We lost a dear friend yesterday. C.’s fish, Spike, passed on to the great fishbowl in the sky. It was not unexpected, as he hadn’t been right for months. That didn’t make the loss any easier for her.

He had always been an odd fish, but since the fall he spent most of his time curled up on the bottom of his bowl. While his brother Sparkle would swim around and eat his food as soon as we put it in his bowl, Spike just sat in the rocks. Each week when I cleaned his bowl, it looked like most of the pellets I had given him were still in the water.

In recent weeks, he took to taking occasional wild swims around his bowl, moving rocks around, smacking the glass, and zipping just under the water level. A few times I put a saucer over the top of the bowl because I feared he would leap out. Just as quickly as these jaunts would start, they ended, and he would sink to the bottom and flip over. He looked as dead as can be, but somehow kept going.

Until yesterday.

We disposed of him while C. was at school. She didn’t notice anything was amiss when she got home, so we waited to tell her. M. noticed his bowl was gone as soon as she got home, so I took C. aside and explained that Spike had been sick for a long time and had finally died. Her eyes got big, she asked what I had said, I repeated it, and then she burst into tears. I was not expecting that reaction at all, mostly because we had explained to her awhile back the Spike probably wouldn’t live much longer and she seemed to understand that. I figured she would be a little sad, but not beside herself.

She cried and hugged me. I told her she did a great job taking care of him and the fish I had when I was a kid didn’t live nearly as long as him. That didn’t help. Eventually she disappeared into her bed where she laid and cried for half an hour or so. Then, periodically for the rest of the day, she would get sad and start crying again.

I worked last night and when I got home she was on the couch with S., unable to sleep because of her sadness. Between her sobs she said she wanted to get another red fish and name him Spike, too. I asked her if she wanted to name him Spike II or Spike Jr. That got about a quarter smile out of her.

We’re lucky; we have happy kids. They get their feelings hurt sometimes, or overreact to small things because they’re tired or hungry. But this was our first real heartbreak, and it was heartbreaking to watch.

Fortunately, C. has a friend from school over right now and seems as happy as can be. They bounce back quickly.