Raghu was looking miserable. I suggested we move some rocks around inside the aquarium and make him comfortable. Raghu started to cry. I was focusing completely on Raghu now. How could i help him? For a while i stayed quiet. Held his hand. Raghu was standing on top of an old toy chest to watch Mole at close quarters. We have kept our aquarium on a high shelf. Perfect for viewing but not if the kids want to dip their hands inside.
Raghu stood on the chest and dipped his hands in and stroked the little fish. At this point I knew this fish was dying and it did not matter what Raghu did. As the minutes ticked by I felt inspired to say things in a soft voice to Raghu and see how he reacted. I asked if he would like me to take some last photos of Mole. He said yes. One is below. Then he stated crying again. I started talking to Mole. I told him that we were grateful to have had him be with us for such a long time. That we would miss him but knew that he needed to go. I wished him well and said i was willing to let him go. Raghu was quiet and listening. I then offered to read The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstein. Raghu said yes. A beautifully illustrated book of living and dying and rebirth that brings me much peace.
Then I asked Raghu if he knew why he was crying.. was it because he, Raghu, would miss the fish? Was it because he felt that the fish did not want to die? Raghu seemed still and said yes, he was not ready to let him go and yes, he was not sure that the fish wanted to go either. So i said i too am fearful. Of what, Raghu asked. I am fearful of my parents dying and me missing them. Raghu looked at me and we then spent many minutes talking about death, dying, needing to move on from this particular life, etc.
My theory is that if this life does not meet my needs, i will move on. And if i were to watch my parents dying, i’d like to tell them to go in peace. Not with me crying and them upset to see me upset. Reading Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying made me aware of the beauty of death.
Then Raghu and I saw the irony… we celebrate births and do the opposite at death. Yet when a child is born, it is born to die. Raghu’s words. I was moved and yet very silent inside. Something of this conversation made us both very calm and no longer afraid.
I asked him if he’d like me to talk to Mole some more and make him comfortable. So we lowered a soft kerchief into the tank, placed Mole’s still faintly living body onto it. Then i put on buddhist chants. And i said some Sanskrit chants. And i spoke to Mole and wished him well. Telling him to go in peace.
Eventually Raghu fell asleep on a chair watching Mole in the tank.
The next morning Raghu, Zoya, Ravi and I wrapped up Mole’s body in the kerchief and buried him in a pot of mud that has some lilly bulbs in it. We all stood around in silence for a minute. I watched Raghu carefully. He had moved on. HIs heart seemed to be quiet and full but peaceful.
Zoya asked me where did the fish go when it died. So I said that I believe that the body went back to the earth (she understands that things decompose and become earth again) and that the energy went back to energy. This is the simplest thing i can say about death to Zoya. And i think it met with approval. For now.
It was a moving experience for me and made me aware, in a very good way, of my own mortality.