We have had a minor tragedy this week with the death of our daughter’s first pet.
Fishy, the Siamese Fighting Fish, who was a gift from some friends and had been in the family for nearly two years, was found stiff and floating on the top of his tank this morning.
I really like pet fish but I honestly don’t know how these guys survive with no bubbles or filters or anything. They must get so bored in a plain glass cage all alone.
To make matters worse I hadn’t noticed his most recent demise (he had been on the ropes for a little while) when I said to my daughter, “Have you said good morning to Fishy yet?”
“Good morning Fishy….Fishy?… Dad!”
Even before I looked over I knew what I would find and in that split second I immediately wondered how I was going to explain this one. I wished that I had previously pondered what I was going to tell our daughter about death when eventually the time came.
Instead I found myself scrabbling around in my foggy pre-breakfast brain trying to gather up enough cognitive power to explain a fairly powerful lesson to a curious three year old.
Before I could say anything she looked at me and said, “Dad, I think Fishy is dead.”
“Yes, I think he might be.” I replied.
I didn’t even realize that she knew what ‘dead’ was. I was immediately relieved that she had already had a handle on the death thing and that I wouldn’t have to explain any further. At least now I’d have some time to think about what I was going to say.
“What does ‘dead’ mean?”
Shit. I opened my mouth hoping that something would come to me. “Oh, erm…well you see honey death is when you don’t need your body anymore because your spirit has gone back to live with God.” (Not bad for seven in the morning!)
“So Fishy’s spirit has gone back to God?”
“And he doesn’t need his body?”
“What should we do with his body Dad?”
“Maybe we should send him back to the ocean?”
So we walked solemnly to the bathroom with Fishy in a net and said a few words before dumping him in the toilet bowl and flushing his lifeless body back out to sea. (I left out the bit about the sewerage treatment plant and the fact that as a fresh water species he probably wouldn’t appreciate the sea very much. Keep it simple I say.)
“Bye Fishy Bye! Thanks for everything.”
As we are walking out of the bathroom with empty net in hand she looks up at me and says,
“Dad, when can we get a new Fishy?”