It’s not fun to write about death. Just thinking about it makes all of us cringe a little, because we know someday we will also die. Today, death visited our little house.
We have a lot of pets, some say too many, and we consider them members of our family. Each of them have individual personality traits that set them apart from each other and endear them to us, their owners. Of course, the four dogs soak up the majority of our attention and affection, but we also have two fish that complete the 8 member family.
We got our fish about two months ago. They were on a shelf with a bunch of other Bettas in little clear cups. I remember feeling sad staring at the lined up fish, each one different from the other in color and size. Lola had said she wanted fish and I jumped at the chance to offer her one. But one wasn’t enough. We got two that day, with matching plastic tanks, Kafka (a blue male) and Camus (an orange female). We took them home, filled their tanks with water and put them on a shelf in the kitchen, welcoming them to our family.
Kafka was flashier than Camus, all male Bettas are. He had flowing blue fins that lit up in the sunlight and he enjoyed diving and rising in his tank, swishing his fins back and forth. He would sit high in his tank, his mouth protruding from the water, breathing deep the same air we breathed as we walked by his tiny home. We had added a gray diving helmet to his habitat which he would hide inside. Several times I happened to look in, not see him, and freak out scanning the floor for his flopping body. But he was just hiding inside his helmet, waiting for his moment to majestically emerge on cue.
Yesterday we noticed Kafka looked a little odd. He was floating weirdly, but we assumed it was nothing life-threatening. Today, when I got home from work, his body was bloated and he was floating vertically in the water. He was barely moving and, for a moment, I thought he was dead. He moved when I tapped the tank but just barely. Lola and I changed out his water, hoping the fresh water would remove whatever was causing him discomfort. But thirty minutes later, he was dead on the rocks that filled the bottom of his tank.
Fish may have little personality and certainly it is hard to feel a strong connection with something so removed from our familiar mammalian companions. They exist within a world that we cannot occupy and the same is true of our world for them. But Kafka was a fish who had a family. He had a sister fish, four sister dogs, a sister human, and two human parents who loved him because he belonged to this family. We buried him in our backyard tonight, with his little plastic diving helmet next to him. He belonged to this family and now he will stay with this home forever. RIP Kafka.