Baby’s in Fish Hell

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Meditating on the Imago Dei: Love and Grieving

I am in love with my children. Yeah, moms are supposed to say they love their kids (and most actually do) but I am deeply, crazy IN LOVE with mine. I have known them since they were kicking my bladder and at 16 and 18 they are the coolest people I know. Being their mom is the thing that makes me special.

My mother’s heart swells with love toward them, can flare when they are wounded and often breaks in their hands. And that is exactly how it should be.

As I was reading another blog today, I was reminded of a time when my precious girl and I learned a lesson on love and grieving.

My Margot was 4 when she brought home a goldfish from preschool. A well-meaning mom (who I cursed repeatedly) gave every child in her class a goldfish as a gift for her child’s birthday. *side note* I’m the mom who brought Ho Hos and Twinkies in for Margot’s birthday because that’s what she wanted, not an organic cake with homemade cards and gift baggies for all the kids.**

So, when this fish came into our house, I knew it wouldn’t be long for the world but Margot was so excited that we got the $7 fish food and $5 fish bowl at PetSmart and took our fish-in-a-baggie home. We set him up in style in our kitchen and Margot named him Baby.

Baby lived 3 days.

When Baby died. Margot handled it extremely well. We talked about it and I told her that we needed to “bury” him. Either in the yard or we could flush him. She decided flushing would be best. So, off Baby went without much ceremony. I went to the kitchen to clean out the bowl and curse the well-meaning mother (again) and Margot went to her room to play.

Within a few minutes I heard wailing coming from Margot’s room. I burst in, “Baby, what’s the matter?” Lying face down, spread-eagle on her bed she is wretching “Mom! Baby…is in… FISH HELL!”

I’m sorry, what?

“I didn’t pray for him, Mom! He’s in hell now because I didn’t pray for him!”

Oh, Lord.

Now, I wish I could I tell you we had a deep discussion that brought her to a greater understanding of salvation and God’s love and a “all fish go to Heaven” moment, but we didn’t. I know I reassured her that Jesus loved Baby and that he most certainly was NOT in  fish hell.

“He’s still dead.” She has a point there.

And she would not be consoled. And her sadness was as real as her little 4-year old self had ever experienced.

So, I sat with her and let her cry.

Jesus loved so deeply and grieved so honestly that He often wept. For the lost state of the people when He arrived in Jerusalem; when Lazarus died and Jesus encountered his heartbroken sisters; and in the garden of Gethsemane, where the Father’s will to save humanity in the shadow of the cross became a reality…

As the image of the living God, we are created to love and grieve. It is good to love those in our lives and it is good to lament over those loved ones who do not know Him.

Is it good theology that I let my 4 year-old grieve over the soul of a fish? Probably not. But it is the heart of Jesus. He didn’t chastise Martha and Mary for grieving for Lazarus (and He knew He was going to raise him from the dead). He sat with them and let them cry. When you’re in love with someone, you look at their heart and give them what they need in that moment. God does that with us–He let’s us love and grieve.

And that is how it should be.

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4 responses »

  1. I’m with you Steph. Maryam had a petting zoo party for her 5th birthday last year. Some farm somewhere in Virginia brought goats, ponies, alpaca’s, and all sorts or baby rabbits, chickens etc. to my neighborhood. It turns out that you can purchase the bunnies and of course Maryam’s Nana bought her one since it was her big day. (Nana and I had words about that bright idea!)

    The dog was not thrilled but we all welcomed (more or less) Hoppity into our home. Well after purchasing a ridiculous amount of stuff for this rabbit it lived maybe 3 months. My sister called me one day and said that she had pronounced him dead at 1:45 pm. I broke the news to Maryam as gently as possible and she then asked “how did he die?” Caught off balance I said “God was just ready for him” MISTAKE. She cried then sat in the back of the van very quiet for about 10 mins and said “Can we have a funeral for him? A big one like at church?” Considering I just said that God called the dang rabbit home how can I say no?

    After the family stopped laughing at the idea of a rabbit funeral we all dressed in our Sunday best and sent Hoppity home to glory. There was scriptures read, songs sang, a eulogy and even a repast with fried chicken (the highlight of the event). My brother made him a headstone and Maryam ordered the dog not to pee over there.

    In the end she shed her tears and her little heart was at rest believing Hoppity had a proper send off and that he’s at peace with our Father and really, who am I to rob her of that?

  2. We always have funerals for our pets. The worst was the year we moved here to the USA when I was about to join Phil for a long weekend to house hunt here Phil was already working in Raleigh. I had to clean my house for guests, leave food, take a sick rabbit to the vet and then dig a large hole and hold a funeral service for Earl Grey (What else can anyone possibly name a large silvery gray rabbit?). Simon sobbed for hours. We use the funeral service in the Anglican book of common prayer. It’s great. They are commended into God’s keeping.

  3. I love this post. It highlights the difference between rule based thinking and love based thinking. Jesus was all about people and our relationship to God and to one another. These are lessons I’m learning, and points that the Lord has been highlighting.

    Thank-you.

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