We’re often a few minutes late to church, and unfortunately, Easter Sunday was no exception. We squeezed into a space in the middle of a long pew and settled into the meeting. Before long Juliette asked for a pen and paper, which I didn’t have. To my relief, Isabella was quick to gift her a little notebook from her bag and Will had a pen. First Juliette drew Charlton. When she drew him earlier in the week, he had a tail and I had to take a picture because her art had so much character. As I looked at this tail-less version, I wasn’t sure how I felt. It’s like when she pronounces, “fish, “pish,” and I can’t bring myself to correct her because it’s so endearing.
“I’m going to draw the whole famuhwee!” she said, as she tore out and handed me Charlton’s portrait.
Oh good, I was hoping she would sketch everyone. She drew me next, a bigger and hairier version of the baby. Then Liam, Isabella and Will. We definitely looked like we belonged to each other with our balloon-shaped bodies and stick arms.
“Don’t forget to draw you!” Isabella said, really interested in Juliette’s project. “And Aqua!”
“I don’t know how to draw a ‘pish!’” Juliette said, perplexed.
“Here, I’ll do it,” Isabella offered.
Meanwhile, I thought about how nice it was that at least someone in our family considered Aqua, our beta fish, to be part of the family, and I reminisced a bit about when we got him.
It was about a year ago, and came as a huge surprise to me since Will and I don’t have an ounce of “animal lover” in us, and have held to a no pet rule. We were out for a family drive to Port Angeles when he spontaneously asked what I thought about getting the kids some goldfish. “Sure,” I agreed, and the next thing I knew we were at a pet store. It was definitely impulsive because a few days later we were headed to Germany for three weeks, so the timing was far from ideal. Luckily, Grandma Rise (one of the most nurturing people I know) was happy to care for the goldfish while we were away. She felt terrible, but the kids didn’t notice too much when they came home to a beautiful new beta fish since the goldfish all died. It was unanimous that our fluttery new fish, made of a beautiful teal shimmer, should be named Aqua.
Our Easter Sunday continued with touching talks and lessons at church about Christ’s atonement and resurrection. We came home and I scrambled to put together a broccoli salad to take to the big family dinner and egg hunt. After all the festivities, I went to bed early, hoping to sleep off my headache. When I came downstairs the next morning, I immediately noticed Aqua’s fish bowl that sits on the end of our kitchen counter. Ack! I forgot to feed Aqua yesterday, I remembered, as I peered into the bowl that was in need of a good cleaning. Oh no. Aqua was curled up at the bottom of the bowl. There was no question in my mind. I was looking at a dead fish.
Dead. I felt a pang that I wasn’t expecting. Dead because I forgot to feed him. I shuttered to think that I had inflicted that kind of pain on a living creature, and couldn’t help but recall living in California when I was a young teen and forgetting to move my bunny’s cage into the shade, causing him to fry to death in the brutal summer heat. What is wrong with me, and why am I so bad with pets? I commiserated with myself.
I also wondered how the kids would react. I told Liam first. A bit of shock and sadness flickered across his face, and then he went over to see. He didn’t say much, and I felt like he was able to get over it pretty quickly. I told him we could either flush Aqua down the toilet or bury him the backyard, and I think he enjoyed being the first one to tell the girls the news.
“Girls! Aqua died! We can either flush him down the toilet or bury him in the backyard. I want to bury him!” he yelled as he marched up the stairs.
Isabella eventually made her way down to breakfast. I asked her if she’d heard the news.
She nodded, but didn’t say anything and didn’t want to go look.
I continued to get Liam ready and out the door for school.
“Don’t bury Aqua until I get home, okay?” he said, as I kissed him goodbye.
Isabella got going on her schoolwork, still refusing to look. I couldn’t bear to look at Aqua, either. I wasn’t expecting to feel so bad. Meanwhile my thoughts flooded with thoughts of Easter and as I went about the usual household chores, I pondered in depth about Christ and his death and resurrection. I thought about how his apostles slept when he asked them to watch for one hour. I also couldn't help but wonder if Aqua would be resurrected.
