It was odd, when we thought about it, that all the healthiest fish had died, The ones we’d had concerns about were still with us. It was also odd that all our special friends amongst the fish had gone… the ones we had named as they taught us to know their characters. All except one… a huge sturgeon named Jay, for an old friend of Nick’s who was a gentle giant of a man.
Jay, at well over three feet long and with a girth to match, the gentle giant of the pond, who Nick was able to stroke and whose curiosity about the strange creatures above the water was as obvious as our own about him.
But Jay was not recovering well last night. Nick and I spoke on the phone and he told me the sturgeon was still struggling badly… so he stayed with the fish so it would not be alone, protecting his exposed face, until very late. When I emailed Nick this morning, just before six, the response was almost immediate. It was not looking good… he was upside down in the water again.
When I got there, he was on the bottom, belly up. In itself, that meant nothing… that is the sturgeons’ usual position when something is wrong and it actually allows me to see the gills and make sure they are still moving. They weren’t.
We made a periscope-affair to get a better look, not wishing to disturb the fish if he were just resting. That just confirmed our fears and once more we faced the sad and, in this case, difficult task of lifting a friend from the pond.
His eyes had faded, his colour had gone, only a pale ghost of his star-patterned beauty remained. He must have passed overnight, after Nick had left him. I have often seen the same with dying humans, that where there is a bond, death waits for their loved ones to leave before they do. Perhaps staying with Jay had meant more to the fish than Nick could have known.
Everyone felt it. “It feels like a funeral,” said one of the gardeners, helping me to wrap the body. “I’ll bury him for you,” offered another. We can only hope now that Jay is the last to be lost.
The pond feels somehow ’empty’. Not through lack of fish, for many survived, but because the characters we knew are no longer there . They cannot be replaced… that is never possible, but others will fill the space left by their absence as we learn to know them. Perhaps, after yesterday’s visitation, a butterfly koi would be a fitting memorial.
And, once again, as we moved through another sad day, Nature chose to offer a small gift to lift the heart. One of the resident robins with babies to feed chose to seek grubs in the earth of the new garden as it was moved, constantly coming within touching distance and showing not the slightest fear or hesitation. And here, at least, the message is clear… as the robin is always the harbinger of new beginnings and renewal.