A gentle knock on the backdoor of the Oakley, California home sought attention. As the door was opened no one was visible until a glance downward discovered a wee little girl I had never seen before.
“Rev. Miles,” the little girl said sadly with tears in her eyes, “my pet fish just died.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, this must be terrible for you.”
“Would you come and do a funeral for my fish?”
“Why of course. But first, go and ask your mommy if it is OK for me to come over, then if it’s OK, come and tell me and I will do a funeral for your fish.”
By the time the little girl got to her house, her mother had made funeral arrangements of her own, placing the body in that porcelean object where with a flick of the handle, the fish was immediately transported to that great pond in the sky.
While it can be amusing to think that anyone could love a little fish like that, it was to be discovered that such thinking could only come from someone who never knew a fish.
When my grandchildren wanted a pet, that pet would usually wind up at our house. They wanted a fish. An area pet shop sold little feeder fish for only 99 cents and were said to only live for about six weeks at the most, but a fish was picked out and brought home.
Coming home after a day’s work, it became noticeable that the fish would swim to the front of the bowl as if to greet me. I began to speak to it, then fixed a sandwich for myself and sprinkled fish food in the bowl and we had a snack together. During the day, as I came in, the fish again came to the front of the bowl to greet me. I would fix a baloney sandwich and sprinkle food for the fish and sitting on the counter beside the fish bowl, we would have lunch and hang out together.
With love and good care that little feeder fish, which was only supposed to live about six weeks, lived for 2 1/2 years. One morning I came in and saw he was on his side. When I got near the bowl, he flipped upright and darted back and forth across the bowl, then stopped and would float on it’s side then flip back up. The little fish was fighting for its life.
When the fish died I was very upset, an emotion I never expected to feel. Getting to know that fish, making eye contact as it looked at me, discovering the personality it had, and being able to bond with it, made me exceedingly sorrowful at its death.
I have learned since that time that all creatures, even those that at first glance appear non-descript, do have feelings (as the little fish darted back and forth fighting for life) and they have distinct personalities (coming to greet me) that are delightufully discovered as one spends the time to get to know them.