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Death and taxes

Today will probably be the day, unless he miraculously rallies.

Sam’s beloved Betta, Smoosh, is curled upside down, in the bottom of the white rock lined fish bowl. His eyes are swollen. His gills strain. He is a sick little fishy and it hurts to watch him fade.

We noticed he was failing yesterday. My husband changed the water. We broke the news to Sam that Smoosh wasn’t looking so great. Sam launched a vigil which lasted most of the evening. Before bed, he wanted me to pray with him for Smoosh. I did.

Sam has been through this before with Juicebox the Goldfish. About two years ago, he died after living on our kitchen table for almost a year. I wrote a guest post at the infamous Rocks in My Dryer about Juicebox, grief, and being blindsided by reminders of loss. The death of Sam’s flickering golden little friend impacted all of us, mostly because we hated to see Sam experience sorrow.

It’s just a fish. Get a grip, you might think.

You don’t know Sam.


Sam is crazy about all animals to the point he knows far more than you or me about an astonishing array of creatures. Ask him any question about wolverines, blue whales, sharks, manatees, badgers, marsupials of all persuasions, dinosaurs, pachyderms, bison, and cows. He will know the answer. He has deeply loved animals since babyhood. He lights up when the subject is animals.

Recently, he told me that he is thinking about being a vegetarian because it hurts to know he’s eating cows, pigs, chickens. Personally, I think cows are crazy delicious, but I respect his outlook. That’s the way Sam was made. It’s sewn into his being for a reason. He’s a caretaker and an advocate for the weak. He’s loyal and he wears his heart on his sleeve. Me? I’m loyal, but if you taste like filet mignon I am so eating you.

This great love has extended to the little pet store fish Sam has cared for over the years. Watching him open his heart to the tiniest of creatures has taught me about finding enchantment in what most people think of as mundane and disposable. The fanning of the fin, the bobbing, the cool and quiet swim and swish of a lone fish in a crystal clear bowl.

It’s something pure and worth protecting. Sam senses that, too.

It ends.

Sam senses that, too.

10 comments to Death and taxes

  • Awww, best of luck to you, Sam and Smoosh. Lives may come in circles, but some parts are drawn a little wobbly.
    .-= The Casual Perfectionist´s last blog ..A GREAT LIST to bookmark for Summer Fun! =-.

  • What a perfect post for me to read today! our female beta, Rhino, is not doing well and it looks like she won’t make it very much longer. I made the mistake of mentioning this to Anders last night and we dealt with various stages of grief all evening. (horror, sobbing, bargaining, anger…) Complete devastation. This morning when I got up he had dragged the stool over by the tank and was keeping watch. He now knows that when an animal dies that it won’t come alive again and that it will be very final. Not looking forward to the actual moment.
    Now I understand the stories of parents frantically running out to the pet store to look for an identical looking animal to replace a dead one. =0/
    .-= Gretchen´s last blog ..Next come the knock knock jokes =-.

  • The Original Other Gretchen

    Hmm you are collecting quite the number of posting Gretchens 😉

    My boys have learned this lesson through hamsters, rabbits, and cats. It is heartbreaking, and some days I wonder if it is too soon for them to be learning such a harsh lesson. Then again, how old is old enough to learn about death and loss?

  • Shayne

    Gretchen, what a sweet and touching post about your sweet and caring Sam.

    But this line literally made me laugh out loud: “Me? I’m loyal, but if you taste like filet mignon I am so eating you.” A woman after my own heart.

  • Aww poor Sam I am so sorry about his beloved… my first born has never eaten meat on account of a similar disposition. The very first time, when he was oneish I was about to feed him roast chicken for the first time and my sister said: “bok, bok, bok” just like a chicken – he saw the association straight away and has never eaten meat or fish – ever!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..The Quickest Pinata in the World in Se7en Steps… =-.

  • Mom

    Tears in my eyes for Sam. I’m glad that he has such a tender heart. Hug him for me.

  • I am so sorry for Sam. It was this time last year we found our second hamster, Chip, cold and still in the corner he slept in… gone to another world. Our daughter was devastated. Hug him for me…
    .-= Jill´s last blog ..Clever title eludes me… =-.

  • Jenn

    So sorry to hear this. Ethan is like Sam… fiercely attached to creatures of all makes and models. He lost his fish a couple of months ago, after a few weeks of tortuous wondering (he lost the ability to swim – something about whatever keeps them afloat?). Every day was agonizing as we waited, and waited. 🙁 Losing a pet is awful for anyone… but to those kids who live and breath to care for the big and small – it seems especially heart-wrenching. Give Sam an extra pat on the back from his buddy, Ethan. He knows just how bad it hurts to wait.

  • Melissa

    Just so you know, no fish will last very long if it’s kept in a bowl of water (no circulation equals no oxygen, no filter equals swimming around in own excrement). You can buy a small and good fish tank for about $30, which will filter the water and keep it clean (don’t overcrowd the tank, about one small fish for every gallon of water). I kept two goldfish alive with a small tank for like this for nearly four years. There’s also plenty of sites online that will teach you how to easily care for fish (changing all the water at once is a big no-no).

    A fish may seem like a small, insignificant creature, but it has a life and can feel pain just like any other pet. If you have a fish, you can easily create a safe and healthy environment for it. It’s a great first pet for any child and a lot of fish can easily live for 5 years or more.

  • Oh Gretchen, I love how you described Sam and his heart. So precious.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Souvenirs =-.

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