March 03, 2019

Mama's Last Hug

After contemplating the fetid swamp of Michael Cohen's testimony and related matters, we need a brief respite. Try this, the opening of a book review from the New York Times:
The two old friends hadn’t seen each other lately. Now one of them was on her deathbed, crippled with arthritis, refusing food and drink, dying of old age. Her friend had come to say goodbye. At first she didn’t seem to notice him. But when she realized he was there, her reaction was unmistakable: Her face broke into an ecstatic grin. She cried out in delight. She reached for her visitor’s head and stroked his hair. As he caressed her face, she draped her arm around his neck and pulled him closer.

The mutual emotion so evident in this deathbed reunion was especially moving and remarkable because the visitor, Dr. Jan Van Hooff, was a Dutch biologist, and his friend, Mama, was a chimpanzee. The event — recorded on a cellphone, shown on TV and widely shared on the internet — provides the opening story and title for the ethologist Frans de Waal’s game-changing new book, “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.”
The review is fascinating, and the book sounds utterly absorbing. By the way, the review includes the video of the deathbed reunion. Please watch it; it's one of those episodes which genuinely cannot be missed. It's deeply moving, and completely heartbreaking.

And please be sure not to miss the concluding paragraphs of the review, which describe a similar reunion experienced by the reviewer -- but not with a chimpanzee. I find all of it endlessly fascinating.