Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”

Dear Lindsey,

After ice skating for a while, I decided I could sit back with my book while I watched my kids through the glass. The Tuesday family skate brought less than ten kids that morning.

I sat in the viewing area with my book, while other moms enjoyed fellowship and coffee. I overheard one mom say to another, “I am going to have a party when that last goldfish dies!”

I chuckled to myself, since we had the amazing longevity-gifted goldfish Chris at fairat our house, too, and I completely understood what she was saying! We had won the fish at the State Fair.  These three fish with an average life of one day, were going on their second YEAR at the Brady house – living in Tupperware, since I had given the fish tank away to a neighbor literally days before that State Fair. 

The plastic home of these carnival fish lived in our basement homeschool area and always pleaded for cleaning. Always.  It seemed that although the kids had begged to keep them, no one ever remembered we had them – except me – when I smelled them.

I get it ! I mean, when that last goldfish dies:

  • No more working to keep the tank (or Tupperware) clean!
  • No more rocks, filters, lights or food to replace!
  • No more badgering kids to finish responsibilities!

As luck would have it, weeks after the overheard goldfish comment, one of our Fair goldfish was found in a not-so-fair state, floating on the top of the water. That night, a second fish was moving slowly, looking awfully buoyant, and dead by morning.

The third fish was gone within twenty-four hours, confirming that something must have happened to the water (which ironically, was clean this time).


(My husband wants me to tell you that he is innocent. Really.)

The mourning process in my kids was shocking to me.

Life appreciates after it is gone.

These ignored fish, suddenly had value now that they were gone, the same way the man in the casket always seems to have so many “best friends.”

“I miss him!” my eight-year-old cried, assigning gender to one who had no name or gender – that we had identified anyway.  “I loved him so much.”

It felt completely silly to me, and I hid my smile,

“The worst part is that he doesn’t even go to heaven! It would be so much better, if I at least knew he was theeeeerrrrrrrrreee.” He cried, and I hugged him on the stairs where we stood, not remembering if we were going up or down.

His body shook in my arms, which made me hold more tightly. It was funny how much I didn’t care about the fish, but a tear left my eye, as I felt my son’s pain. To him, it was real, and that’s what mattered to me.

“Should we have a funeral?” I asked, finally, wiping my tear before he could see it.  I couldn’t believe I was offering, but honestly, I felt like he had an emotion – and even though I did not share that emotion – I might help him work through it.

“What do you do at a funeral?” he asked, and I secretly thanked God that he hadn’t had a lot of exposure to death.

“It’s a time when we give our respects. We tell God thank you for giving us memories, like a celebration of the life. Sometimes people tell stories of the happy memories with the one who died.”

“Yeah, Let’s do that,” he said, as a calm overtook him.

He and his sister immediately began making “invitations” to the funeral, created a casket out of a paper cup, and dug a hole next to the fishpond in the back yard.

funeral announcment

JRCM fish funeral

The three of us met at the pond, buried the treasure, and thanked God for giving us memories with the fish. We sang Amazing Grace, since I suppose even fish-death reminds us of the amazing grace of eternal life given to my children and me.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those “cool” moms as seen on TV. You know the ones? They wear their skinny jeans while they feed the kids chocolate chip cookies and milk and sit and discuss their school day. Their teens run in with all of their friends, (because the mom is so cool, surely any teen would want to hang out with her), and gobble up the pizza pockets and Sunny D. (That’s the way “cool moms” say “Sunny Delight.”)

But where are the “real” moms in those commercials?

Real Moms

A real mom is sitting in the bathroom, and the ENTIRE family is standing outside of the bathroom door asking “URGENT” questions like,

“What are we having for dinner?”

“Have you seen my book?”

“Doesn’t HE  have to put the dishes away today, because I already did it TWO TIMES YESTERDAY!!”

A real mom doesn’t realize till dinner that her shirt has been on inside-out all day.

