[I beg your pardon for one more trip down Nostalgia Lane. This is more fun than inspirational, written in February 2003.]
“Know you what it is to be a child? . . . It is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into liftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.” – Francis Thompson Shelley (1859-1927)
Yesterday was one of those days when being a dad is tough.
It started on the way home after I had picked up both girls from school. Thankfully, there were no problems with my teenager. There was a disciplinary issue with my five-year-old, though. When we got home, we had a rare session where I had to be tough, and she had to be in trouble. She cried a lot. I sentenced her to thirty minutes in her bed with no toys, no television—no nothing. When I checked on her at the end of her prison stay, she was asleep. Overall, I thought things went well.
Then, it happened.
My teenage daughter informed me that the goldfish appeared to be dead. She was right. My little girl’s first pet, lovingly named Goldia, received for her fifth birthday, had gone on to that great aquarium in the sky.
Hillary begged for a pet long before Goldia. We are not pet people. We barely take care of ourselves, much less animals. However, we succumbed to the sweet little pleas and settled on a goldfish. Hillary learned to be content with that. And now, Goldia had passed on.
When Hillary woke up from an emotional afternoon of getting in trouble, her tear ducts prepared to let loose once more. I told her the bad news, and it did not take long for her emotions to get the best of her again.
In the midst of her shivering sobs and huge tears, she let out sweet words like, “I think I might cry all night long.” And, “I miss her so much.” And, “She was the best fish I ever had.”
She was the only fish Hillary ever had, but that in no way lessened the sincerity of her remarks.
She requested a call to my mom, ripping her heart to pieces, too.
I, of course, had the job of finding the words of comfort. I have sat with lots of people given my profession, finding those types of words. My experience helped little, but I tried nonetheless. As I tried, I found myself using words that I could not believe I heard myself saying.
“Goldia was a very good fish.” In fact, Goldia spent all of her time begging for food and then dirtying the water. She obviously took after me, but a good fish? Oh well, I was trying.
I even ventured into the, “Do goldfish go to Heaven?” waters (no pun intended). Hey, when you are desperate, you will say pretty much anything. Besides, God let down a sheet full of animals for Peter to see. Who knows what he has up there?
My best statement of the afternoon, though, was, “Goldia sure was a lucky fish.” A good friend and I had a discussion on the word “luck” recently. Bear with me, it would have sounded even worse to say she was a “blessed” fish. You see, Goldia swam constantly in a little tank with nothing in it, begging for food. She was a lucky fish? What was I saying?
I explained the bliss of Goldia’s life this way: She was lucky to have an owner like you who loved her so much.
You know, in the midst of my desperation, I think I said something right. She was lucky after all.
I explained that of all the fish in the world, Goldia was one of the few that had someone special that cared for her very much. That is worth something, isn’t it? When I attend a funeral and see many tears, I don’t know how to phrase it properly to the family, but I consider it such a compliment to see such sadness at someone’s passing. What better thing could we have than that—someone who loves us that much?
I did the proper thing. No swirling funeral for Goldia. We said a prayer. I took her outside and gave her a proper burial. I have to buy flowers this afternoon.
Hillary got over it fairly quickly last night. At bedtime, I discovered that Goldia had not gone far from her mind. She said a sweet prayer for Goldia, thanking God for the good times, declaring her sadness that she was gone, and requesting happiness for her up in Heaven. This morning, on the way to school, Hillary declared that she wanted four fish this time—just as her kindergarten teacher did after her fish died.
I thought—now I get to do this four more times.
Instead, I should think: Four more lucky fish.