Fishy had expired.
Upside down, floating across the top of the water, he lay, the aquarium absent of movement save the bubbling of the filter.
Granted, it's not completely my fault, because Granma had to go and die in the middle of winter, and the flights had to get stuck because of the snowstorm in the midwest, and I had to scramble to make it to work at the last minute instead of stopping at home first, and when all was said and done it had been six days and well, fish don't seem to do so great when they go for six days without food.
Mom said unsympathetically, “It's just a fish,” but she doesn't understand. Okay, maybe it is a little over the top to be sobbing about a four dollar fish which, in the scheme of things, doesn't matter.
Except Granma helped me pick him out.
When she was out to visit us two years ago, long before the fall and the rehab and the stroke and the home care and the pneumonia and the ICU and the eventual heart failure which took her away from us, she went with me to find an appropriate pet for my first apartment. “Get a fish, Jane,” she encouraged. “They're easy to take care of, and they last forever.”
Forever like you, Granma? Forever like you were supposed to? Why were you in such a hurry to leave? To be with your Jesus? What's so great about him anyways? I swiped at my tears and grabbed the sides of the tiny aquarium.
“Okay, God, I get it,” I said aloud, angrily. “You want me to give up. First you take my Granma. Now you take my fish. Next you'll take, well, I don't know what you'll take, but you'll take something, because you always do. That's what Mom says, anyways.”
But not me, eh? I wanted to know; I wanted to listen, because Granma's face shined with hope. A hope I did not understand. She said she would live forever with Jesus in heaven, with God in the perfect home.
“I thought I could make the perfect home here,” I whispered, half to Fishy, half to myself. “I fixed up this apartment to be so beautiful, I fed you every day and cleaned your tank, and now I've proven that I'm nothing but a failure.”
I closed my eyes and tried to fight off the images which assailed me. Falling at the cheer tryouts, getting a B+ in my easiest class, spilling food all over my shirt on picture day, totalling my first car when I tried to run a yellow.
Listening to James and his smooth talk. Staying overnight in his bed.
“Murderer!” The word echoed in my head, as I remembered walking from the clinic, facing the barrage of protesters.
I could never tell Granma, although I had almost confessed it to her when we set up Fishy's tank. “You don't know what I've done, Granma. Your Jesus would never forgive me, I know it.”
She had smiled, reaching up to stroke my face. “Child, nothing you've done or even will do can ever out-sin the cross. He paid for it all.”
They sang that song at her funeral. Jesus Paid It All. I never heard it before, but I knew what it meant by a “crimson stain.” I almost went up there when they called for people to accept Jesus into their hearts like Granma had. Only I thought I could fix my own life, pay my own penance for my sins. I had pulled it together so far, hadn't I?
Finding Fishy dead proved otherwise.
“God came down to die for us, to take care of all the oopsies in our lives, Jane,” I could hear Granma telling me. Oh, why had I rolled my eyes in that moment? Why hadn't I listened then? Maybe she'd still be here. Maybe she could tell me what to do.
As I lifted the aquarium, a small slip of paper fluttered off the counter onto the floor. I put the aquarium down, and picked it up. In Granma's flowery hand, the note stated simply, Read Isaiah 1:18. Love, Granma.
I had never seen the note before, yet now, it was as if she had come back, for one last word.
Perhaps hope remained for even me.
Isaiah 1:18 NKJV
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“ Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
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