Our family had a loss today. Little Gal's pet goldfish, Cowardly Lion, was discovered belly up in the tank this morning, just as the girls were getting ready to clean it.
I knew this day was inevitable. When the girls each brought home a little goldfish from their Awana party last April, I knew the risk. We talked about the life expectancy of goldfish and how the girls would have to be prepared. They understood, and even planned out where they would bury their fish when they died.
I can't say it surprised me that Little Gal's fish was the first to go. She's one of those kids who always has the broken, chipped toys, the clothes with stains or holes, and the constantly disappearing shoes. In her defense, she didn't do anything that specifically led to Cowardly Lion's demise. It's just kind of the way things go in our house. She tends to be the one who loses or breaks things first out of the three girls. And bless her heart, it's not something she does intentionally.
Cowardly Lion was a nice little fish. Little Gal chose his name because of his tendency to hide behind the plants in his tank.
He spent the first several days of his life at our house in a mixing bowl with his companions, Cookie (Middle Gal's fish) and Denise (Oldest Gal's fish).
When I finally found some nice little plastic fish tanks at Walmart, he and Cookie continued to share (since I figured we only needed one tank per room), while Denise got a tank of her own. (Cowardly Lion and Cookie's tank is on the right.)
The girls fed their fish regularly and did a fairly good job of cleaning their tanks. The water was pretty cloudy in Cowardly Lion and Cookie's tank by this morning, though. I don't know if that led to his death or not. Cookie seems fine, and she was in it, too.
Little Gal took it pretty hard. She sobbed and sat in my lap, mourning the loss of her little friend.
Later that morning, we had a burial service for him. Middle Gal donated a small craft box (shown in the first picture). Little Gal labeled it with Cowardly Lion's name, then filled it halfway with dirt. We put Cowardly Lion inside, then filled the rest with dirt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
We had a white cross in the backyard we'd gotten from our church years ago, so I dug a hole in front of it.
Little Gal said a few words about Cowardly Lion, and then buried him in the dirt.
We all put flowers on his grave, picked by Middle Gal and Oldest Gal.
Little Gal used Sharpie to write "Here lies Cowardly Lion." She left a comma at the end, as the girls had already decided that all of their fish would be buried in the same spot.
The little fish funeral was precious, and carried out with the utmost solemnity. And while, as an adult, it was easy to see the humor in the reverent way in which a ten cent goldfish was remembered and laid to rest, for Little Gal, this was a serious, tragic event. The ceremony and the promise of a new goldfish were both helpful, but she's a sensitive little soul, so I realize it may take a while for her to process everything.
Loss is a big part of life, whether it be a goldfish, a person, a stage of life, health, ability, or a place we once lived. It's not a fun thing to experience, and is something I'm still learning to work through myself, even though I know the One Who holds my future and the futures of those around me in His hands.
Part of me wishes I could shield my girls from loss, grief, and pain. But the other part of me knows that going through those times of sorrow will make them stronger, better women. It will give them empathy for others going through similar situations. It will take them to a place where they will have to rest in the goodness and grace of their Savior, even when they don't understand why He allows certain things in their lives. If they can learn that now with little losses, it will be easier for them to deal with the bigger losses that will come later as they grow up.
And in the meantime, I will be there as long as I can to hold them, to dry their tears, and to be a physical reminder of the love of Christ that surrounds them through every sorrow, each and every day.
Goodbye, Cowardly Lion. You will be missed.