understand the outrage generated by Harambe’s death.

And I understand how even parents of young children who have never buried a child could entertain the notion there was “some other option”.

But if we covered the stories of families who have lost children with the same zeal and creative journalism as we do the lives and deaths of endangered animals, that would change.

If the despair, heartbreak, brokenness and utter horror of bereaved parents’ lives were on display like the sickening piles of poached elephants and rhinos then at least we could have a discussion that was more informed and even-tempered.

Because it doesn’t matter whether or not that child’s parents looked the other way or should have known-once the child was in the enclosure and at the mercy of a gorilla, a choice had to be made.  

We can all second guess whether this or that could have been done.  

But if it were your child, I don’t think you would be guessing.  

And from the heart of a mother who can only visit her son at the cemetery, I’m not guessing either.  

grieving mother at grave

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

5 thoughts on “Hard Choice”

  1. I agree that the death of the male Gorilla was absolutely necessary. I am a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has buried my only child. There was a similar incident some years ago; at that time, a female Gorilla protected the child who had fallen into the enclosure and her life was spared. In this situation, this male Gorilla “toyed” with this child for ten very long minutes. There is little doubt this “toying” would have resulted in the death of that child, whether intentional or accidental. The Gorilla had to be put to death in order to save the child and BECAUSE this behavior habituated that Gorilla to what may very well have been a similar behavior toward a Human care taker. There was NO CHOICE here. We do not know how this child wound up in this enclosure. I know one thing: my child would not have. I can guess that Child Protective Services is investigating this incident; I can also guess that the Zoo will bring civil action against the parents for the cost of this Gorilla (and its progeny) and the cost of disposal of his body, should Civil authorities find the parents were negligent in this particular situation. I well understand how many people in the community of those who love and assist animals are outraged but I wonder how many of them realize the clear and present danger that Gorilla posed to that young boy. I would very much like to see as many outraged by the lack of good mental health care in almost every county Mental Health facility in our nation. I would very much like to see a law requiring a THREE DAY waiting period for the purchase of ANY long gun be enacted in every jurisdiction in the USA (I think at the Federal level it would have to be ratified by each State.) If such a law had been in place, and IF there was a Federal data base containing all names of those psychiatrically hospitalized (there is NOT), my daughter would not have died on March 2, 2011. Admittedly, she was determined; and it appears that determination would ultimately have taken her life because her illness was severe and very rapidly worsening. I know this: because a civil lawsuit was brought against the chain store that sold her that weapon (with MY credit card, something they DID NOT BOTHER TO CHECK), that chain changed its rules about selling weapons of any kind and ammunition to anyone who appears in any way unstable, uncertain, nervous. THAT saved the lives of countless children in Connecticut when the mentally deranged young man who killed so many in that elementary school went INTO ONE OF THEIR STORES in an attempt to purchase more ammunition. The sale was REFUSED. God is in control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Jill. I try to frame my posts so that they are not too long, but I could certainly have gone into great detail regarding the many encounters I’ve had with large domesticated animals that presented a clear danger to myself or others. The simple fact of the gorilla’s mass and strength was sufficient to pose a significant threat regardless of his “intentions”. My son is a veterinarian and so is his wife, they have many,many friends and colleagues, trained to handle animals, who have been badly injured as a result of unpredictable behavior of a frightened animal. It was a sad thing. But the side of bereaved parents isn’t being fairly represented, in my opinion. I am so thankful that child’s parents didn’t “join” our “club”. The dues are TOO HIGH. Blessings to you.


  2. Amen to your blog. There was absoltely no choice, none whatsoever re:killing the gorilla. I am sorry also It does not matter how he got in that situation, blaming the parents are not going to make the difference if he got killed by the gorilla. The blame game can come later, get the young boy out safe first. God said there would come a time, when peole would put animals above people. Not in my book. I just hope all those who are going nuts about this, would grow up and get a life. Mama

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mama. I could add that bereaved grandparents also know the pain the child’s parents would have faced. We are, unfortunately, keepers of wisdom that no one wants to have.

      Liked by 1 person

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