Monday, September 6, 2010

Goodbye, Sam...

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that our beta, Sam, wasn't eating his food. As this continued, I knew we were looking at the end sooner rather than later. On Friday, he was doing the half-hearted swim, and the slow drift to the bottom of the bowl. Ugh. I decided that it was better to prepare the boys rather than surprise them with his impending death.

I called Max over to watch him for a moment. The struggle with swimming, the old food floating in the bowl, and the look on my face must have said it all. "Mom, is Sam going to die?" And I answered yes. He asked a few more questions, and then went off to play.

Yesterday, Sam was at the bottom. His little fish soul had moved on to bigger bowls. I told Max that Sam had died, and when asked what we would do with his body, I replied that we would flush him. Fortunately Dan was there to step in when the deep worry and fear crossed Max's face. "Or....we could bury him in the back yard, if you want." And that was it. We'd be having a fish funeral in the yard.

Today was the day. The boys were out riding bikes in the driveway when I carried the bowl out to let them know it was time. I figured they were over it. After all, I'd already agreed that we could get a new fish in a couple of days. And as far as Luke was concerned, it was done - old fish out, new fish in.

Max was a different story. I hadn't realized how upset he was about it all until I proposed the flowerbed closest to the garage (get it over and done as soon as possible, right?). Well, that would just not do for Sam's final resting place. Max wanted a spot IN the grass. Fortunately, our local mole had already disturbed a perfect fish-size patch. We dug a hole, placed Sam in, and covered him up. The boys each shared something they liked about Sam ("He was a fish" from Luke, and "He was the prettiest, best, first pet I ever had" from Max). Luke headed back to the bikes. Max said he wanted some time with Sam, and I went in the house.

Twenty minutes later, he was still sitting there, with tears streaming down his cheeks. He wanted to make a headstone. I tried to explain that for mowing purposes we couldn't just leave a rock in the middle of the yard. Couldn't we just put one in the dirt nearby? Certainly not. No, we needed to MOVE Sam to the flowerbed where his tombstone could stay. Did I do it? Of course. My baby lost his first pet, after all.

Exhumation and reburial complete, Max and I searched the yard for the perfect rock. And in his five-year-old hand, he wrote "SAM" in permanent marker. We laid it on top of the new spot. And then he stayed there for another 20 minutes.

While it wasn't how I planned on spending an hour of an already-too-full day, the Burial of Sam was a good reminder. Loss hurts - and it isn't up to me as the parent to determine how much any loss might hurt. I'm glad Max cared enough to be sad. It shows character and understanding of the value of life. It shows that he really did notice the poor little fish I often thought he forgot. And it helped me to slow down and listen to what his heart needed.

Thanks, Sam, for the lessons...

1 comment:

Marilee said...

Thanks, Meg, for sharing the lesson of Sam and even more for sharing this story. Sometimes I get a little impatient with people when I don't share their depth of feeling about a certain event. As always, I love reading about these special moments in the lives of my loved ones. Maybe Max will show me where Sam rests the next time I come for a visit.