"He doesn't look too good", my wife said to me as we stood there in our bathroom peering over the fishbowl.
We looked at each other and our thoughts immediately went to our 5 year old. It suddenly occurred to us that this experience, something that my wife and I have been through many times as children, was completely foreign to him.
Fishy Face, our betta, once had scales that boasted a brilliant red hue, which was highlighted with streaks of blue and purple. At that particular moment in time however, Fishy looked grey, dull and listless as he was barely managing to float above his pebbles.
3 years ago, my son, who was 2 at the time, picked Fishy out of an intricate multi-shelf display at the pet store. It was then there the fish was given his name. Over time, between the feedings, where he would learn to come to the surface whenever we grabbed the fish food, and the delight we got in watching his gills flare up at the sight of his own reflection, we fell in love and Fishy became part of our family.
Eventually, like all good things I guess, Fishy Face quietly passed away. My son's reaction once we broke the news to him was as heart-wrenching as we could've expected. Pangs of grief racked his body as he sobbed over losing his friend. As he expressed his grief, I held him tightly and did my best to support and comfort him.
He watched as I scooped Fishy out of the bowl and he asked if he could hold him. Unfortunately, Fishy smelled really bad by the time we got to him, so we made a compromise: Instead of holding him, he got to flush the toilet instead. We said a few words and he pulled the handle, teary eyed and all. As I watch him stand there there firmly like a viking sending off his comrade on a flaming pyre into Valhalla, it felt like he was growing up right before my eyes. My little boy is not so little anymore.
As hard as this was for him to go through, the sad reality is that this experience is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the losses that he will ultimately endure in his life. Relationships will end, friends will turn their backs on him and eventually, he will one day come to grips with the loss of his parents. These inevitable losses are unfortunate, but a necessary part of life that makes all the moments that we share on this earth all the more beautiful.
If he's lucky, none of that will happen for quite some time. Today, his first pet is gone, and he misses him alot.
Goodbye, Fishy Face.