I was putting my lunch away when I saw her. My friend at work standing in the hallway, holding a small clear bucket with something orange lying on the bottom.
“Hey,” I greeted her. Once my eyes registered her face, I knew something was wrong. She looked sad, worried, determined, and unsure – all at once. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Our fish died,” she answered.
I noticed she was holding the bucket as far from her body as she possibly could.
“This,” her voice wavered. “Holding this is taking everything I have in me right now.”
“Give it to me. I’ll do it. Here, I’ll take it,” I said as I reached for the bucket.
She started to sob. The tears streamed down her face. She sniffed and sobbed and sniffed.
“It’s okay, I’ll take it. I’ll take care of it,” I reassured her.
She walked away, and I stood outside the closed bathroom door holding a little clear bucket and a dead fish. Two other colleagues entered the copy room and looked at me quizzically.
“Her fish died,” I stated.
The three of us said a short blessing to remember the fish’s life, and I stepped into the bathroom to send him to his final resting place.
To us, he was just a class fish who met his maker too soon. But to my grieving colleague he was just as important as any living thing might be. The fish (God rest his soul) is why she doesn’t eat meat and why she can’t go fishing with her father. It is why she fosters dogs, taking them into her home to feed them and treat their mange and love them and give them hope. The fish and the worms and the dogs…to her, you see, they are everything. They are the reason for everything.