It’s clearly spring here. My hawthorne is loaded with flowers, the tree peonies are blooming and the fish are up and hungry. The grasses and weeds have exploded, along with my allergies.
Amongst all the abundance of spring, death lurks. Every day I hear about someone I know, or would like to know, someone whose books I love, movies I enjoyed, someone who’s dying. It saddens me and I seem to have no words to comfort myself or anyone else.
Here at home, there’s another koi dying. The third this year. In the past few years I’ve lost one every spring to tumors or dropsy. Last winter was hard for them. I don’t think it got cold enough for the koi to go dormant for long. So they were awake a lot, using up their reserves. I’ve had some of these babies, well, since they were babies, thirteen or so years. Now they’re a couple feet long and six inches deep. Some bigger, some smaller. When you pick them up, they’re heavy. It makes me so sad to see them go. Knowing I’ll never see them cavorting and swimming around in the pond again.
Even harder is to make the decision about whether to let them go on their own, knowing they’re suffering physically or to euthanize them to stop their discomfort and pain. It’s not that hard. Catch them, slide them into a plastic bag and freeze them so they go to sleep, then bury them. It’s the actual decision that’s difficult. And afterwards wondering if you made the right one. I used to work at a water garden nursery. One of the things I used to have to do every morning before opening was to scan all the ponds, especially the quarantined newly imported ones, for the dead and dying and go bury them. We imported a lot of koi (and goldfish) and so there were a lot of diseases being shared and a lot of physical stress that goes along with hundreds of fish being transported from Japan to Seattle. I hated having to make the life and death decisions on a daily basis. Bad way to start the day.
One never knows if it’s the right time to put the fish out of their misery or the even if it’s the right thing to do. What right do I, measly human, have to make a decision about this beautiful creature’s death? Like when an elderly cat is at the end of their life. The waiting and the back and forthing of when is the time right to take them to the vet and have them put to sleep. All the anxiety and questions.
There’s really no right answer. We all struggle on the best we can. But in the midst of something as confusing for us as death, we want black and white. We want answers. We want to be able to take some action. I think in many ways death is a time of non-action, no matter what I want.
It’s also really difficult to go to the pond everyday when the world outside is glorious and I’m asking the question, “Is she gone yet? Or still lingering?” Hard to confront the sadness of death when the garden is glowing with life.
There are no answers here. Never have been. It’s just about the waiting.