Real moms have library books that they have paid for three times, thinking one day they’ll find it.

Real moms lose socks in every load.

Real moms go to the store for milk, and come home with seven things…and no milk.

Real moms fit four little people (preferably her kids) with her in one bathroom stall in the airport.

Real moms know what the code for “lost toddler” is on the Kohls intercom. (Thank you, Kohls, for handling us real moms.)

Real moms wonder if their hair can last one more day unwashed without attracting a social worker’s inspection.

Real moms know evolution can’t be true or else she’d have seven arms by now.

Real moms have the super power of finding things in the fridge that aren’t even at eye level.

Real moms can listen to the conversation behind them while talking to the one in front of them.

Real moms know how to hide the green beans under the bananas on the baby food spoon, can distinguish their baby’s cry in a nursery full of screamers and recognize the meaning behind every cry: hungry, hurt, or trying to get brother into trouble.

Real moms stop and blow bubbles.

A real mom has Good Night Moon memorized, even if her youngest child is eight.

Real moms know how to read aloud in characters’ voices in bedtime stories.

Real moms spend hours…or days…distraught over their children’s behavior.

Real moms leave knee prints in the carpet.

Real moms live life at the speed of their slowest child – even the special needs one.

Real moms hurt when their children hurt.

Real moms are sad when their kids leave for college…or kindergarten.

Real moms sometimes fall in bed at night, not fitting into their skinny jeans, second-guessing their every word to their kids that day, and wondering if tomorrow will be any different.

Real moms have days when they think they will party when the last goldfish dies.

And real moms shed a tear when it does.

Because when the last goldfish dies

It means the child has grown up a bit

“Back-scratching times” are almost done.

Bedtime stories are about to be silent.

The misspellings on the funeral invitations may almost be over.

Childhood appreciates after it is gone.

When the last goldfish dies, so does a little bit of childhood; and I suppose it is buried alongside a little bit of the “real mom-hood” that goes with it.

Gotta go!

–   back to being a real mom,


fish grave

Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

Related Posts

25 thoughts on “Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”

  1. Terri, you have me in tears again! This is a real grandma remembering days of being a real mom. Thanks for being a real business leader as well as a real mom!

  2. Thank YOU, Terri, for being a “real” Mom — and taking the time to share your life and lessons with all of us! They are such a gift to me — especially right now!!! I feel more like a “lost” Mom right now — but it is encouraging to know we share some of the same ‘real’ Mom qualities! 🙂

  3. Another beautiful post Terri! Thanks for always writing from your heart and modeling a ‘real mom’ lifestyle, I think real moms are cooler anyways – and I am sure your kids would probably agree 🙂

  4. Well said Teri, thanks for reminding us what a real mom is. Thank you for being real, and leading us with your wonderful life stories. God has Blessed you with a wonderful gift. I appreciate you sharing it with all of us.

  5. Lovely and well said as usual, Terri!
    This is another “real Grandma” (though around here they call me “Nana”) remembering those days oh-so-very-well! I find myself at times reliving them through the adventures of my grandchildren, and their questions and crises.
    And Kristen is right — “real mom’s” are cooler, anyway!
    Bless you!

  6. I love this post…feeling very sentimental after returning from Guatemala a few days ago. Wishing for a “real mom, dad and home” for all of the sweet kids at Dorie’s. Thankful for my kids here to make these memories with…thank you Terri for another wonderful post!

  7. So glad my friend JoAnn sent this blog to me. I’m definitely a “real mom”. I can testify to everyone of those. With 7 kids, homeschooling for over 14 years. Thanks for the laughs this morning and tears. Gotta go, quiet time with Lord is almost over. I hear stirring. Gotta get it when we can.

