“We could have done with bereavement counsellors at our house last night,” says Zed despairingly as we carry out our start-of-day routine.
“Wha – oh. Because of the fish thing?” I enquire. She nods, looking unspeakably harrassed. The family goldfish, Archie, died of a suspected stroke late on Sunday night, and the funeral took place yesterday. It was very traumatic for all concerned, apart from Archie, who was resting peacefully in a
small Cheerios box coffin for most of the event.
“The thing is, I wanted to laugh,” confesses Zed, with a guilty expression on her face. “The three of them are howling, and there’s tears everywhere, and my husband is very solemnly and seriously digging a hole in the garden for the Cheerios box…”
I start to giggle, feeling a bit guilty and ashamed of my amusement at such a sad event. “Did it all go according to plan?” I ask, and she shakes her head. “No… Daughter Two stopped sobbing for long enough to say Mummy, can I see him one last time?”
“NO!” I respond, aghast. “And did you let her?!”
Zed nods, closing her eyes in horror as she relives the trauma. “We took him out of the box… and then they all had to get holding him and saying goodbye…”
I am on the floor by this point. It will take me a long, long time to banish the mental image of Zed explaining to her sobbing children that it’s normal for fish eyes to be open even when said fish is no longer awake, as meanwhile the children pass a dead goldfish from hand to hand and KC somberly digs a grave in the background.
“There – there was a service, I take it?” I ask in a trembling voice, and Zed bites her lip, trying to be stern with me for laughing at her children’s heartbreak. “Yes,” she says, her own voice also unsteady. “But I had to leave at that point. It was all too much.”
Bearing in mind that one goldfish remains alive in the House Of Mourning, I have suggested that a little gentle deception might not be a bad thing when Edie’s time comes. Rather than confessing that she has joined Archie at the Great Fishmonger’s In The Sky, it would clearly be much easier all round to just quietly replace Edie with a similar fish.
I’m telling you. Some people have hard lives.