A couple weeks ago while the kids were in Ohio my folks took them to the Harpersfield Ox Roast. At the event Fiona won three goldfish at that game where you try to toss pingpong balls into fish bowls. We forgot them in Ohio but they made their way to our house via PA and Cowahen Farm a week or two ago.

The fish have been living in this clear plastic container on the kitchen counter and Fiona had been doing an excellent job of feeding them. But the water was getting pretty dirty, so yesterday morning I emptied about half the water out and replaced it with tap water. I had some remembrance that this was less than ideal for the fish, but I figured that since I was just replacing half the water it couldn’t be too traumatic for the fish.

I was wrong. When I got home from work all three were floating on the surface. Uh-oh. When the kids got home I sat them down and told them I had some sad news. I had prepared Fiona for the fact that goldfish don’t live forever, so she asked casually if one of the fish had died. When I told them that all three had died she broke into big tears. I held her and comforted her while we talked about why they died, what it means to be dead, what we would do with them. Brendan didn’t show much emotion, but he did eventually carry in his stuffed dog Florida, on her back, and explained that Florida was dead too.

Fiona asked what makes animals die, so we talked about how bodies have lots of things that all have to work for an animal to live: heart, lungs, brains, etc. And that sometimes when something stops working the doctors can fix it but sometimes when something stops working then all the other things stop working too and so the whole animal stops working. She seemed to grasp this as well or better than I could have expected.

I gave her the option of flushing the fish or burying them. Inwardly I was rooting for the flush so I wouldn’t have to go dig, but of course she wanted to bury them. She explained that she didn’t want the guys working at the factory that cleans the water (the wastewater plant) to have to touch the dead fish. I helped her fetch one of the large stones from the back yard so she could create a Memory Stone to place on top of the fish grave. She dictated while I transcribed in Sharpie on the stone:

Dear Pinkie Pie, Brownie and Orangie,
I hope you had a good life. I hope you have a good time in heaven.

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