Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Fish Tale

Since we moved into our house almost 3 years ago, we have enjoyed so many wonderful things about it, including a very nice-sized fish pond in the back yard. But we have since learned that owning a home, particularly with such an extravagant water feature, means sparing lots more attention than we initially anticipated. So, over the last year especially, we've been having various issues with filters and pumps and the whole system for our pond needing to be replaced. Don't get me wrong, there are several up-sides to having the pond. On warm summer evenings, and even during the day, if we're outside, the soothing sound of running water is definitely a nice background distraction. The fish, which numbered around 25 when we first moved in, are the only pets we own at this point and it is a fun experience to see the different sizes and colors of the fish, bright oranges and shiny blacks flicking their tails as they swim about, their cute little mouths often bobbing at the surface waiting for food to be thrown in. The best part is the mesmerized look my children get whenever their attention happens to fall on the pond and its inhabitants.

But today, I am sad to say, was a rather depressing day as we spent most of the afternoon trying to remedy the biggest issue we've had so far with our beloved pond. Over the past few weeks, we've been noticing the water level receding much faster than natural evaporation would allow. At first, we thought there was a tear in the lining. After weeks of just filling the water level back up and letting it go because of being too busy, my husband decided to work on it yesterday. We went out to Home Depot the night before to get some sort of sealer for the liner to fix what my husband thought was the problem. Yesterday, he drained most of the water in the pond, leaving enough for our fishy friends to comfortably swim around in, and put the sealant on the liner. After a little while, he filled the pond back up, commented on how clean the water was looking - the cleanest it had been in months - patted himself on the back, and went about doing other various yard-related tasks. This morning, however, on his way out to mow one of our properties, he found the pond almost completely drained of water, the poor fish flopping around helplessly. The water was UNDER the liner, making the liner bubble up, creating many trenches and crevices in which later we'd find some of our fish who, sadly, would not make it.

This was a hard lump to swallow for me as a mom. Not because we've been having these issues and I have 10 billion other things needing my attention, or because I felt sad for the fish dying. I mean, I was a little sad, particularly because I felt we should have worked on this issue sooner and maybe they wouldn't have died. But the main reason why I choked on this particular situation while out with our three children today, was because other than a brief mentioning months ago of why my mom's cat was no longer around her house, my children really haven't had any contact with the issue of death. It's a very difficult concept to explain to children age 4 1/2 and under, and I imagine even some older children and adults often stumble over at least the why's of such a serious part of life.

My husband, Joe, kept trying to spell the word 'dead' instead of saying it but my very smart 4 1/2 year old knew exactly what was going on, as soon as she saw the first fish on my pool skimmer being carried away from the pond. Somehow she just understood it was not alive any longer, and not only did that part make me sad but it made me wonder how much of an understanding of this type of thing is naturally within us somewhere, placed there by God's hand as He formed us in our mother's wombs. And how do we lose that ability to understand such things and when?
We found about 10 fish in all that were definitely dead by the time Joe got to them. My daughter didn't seem too phased by the idea of the dead fish and thankfully, I didn't really have to explain much. Not very many in-depth questions were asked by her or her 3 year old brother. They innocently accepted the fish's plight, whether they truly understood it or not, and went about watching their daddy continue to try to fix the pond.

We also had 2 fish who didn't seem like they'd make it, one of which I was half-way across the yard with before I noticed it was still breathing (or trying to). But we put them in the buckets where he had placed all the other fish and so far they're doing okay.
My husband thinks he figured out the true culprit for the water draining and has returned the fish to their proper home. The kids have moved on from the temporary distraction of the dead fish and our catastrophe with the pond. And I am still trying to discern when exactly it will be that I have to sit down and really explain to my kids that its not only cats and fish that die.

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