Almost two and a half years ago, Munchkin started begging for a fish. I held out, stalled, stammered and after much research I finally gave in.
After much debate and discussion, I settled on a Beta, he picked out a pretty blue one and named him FISHY.
For the past 18 months, munchkin has greeted him good morning, kissed him good night, sang to him, fed him, read to him, redecorated his fish tank, helped change filter. FISHY would recognize his voice and swim around frantically excited to hear him. Munchkin thought that was the coolest thing, especially since he wouldn't respond to me. Munchkin's explanation, "mommy, he hasn't learned that you have to listen to your mommy yet, we will work on it and I am sure FISHY will love you like he loves me!"
He announced that since he can't have a baby sister that FISHY would be his brother. Everyone who came to our apartment or as Munchkin calls it "repartment house" was introduced to his brother.
About 2 weeks ago, FISHY started looking a little sick, kinda just laying on his plants, not really eating....I knew in my heart that FISHY had just about lived out his life. I seriously debated a bait and switch. However, I figured out that Munchkin, as observant as he is, would have discovered the deception so I decided to let it run its course and prepped myself for the "circle of life" conversation.
The other day it happened, we went out for the day, had a fantastic day downtown. Picked up a new story book that he proceeded to read to me on the train and we simply had fun. When we got home, Munchkin wanted to read to FISHY. When he went to his tank to read to him, he was lifeless on the bottom of the tank. Munchkin started singing to him, FISHY didn't move. Munchkin started screaming. No not screaming, shrieking. "MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!! FISHY is DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Keep in mind, that I didn't voice any of my suspicions to him.
The tears started rolling. The wailing began in earnest. I scooped up my little man and just held him. I investigated FISHY and confirmed the sad news.
"MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I DON'T WANT FISHY IN HEAVEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DADDY IS ALREADY THERE AND I WANT FISHY HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD TAKES EVERYTHING I LOVE TO HEAVEN AND KEEPS THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
OH my! It hurt me so deeply to see him so hurt. It hurts me to know that at 5 years old, that he understands loss in such a deep and personal way that many adults have yet to come to terms with. I was speechless. How do you give your child answers that you don't have yourself?
In the end, I decided that hugs, kisses and listening were my best option. I told him that we would send FISHY's body to the sea by flushing him. BIG MISTAKE! "MOMMY! A SHARK WILL EAT HIM!!!!!!!!" oh my, oh my, thanks DISNEY!
He asked me to say good bye to FISHY, so I took the tank and set it on the floor in front of him. He knelt on his knees over the tank with tears streaming down his cheeks and big messy sobs making his entire body quiver. I could do nothing but sit next to him and silently pray. For what seemed like forever he sat and spoke to FISHY's body--
"I love you FISHY"
"you are an awesome friend FISHY"
"I miss you FISHY, GOD please send FISHY back!"
" FISHY can you please say hi to my Daddy in heaven and be his friend?"
"FISHY, will you play with my puppies in heaven and be nice to my Daddy"
"FISHY I hope you turn into a real human brother in heaven and give my Daddy a kiss, maybe play catch with him too"
When he was done sobbing and saying goodbye, we said a prayer. He asked some more questions about Daddy and told me that he knew Daddy would take care of FISHY.
While I was very proud of myself for not getting hysterical, I did have the tears on my cheeks and I was drained.
We ended up cuddling up and watching Scooby Doo together.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it is best to realize that there is nothing that we can do to change things and all we can do is cling to each other.
In the past few days, we have only had a few questions and comments. He made sure to tell Papa and Uncle Joe that FISHY is in heaven with Daddy. It is still striking to me how he knew without prompting that FISHY was in heaven. I am not sure if I should be glad that he understands or sad that he has had the opportunity to learn about loss so early.