|Image by Jeff Chin under CC-Attribution-No Derivative Works licence.|
Sadness is evident from the tears that flow down Millie’s face as she discovers Mr.Goldy lying still in the water.
And sadness is of course my inability to bring her fish back to life. Explaining the specter of death to a six year old child is difficult. Just yesterday, she was feeding the fish and tapping gently at the sides of the fish bowl to make him do a trick.
Today, he lies lifeless; locked forever in the illusion of performing the trick she wanted so badly to see.
Millie runs straight into my arms sobbing inconsolably; a deep hacking, guttural sound that comes from the deepest part of her. The sheer raw pain echoes in that cry and her tears flow unabated like torrential rains. All I can do is to pull her close to me and make gentle soothing sounds and hope that my little six year old daughter’s heart won’t break.
‘It’s alright’, I say again and again, repeating the phrase like a mantra while rocking her gently back and forth. She refuses to look at Mr.Goldy .
‘We need to say goodbye to him’ I say.
"...the poor dead fish buried in a musty white box a few feet below the moist, dark earth."
‘Don’t wanna’ she replies in between short gasps.
‘You want what’s best for him right?’ I ask. She nods her head silently. ‘Good girl’ I say and kiss her on the cheek gently.
We look together for a box to bury Mr.Goldy in. I find the white shoebox in the cupboard that came with the brown suede shoes that I’m wearing. I look at Millie and she makes a sad face, but a burial is the best way to go. Millie gently scoops out the goldfish and puts him into the box. I go to get my spade and I start digging in our backyard. When I think its deep enough, the neighbor’s black cat appears ominously in my field of vision.
I dig another couple of feet.
We both place the box tenderly into the shallow hole I'd dug and after a grim moment we lay Mr.Goldy to rest. I step back after piling on the last bit of black dirt into the hole, which is now a grave.
You were a good goldfish. It was just your time to go.
Millie's eyes cloud up and she sobs gently but does her best to hide her tears by wiping them away with the backhand of her pink sweater. I kneel down and put my arm gently around her shoulders and pull her in close and we mourn silently.
“He's in a better place, Millie.”
It’s what anyone would say.
Millie looks over the fresh grave and then into my eyes and addresses me in her most vulnerable and innocent voice- “Really, Dad?”
I regret it already.
I tear my gaze from hers and stare at the grave; the poor dead fish buried in a musty white box a few feet below the moist, dark earth.
Cold, unfeeling and lonely.
And for the life of me, I cannot bear to look into her sweet black eyes and repeat my filthy lie.