The Day the Betta Died

Today I buried a betta in the backyard. 

It was our first pet, and my daughter’s first real experience with this kind of loss. She had an aunt and uncle pass away during Covid, but she was not close to the people like she was to her fish-friend. 

 I dug a hole in the ground with a toy shovel. I cursed when it broke in the icy grass. I went back into the garage, looking for a real shovel. Of course, I don’t have any tools. I never thought to buy tools. 

My child cried for a long time, hot tears streaming down her face. She remembered her fish. 

My son responds within seconds of hearing the news, “Can we buy another one?” 

That’s my boy. 

I felt slightly proud of him, to not get attached, to simply move on to something else.  I have a similar temperament. 

I struggled to make sense of why my older child was crying, but I knew I what was expected: I’m supposed to hold her, comfort her, and so I did. I rubbed her back and petted her like a cat. 

She came back to the tank and stared. 

“Does she miss me?”

“Who?” I asked. 

“Rosy Blue,” she said, looking at me with wet eyes. 

“Oh sure,” I say, not sure that fish really miss anyone. 

One day my daughter will read this.

She can probably read this entry now, and wonder what happened on the day her pet died.

And she’ll remember her mom quietly buried the fish, made them make art pictures of blue fish, recite Sura Kahf and Fatiha, read about oceans, and took them to their grandparents’ house to play, to help them forget. 

I told them to make dua for their fish, and that the fish probably have a version of a rainbow ocean where all their fish friends hang out. 

I did well, don’t you think? 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on

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