By Fr. Jonathan Filkins/Guest columnist
The Picayune Item
“Mommy, I think there is something wrong with Lucy, I just can’t wake her up. I tried turning her over, but she just rolls back over and floats to the top of the bowl.” Lucy, of course, was the pet goldfish of Katy, the youngest child in the family. Jennifer, Katy’s mom, took her daughter by the hand and quietly walked the young girl back to her bedroom. Jennifer knew what was coming, as the fish had lived a good life and had only been taken out of the bowl once, a long time ago, to be petted by her daughter. The goldfish had survived the ordeal on that particular day.
The young girl now knew how to care and feed her pet, and she became used to the antics of her goldfish when she came close to the bowl. Swimming franticly, Lucy would go in circles in anticipation of the fishy treats soon to be sprinkled upon the surface of the water. She would gulp the air in anticipation and excitement. It was as though there was a mutual sense of the care, each held for the other, or so it seemed to the seven-year old.
Today was different. Lucy was eerily quite still and floating, upside down, on the surface of the water. As the mother and daughter approached the bowl, Katy tearfully shouted, “Mommy! Do something! Fix her! Reaching in and taking the lifeless body of the beloved Lucy in her hand, Jennifer brought it close to her face, looking for some signs of life. It was clear Lucy was beyond help.
“My dear one, I really don’t want to tell you this, but Lucy is not going to get better. She had lived a great life with you and now is gone.” Sobbing hysterically, Katy fell into her mother’s arms, as the reality of losing her precious pet sank in. After awhile, the sobs turned to whimpers, as Katy began the grieving process, about her heartfelt loss.
Bringing her distraught daughter up from her embrace, Jennifer tenderly wiped the tear stained cheeks, saying, “Darling, I know you loved Lucy and there will always be a special place in your heart for her. Yes, I know this hurts you, a whole bunch, and I would like to just reach inside you and take all of the hurt away. But, I can’t. Yet there is a cure, as God has a plan for all of us who lose those we love and it is called grief. Grief is there to cleanse and restore us”
“In a way, it may be called “Good Grief,” for we know, as painful as it might be, it is given to us so we may, not only survive, but return to life. Darling, we shall all remember your goldfish and how much she has meant to you. In the coming days, we will talk about her and you will find the pain, you feel right now, begin to go away. Baby, trust me on this. It is a gift from God, for you, and for all of us. Soon, the memories of your pet fish will bring mostly smiles, not the sorrow you feel right now. “
“Now, while I go and find a small box to put her in, go ahead and tell her how much you loved her. Then, we shall say our goodbyes and, together, we will go into the garden and find a special place, just for Lucy, where you can go and share your Good Grief, in these coming days.”