  8. Thank you Terri for really making us “real” moms feel appreciated! Thank the Lord for giving us such a special “mom gift” in you. Most of us have lived these stories and haven’t realized how to use them to uplift, encourage, enlighten & just simply bring a smile to someone else like you do. I’m a Nanna now, raising my grandson (since he was 10 months old he’s 13 now) even though I thought we did a good job with our 2 kids LIFE info and the community is giving is the opportunity to move from good to great with our grandson! Aaaand even though we’ve gone through missing all the growing up journey and butterfly kisses with our kids you are helping us to be better prepared during our 2nd round which I think letting go is going to be even harder sometimes. I was one of those that got into LIFE for $$$$$, but I never imagined a “letters to Lindsey” blog to pay so much! Our life situation is not good right now, my “2nd second” is really my “1st second” every morning! I think my brain is on overload. i can’t even focus on building the business BUT I will! I heard Curtis Spolar say “-Stop looking at what you are going through and start looking at where you are going to.” By the grace of God that’s what we do! Jeff & Tammy Darling are my up line & they have no idea what we are going through. Not because they don’t care because they are amazing, awesome folk! Because I just cover or mask it because we all go through things. I only tell you this to let you know that even though I’ve not made any $$ YET, I also have not had another mental pressure breakdown, my grandson is fortunate to have been around and meet Orrin, Curtis Spolar,Jeff, Tammy, Micah, TJ, Lois & others y’all will neeever know how valuable that is!! Not looking for sympathy just wanted to tell you how valuable LIfE is to us because, outside of knowing and trusting that God would bring us out, for the 1st time in our lives we know we have a view on a way out, a way up! We’ve never been able to say that before in our 32 years of marriage. We just had know idea that LIFE would be the vehicle that we could ride right out of our circumstances!! Thank you just doesn’t feel big enough so may the Lord bless you a thousand times more for what you & your family do for all of us! Sent from my iPhone

  9. Thank you, Terri for sharing these thoughts with us moms! It’s so good to hear that it’s ok not to be perfect but to just be the best mom we can be for our kids! Our kids are such precious gifts that we are entrusted to us. I love your stories!

  10. even though my kids are grown i flashback quickly to those times and realize how precious they are…and quickly they are gone! its amazing how you bring these stories to life and just hit a note each time…always spawning a tear or so along the way… thanks for sharing and for reassuring me at times that even though it seemed i didn’t have it together as a good mom to my children when they were younger…maybe i wasnt’ too far off track!
    Brenda Hatcher

  11. Thanks for the great post as we have had our share of funerals. I thought for sure I would rejoice in almost every fish, hamster, and most recently cat that passed but of course at every one I cried. This made me smile and cry! Thanks for giving us a different perspective on what a “real mom” is 🙂

  12. Thank you Mrs. Terri for your inspirational stories. My kids are grown now but I so wished I had you, Life and Team of Hope in my life when they were younger. Your blog will surely help me with any grandkids that I may be blessed with in the future. God bless you and keep those stories coming. Love, Vickey Clegg

  13. Terri,
    I have tears running down my face as I am reading this out loud to my boys,sitting next to our dirty goldfish tank. Thank you for helping me put my blessings into clear focus! Love you!!

  14. Oh Terri!
    You’ve really done it this time. My baby just turned 30 and we are into life with four grands, but you just brought me all the way back to my “at home mom” days that I loved so much! This is one I will share with every Mom and Grandma I know!
    God Bless you!
    Maureen Hanratty

  15. Hey Terri,
    Thank you for your amazing written words, again! It reminded me to slow down and take in the moments! What affirmation you give to all of moms, and even grand-moms, that being a real mom is such a Blessing and a calling<3 Love you, anna

  16. Pingback: Stop and Build a Snow Man |

  17. Thanks for the memories….You’re kids will always remember their goldfish. I lived in a mobile home when I was 7-9 yrs of age, no room for pets other than my goldfish…I will always remember taking a plastic case (bobbi pins came in them, had a snap closure}, adding cotton, then of course my was the funeral consisting of a decorated cross made of popsicle sticks, prayers and my tears.. 60+ years ago but I can still see it so clearly, you are such a great mom ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s