I texted Will: “Our fish died. I feel bad… I forgot to feed it."
Will texted back: "That makes me surprisingly sad. Bummer."
The girls went to recess, and while they were gone I cleaned up the kitchen, but still couldn’t bring myself to look at the far end of the counter. We were going to have to wait until Will got home to bury Aqua. I just couldn’t do it.
Meanwhile Will sent me an email.
“The tenth President of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, has also expressed concern for animal welfare. In 1928, as an apostle, he stated in a general conference of the Church: “So we see that the Lord intends to save, not only the earth and the heavens, not only man who dwells upon the earth, but all things which he has created. The animals, the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, as well as man, are to be recreated, or renewed, through the resurrection, for they too are living souls.” ( Conference Report, October 1928, p. 100.)
Aqua will live again.
I thought Will’s email was so sweet. After the girls got home, I found myself walking by the fish bowl again, and this time I decided to take a quick peek. Weird, he looked a little different. He was still on the floor of the bowl, but positioned in another way or something.
I gave the bowl a little shake, and Aqua started fluttering, but just a little!
“Girls! Aqua’s alive!!”
Isabella heard and quickly came to my side.
I opened the cupboard and fumbled around for the fish food. It’s normally right inside the cupboard, where was it?! I was freaking out. Aqua was extremely weak and needed food! I finally got my hands on it and started dropping food into the bowl. The poor fish would try to swim to the surface to get it, only make it half way, and then sink to the bottom again. It was heart wrenching to watch.
“This is so sad! This is so sad! This is so sad!” I kept yelling.
Bella couldn’t take it and went outside. When I looked out the window I saw her on her knees in the grass.
I called Will. He gave some suggestions that were nice, but would require me to mess with Aqua quite a bit, and that just gave me the jitters. I could hardly look at Aqua “when he was dead.” And now he was alive, and so fragile. I feared I would accidentally really kill him this time.
“Just do your best because apparently I care about Aqua,” is all he said to me with a smile before he hung up. Why was I such a sissy wife sometimes?
I kept trying to feed Aqua, and eventually he found strength to reach the surface and barely got his mouth around some food! Whew. What a relief. He sank back down to the bottom of the bowl and just lay there. After that, I had to go upstairs to nurse Charlton, and while I was away, Isabella tried to get Aqua to eat some more. She ran upstairs when he ate another pellet and we were again so grateful. But she broke down in tears because she still thought he was going to die. She couldn’t stop the tears for what felt like an hour. I love her big heart and felt so guilty that our fish was so desperately hungry and weak.
A little later, a knock came to the door, and one of the neighbor girls (who’d heard about Aqua’s death at recess) had a big rock with Aqua’s name written on it in permanent marker. What a sweet gesture. I almost felt bad telling her that Aqua was in fact alive, probably because I felt a little dumb, too. We placed the rock in front of his bowl.
We kept a close eye on Aqua the rest of the day and he seemed to perk up a bit. But his swimming was weird, and we began to wonder if he was hurt. Some of his fins looked battered, not that I’d ever analyzed his fins before. The next day he seemed even odder. He would just hang out, floating at the top of the bowl, positioned completely vertically. It was as if his mouth were somehow magnetized to the water’s surface and the rest of his body hung limp below him like a bowling pin.
I checked on him all day and kept finding him in different places in his bowl, still not moving much. And then Liam came to me that afternoon and told me he thought Aqua was really dead. I looked at Aqua laying down on the rocks and thought he might be right. I didn’t want to, but I jarred the bowl a bit and he didn’t budge. There was really no question this time; he was gone.
It's interesting to think that because of the death of our little fish, I reflected on the true meaning of Easter in more depth than usual. And whenever I think of Aqua in the future, I will think of John 4:14 and how Aqua was the perfect name:
"But whosever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
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