Our family has always kept pets, mostly fish. We're all used to the natural cycle of life and death. So when one of our pets dies, its sad, but we like to see it them going off to another level of existence rather than an ending.
Recently, we lost one of our giant goldfish, Yumato. He was very old and lived a happy life in a large, outdoor pond with other fish, frogs, turtles and whatever else happened to find its way into our back yard. He was friendly and rather intelligent, well for a fish. When he died, we were definitely feeling that there would be something missing in our lives.
Our family also has a sense of humor. We wanted to give Yumato a proper burial, yet a burial with some flair. We wanted it done in some way that we would remember not only the event, but also a way that would characterize his life.
Yumato was a Koi, a Japanese carp, but we decided to give him a Viking burial. He survived birds, cats, other fish and an overly curious child. He was a fighter. My husband carved a little Viking ship out of a block of balsa wood. He even made a mast from a piece of dowling and a sail from an old black linen napkin. Yumato was wrapped in a little piece of scrap black velvet and placed in the ship.
We put Yumato and his funeral ship in a cooler, drove to the river which is an hour away. We placed the little ship on the shore and my husband, Bradley, gave a short good-bye speech, retelling some of the heroic tales of Yumato and the black bird, Yumato and Rex (the cat) and Yumato and the Great Hand of Justin (the four year-old neighbor). We applauded Yumato and wished him well. Bradley, took his lighter and ignited the ship like the ancient Norse did in their funerals then pushed the flaming ship away from the shore. The current started carrying him gently away on his next adventure. Our kids raised cans of soda to the sky, wishing him a happy journey. It was very nice. Good luck, Yumato! We'll miss you. My husband and I raised ur paper cups of wine toasting Yumato's spiritual voyage as his funeral ship sailed out of sight. Bradley arranged the photos I took of the funeral and put them in our family album.
Bradley and I think the kids respond better to this than if we just buried the dead fish out back. Their memories of the pets seem to stay happy even after they are gone and they don't ever have nightmares about death. Giving Yumato a proper funeral not only shows our respect and fondness for him, but it gives all of us a healthier outlook on the cycle of life