Updated: Oct 29, 2022
It was the final day of 3rd grade and teacher Marie was cleaning up the classroom. She needed to find a new home for the baby pet fish that had been part of a science study for the class. She asked Noah, who was still cleaning up his desk, if he wanted to take him home.
- “I would love to!” - said Noah – “I have never had a pet fish before!”
When Noah’s mom picked him up she was surprised to see the new addition to the family. They both went to the local pet store and bought a beautiful tank and everything to make “Bubbles,” the name he gave the fish, a new home.
Noah was committed to taking care of Bubbles, and they bonded immediately. Bubbles was the happiest when Noah arrived home from soccer practice and even learned a few tricks, like making little dances in the water. Against all odds, Bubbles lived a long life and went through many tanks that got bigger each time.
One morning, Noah noticed something strange. Bubbles was paler than usual and very low in energy. Very concerned, Noah left for school but couldn’t concentrate in class. His heart was very heavy and he feared the worst. When Noah came back, his heart froze when he saw his beloved friend immobile. Beautiful Bubbles had died while he was at school.
He felt his entire world collapsing around him, he cried like he never thought he could. His mom heard the commotion and came to Noah’s room, only to find the saddest scene in front of her.
- “I don’t understand” -Noah said – “I kept Bubble’s tank clean and he was well-fed. His water temperature was right and I made sure he was happy… I read and sang to him, I loved him with all my heart.”
Noah’s mom hugged and kissed him –
“I know, my love. I saw you taking care of Bubbles…”
- “Then why? What did I do wrong?”
- “There’s nothing you did wrong, please don’t feel that way. Sometimes our beloved pets die without any notice. I am sure Bubbles loved you.”
Mom then called Noah’s best friend, Oliver, to come over. He arrived immediately.
Oliver knew how much Noah loved Bubbles, so he hugged his friend and let him talk about his feelings.
“I feel so bad, like I did something wrong. Did I feed him the wrong food? Did I not clean his tank? I am just so sad”
Oliver listened carefully and then reassured his friend “I know you took great care of Bubbles. I know you may feel like you did something wrong, but you didn’t. I don’t know why or how, but I know this is not your fault”
He took a moment to think and then said “How about… we write a letter to Bubbles and make a small burial in the backyard. I’ve heard of people doing that. We can paint a rock with his name and put it on top.”
Noah wiped his tears and smiled gently, nodding.
The two friends dug a hole under the orange tree and buried dear Bubbles, while Noah recalled the best moments together. Oliver left a note for Bubbles, securing it under the rock. He gave a moment to his friend to say his last words and then approached him.
“You know what? I really admire you. I know this is all very hard for you, but you loved a fish with all your heart and now you’re an even better person. I can’t think of a better human for Bubbles.”
Noah’s eyes were still teary, but he felt so fortunate to have such a supportive friend in Oliver. Oliver then said “would you come to my house and have dinner with me? My mom made brownies and I don’t want to eat the whole tray by myself!”
Noah showed a faint smile and agreed.
That evening, when Noah came back from dinner with Oliver, he saw Bubble’s tank empty and his heart still felt very sad. But he also felt very fortunate for having loved a pet so much and for having a great friend that listened and supported him. He knew that now his heart was full of the happiest memories of a little friend that will never, ever leave his heart.
The connection we create with our pets is hard to explain to the world. When they pass away or we have to leave them behind, our heart hurts with a pain that is also very hard to explain. The way we express our grief is very personal, some people like to talk about it, draw pictures, listen to a special song, write… others keep it to themselves and just like to feel accompanied. Whatever the case is with the child around you that has lost a pet, be kind, understanding and ready to listen or just give them a hug. Love is a powerful thing… and it may have feathers, four legs or scales.
Oliver didn’t make it about himself
Oliver showed up immediately
Mom showed support and compassion
Mom called his friend
Noah felt guilty
Nobody reassured guilt