We all cope with death in different ways. For many of us time heals all. For others, we cherish the old memories. Often people go through the cyclical process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, one thing remains the same, death is a bridge eventually everyone crosses.
My sister and I were very close as children, and remain close to this day despite our many differences. We are only a minor eighteen months apart with Natalie being older. As an older sister, one would assume she would be protective and nurturing of her younger sister, look out for me in good times and bad, however my sister often had an ulterior agenda. When I was around four years old, Natalie would have been six, we experienced our first tragic event. Clarence and Eleanor were a pair of goldfish my mother had purchased for us as our first real pet, our first real responsibility. We loved those fish, fed them daily, watched them swim, kept them company, everything young children can do with their tiny pet fish.
“ Get up girls it’s time for breakfast!”
We rushed down from our rooms to enjoy the hot pancakes my mom had waiting for us.
“ Nic, after breakfast want to go feed the fishies?” Nat asked like she did every morning.
After eating breakfast Nat and I went downstairs to stare at our underwater friends and give them some of their own breakfast.
“ Oh no…” Natalie stated.
“ Mom!” I yelled in a worried tone.
To our utter sadness, laying limp at the top of the tank, was one of our pet fish who had passed away. My mother, on edge about our first death experience prepared the bathroom for the funeral. We picked the fish out of the tank, sombrely brought him to his grave and placed him inside.
“ I loved you fish, we had fun together and I’ll miss you.” Natalie said.
“ Yea, I’m going to miss the fishy too.” I agreed.
With a flush of the toilet the funeral was finished.
My mother was impressed, we were holding up, as we both waved bye to Clarence. Then, just as we were about to turn and leave our makeshift funeral home, my older sister turned to me and matter-of-factly said,
“That was your fish”.
My first experience with this whole topic was difficult, although my subsequent encounters have not become much easier. It’s strange the things we learn from our family.