On January 2nd, our little beta fish passed away.
Dubbed "Mr. Fish" by my daughter when we first got him a few years ago, Mr. Fish quickly became a fixture in our home. Always one to offer a little bit of color to brighten our day, he was a blue and deep red hue, and happy to show off his graceful swimming abilities whenever we'd walk by his tank.
Mr. Fish in 2021.
As far kids learning how to care for a pet goes, fish are up there on the list. For over three years, Mr. Fish offered an excellent way to teach my daughter the basics about life and, here recently, about death. He offered us a way to teach her how to care for a pet, to help keep his tank clean, and to only give him a few pellets of food a day so he didn't get a tummy ache. And over the course of the holidays, he offered an opportunity to explain to her what happens when a person (or pet) grows old, gets sick, and passes away.
Just before the holidays, Mr. Fish stopped swimming around so much. After Christmas was over, he started to lose his vibrant colors. When it was time for us to pack for our New Year's trip, he was almost gray in certain areas, and he had stopped eating. My daughter noticed these things with me, and I explained to her what was happening, and that it meant that Mr. Fish may soon go to Heaven. When we left for our New Year's trip, we dropped his 7-day feeder into his tank, but he didn't seem to notice. I was certain when we returned home on New Year's Day, that he would be gone.
But he wasn't! When we returned, he was even grayer than before, but would still move slightly when we tapped the tank. It was as if he had waited until we got back, because sometime in the night, he passed away.
My daughter sweetly observing Mr. Fish's body.
My daughter is only 5, and she went through every stage of grief as is appropriate for her age. She expressed sadness over his death, that she missed him, and also her hope of getting a new fish one day soon. I let her observe his body, which offered a wonderful opportunity for me to explain how we, and animals, get a new body when we go to Heaven. That Mr. Fish has a new and better body in Heaven, and that he is not in this old body he left on earth.
She understood as a 5-year-old does. I explained that we bury the old body, so that it doesn't start to stink, and so that it can help to grow the flowers. So we did. She helped to pick the spot in the backyard for him, as well as some pretty little stones to place on top of his grave. We buried him and said a little prayer, all with a cheerful heart, and that was that.
Rest in peace, Mr. Fish, and thank you for the wonderful life lessons!