13 January 2009

A Fishy Tale

We returned from holiday with much trepidation... had the fish survived? The pet shop girl said they could go without being fed for 14 days, and we had been away a mere six... but still. We approached the tank with caution... Yes! There they are, still swimming. There's Nemo and Dory (the comets), there's John (the stripey algae eater) ... but where is James??? Oh no! There he is, floating upside down. Oh dear. How on earth will we break the bad news to Dash??

James (a white algae eater) was his favourite. James was hard working, he kept the tank lovely and clean; he sucked algae all day; he was fast. We LOVED James.
The next morning I broke the news as gently as I could.

Dash seemed calm, though sad. I focused on activity, as you do. Let's paint a box for his coffin, make a sign for his grave, and then we'll hold a funeral...

Dash's sign read: "James 4th January 2009. He was good at cleaning the tank"

While we waited for daddy to come and dig the hole so we could have our funeral I read Dash the book my friend Nicole had lent me when Dash's grandad died.

"Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between." What a beautiful book; it explains the life-cycle so simply. Here are some excepts:

"There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive. In between is living...
This is true for all living things. For plants. For people. For birds. For fish. For trees. For animals. Even for the tiniest insect...
Sometimes, living things become ill or they get hurt.
Mostly, of course, they get better again but there are times when they are so badly hurt or they are so ill that they die because they can no longer stay alive.
This can happen when they are young or old or anywhere in between..."

After the story (and lots of questions being asked and answered), we went outside and Daddy dug a hole in a corner of the garden. We placed James in his special box and then into the ground he went. We said a few words about what a great algae eater James was, how clever he was at cleaning the tank, and how we will all miss him... then daddy filled in the hole, and we all walked away... except Dash. Who stood there, rubbing his eyes, and then I realised we was crying.

"Dashy, are you crying, luv?" Duh! State the obvious!

He burst into floods of tears, and ran sobbing to his room. Of course it wasn't just about the fish. It was still a lot about Grandad. He had never actually cried for Grandad. he had been angry, he had gone quiet and needed his space. But he had never let out his sadness.

When I checked on him, he said he just wanted to be by himself for a bit... later we talked. Lots of questions about what happened to Grandad's body; did he smell stinky like the James did? Why was he cremated? Where was his "dust" now?

The next morning, Dash said, "Mum could you come and see James with me?"
"Honey he's buried. We can't dig him up, he'll be really stinky by now..."
"No I mean sit with me, by him..."
We went and sat next to the grave, still and quiet for a while.
Then we picked some flowers.

Dash is doing well now.

...but we remarked to each other that John was NOT the algae-eater James was; the tank was a mess! Then when Mr G cleaned it out, he found John floating upside down, inside a shell. We haven't had the heart to tell Dash. He thinks we released John into the wild...

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Sophie said...

awwww. We had the death of a caterpillar today too. Lots of loud wailing.

PaisleyJade said...

What a touching story... love the idea of making the coffin.

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