“Psst. Fred is not looking well,” Hubby whispered into my ear.

I quickly walked over to where Fred was. Fred was beyond “not looking well.” Fred was dead.

I tapped at the side of the fish tank closest to where Fred lay afloat. Fred remained motionless.

I peeked up at hubby, who was hovering over me and the fish tank with a grave look on his face.

I whispered back at him, “The kids need to know. We can’t just pretend this didn’t happen.” He nodded.

We turned to look at the kids.

This was Sunday night, we had just returned from a late dinner, and were trying to rush the kids to bed. The kids were not cooperative, and they were trying to keep the imminent bedtime at bay by laying on the family room floor, rolling and chatting about their day.

“Hey, kids. I am afraid that we have bad news.” me.

They looked up and saw us both surrounding Fred’s fish tank, and jumped up and came over to examine their Fred.

“Oh NO! Is he dead?” 8-year-old.

“Yes, Fred is dead. He went to fish heaven.” I stated flatly.

“Maybe he is playing dead…”11-year-old said faintly. “You said Morgan’s fish plays dead sometimes.”

“Yes, but our Fred never played dead with us. Fred is dead.” me.

Their attempt at denial was nipped in the bud. They understood the finality of death, and a gush of tears washed over their cheeks.

Fred was their very first pet. A small goldfish with a charming personality that was assigned to him by our own imagination. We will all miss fussing over him, watching him swim forward, and sometimes backwards in his clean and nicely decorated tank.


“We are very sorry that Fred has died. It is getting late. You have school tomorrow. You two go to bed right now, and tomorrow after school, we will bury Fred in our backyard, and we will have a funeral service for him.” me.

The next day, when I brought the children home from school, Hubby was already at the house waiting for us. Yes, he took off from work for a couple of hours to pay his final respects to Fred.

We decided to bury Fred under our jujube tree. My father had planted this young tree in our backyard a few years ago, and every summer it produced this tart-tasting small fruit that was surprisingly tasty.

I put on my much-neglected garden gloves and set out to pull weeds from under the tree to make a clearing. I told the rest of them to gather tools for digging a small hole in the dirt. Everybody wanted to participate in Fred’s final preparation.

The weed-pulling took no time at all. A nice patch of dirt underneath the tree marked Fred’s final resting place.

Then Hubby and the two kids appeared in our backyard with rusty tools. Two big shovels and one big rake.

They looked either out of practice with burying something small in our backyard, or about to bury something much more sinister than a fish.

Big rusty tools

“I was thinking of using that hand-shovel I bought for the kids’ science project…” me.

They stared back at me. I gave up.

“Go ahead and dig right here.” I pointed at the patch of dirt I had just cleared.

Three shovels in, and a hole way bigger than necessary was created.

Huge hole in the dirt

We placed Fred in a small raisin box (emptied of raisins, of course). The raisin box made a good coffin for Fred, because both of my children loved raisins, and it is bio-degradable.

Raisin box coffin for Fred

We placed the box carefully into the hole, and pushed the dirt back on top.

My 11-year-old made a tombstone out of white cardboard for Fred and had it wrapped in a Ziplock bag to protect the tombstone from the looming rain in the forecast. The kids carefully placed the tombstone on Fred’s patch of dirt and dressed the grave with tiny flowers.

Fred's tomb

Finally, we said a prayer for Fred, thanked him for being our pet, and told him to rest in peace.

But Fred’s story did not just end there. A few days later, my kids received hand-made sympathy cards from their young cousins, who had learned of the awful news.

My 11-year-old particularly loved my 5-year-old niece’s note:

“I love your fish, I love your fish, so bad, I am so sorry.”

Sympathy cards from cousins

Such sweet and loving children…

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