Monday, February 10th, 2014
Kate Leong is the author of Chasing Rainbows and the winner of Best Blog in the 2014 Parents Social Media Awards. Since 2011, Leong has documented on her blog the journey of her family. Sadly, in April 2013 Gavin, her older son, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 5. Soon after his passing, the family was overjoyed to welcome a baby girl, Hope. Leong continues to write sweet and sentimental posts about being a mom to son Brian, 5, and Hope, and about remembering Gavin.
It was a sad day in our house today. Brian’s fish died. “Fishie,” as he named him, was Brian’s third birthday present! He was so excited to go to the store with Gavin, Daddy, and me to pick out his fish the night before his birthday.
I wrote about the day in THIS post. Today, Brian and I reminisced about that day–and how Gavin stuck his hand in a tank when we turned our heads!
We thought we were going to lose Fishie shortly after Gavin died. He was having some health issues and when I went back to the store to ask how to help him, I was given antibiotics and their condolences. They told me he was not long for this world.
I couldn’t believe it. I had JUST lost my son and now I have to worry about this fish?? But then I remembered: Brian had JUST lost his brother–he can NOT lose his fish. So I bought a “stunt fish” that night. A blue betta fish, just like Fishie. The stunt fish was living in our bedroom until the day Fishie died, when I would do the ol’ switcheroo. But then… Fishie never died. And I was sick of having the stunt fish in our room. So I introduced the stunt fish to Brian and told him I thought Fishie needed a neighbor. Brian named the stunt fish “Peppy.” Fishie and Peppy have been living side by side for the last 9 1/2 months.
When I saw that Fishie was no longer with us this morning, I dreaded telling Brian. I knew he would take it hard. But I also knew that he had an (unfortunate) understanding of death and would be comforted to know that Fishie was in Heaven.
As soon as I told him, he lowered his head and was silent for a moment. Then he looked up at me and said, “That’s okay. Now Gavin has a fish and I have a fish!” The rest of the day we spoke here and there about Fishie and Brian would simply say, “I loved him.”
Tonight we had a “Funeral at Sea” service. Brian and I knelt down in front of the white ceramic urn–Fishie in a container in my hands–and bowed our heads. I asked Brian if he wanted to say some prayers, and he nodded and said, “You help me say them, Mommy.”
“Dear God,” I started. ”Thank you for giving us Fishie.”
“I loved him,” Brian added.
“Please take care of him in Heaven…” I continued.
“And help him find Gavin!” Brian implored.
“Are you ready?” I asked him. He nodded quietly. With that, I let Fishie fall gently into the water. What happened next both shocked me–and I expected it. Brian peered into the bowl and quietly said, “Bye Fishie.” And with that, he turned and threw his arms around me and broke into heaving sobs.
I pulled my little boy onto my lap, knowing full well this was not about Fishie. I let him cry and cry and cry, not wanting to disrespect his grief with my own words or thoughts. He held onto me tightly and just let the emotions pour out of him. After five minutes, I broke the silence.
“What do you think Fishie is doing now?” I asked.
“I can’t know–you tell me,” he cried.
“I bet Fishie has already found Gavin. And I bet Gavin is showing him his new bowl, which is HUGE and has all of the coolest fish toys. And I bet Fishie can eat all the food he wants in Heaven.”
With that, I saw him smile again. And we decided that when we go to the beach we will know that Gavin and Fishie are with us. And we can remember them there.
Rest in Peace, Fishie. Thank you for being the vehicle that gave my little boy permission to mourn out loud.
Click here to get parenting tips and tricks sent right to your inbox.