We were now the privileged caretakers of the final resting place for Mr. Froggy. Only we would understand who is buried here.
I knew it would only be a matter of time before we would have to do the same for Mr. Froggy’s companion, Mr. Plum. This morning, Mr. Plum was unable to maintain a dive. He kept floating to the surface of the water in his aquarium despite his best attempts to remain submerged. Gas must have been accumulating within his bowels for reasons that eluded me.
I would have no recourse to a necropsy. Besides, it would have taken away a solemn moment of reflection for the children on the mystery of life and the tragedy of death.
When I came home after work tonight, Mr. Plum was laying pale and motionless, upside down, frog-legged, on the gravel at the bottom of his habitat. I shared the bad news with the boys, one by one. We would take our time, however, to bury him. We would eat, clean up the kitchen and play Basement Olympics before breaking for the important work of burying Mr. Plum.
The boys chose a resting place for him next to Mr. Froggy. Again they dug a shallow grave, passed his corpse to one another to pay a last sign of affection, and placed him in the hole in the ground.
The formalities did not go as smoothly tonight, however. Mr. Plum was roughed up. It started when Luc dumped him quickly out of the bowl filled with water and his limp little body disappeared in a muddy puddle.
Andre took it upon himself to “find him.” So he took the sharp masonry trowel and poked and scraped around in the mud. Not finding him, he dug with his fingers until he found an extended member and pulled out the body by its hind leg.
The corpse that they passed around was soiled and missing an arm. But the boys didn’t seem to mind. They were still able to handle him, each benefiting from knowing what the body of a dead frog feels like, all in the name of paying their respects. We finally put him back in the hole and covered him up.
I asked the children to share their favorite memories of Mr. Plum. Andre quickly knew that the thing he liked best about Mr. Plum was how he darted up and down in the aquarium gulping air with lighting speed and quickly zipping back into the gravel at the bottom.
Aidan, 4, began praying for Grandpa and Grandma, Auntie Moe and Timmy, Uncle David and North Carolina.… I reminded him that we were thinking of Mr. Plum. He said then, “I am thankful for Mr. Plum’s surgery.” (When we pray at night, he usually says at this point that he is thankful for Memere’s surgery. Memere is his paternal grandmother).
I asked him if Mr. Plum really had surgery.
“Yes,” he replied. ”Mr. Plum and Mr. Froggy both had surgery! I did it!”
The cause of their deaths is now clear to me – but I haven’t told the boys. There is no reason to let them know.
When it was Luc’s turn, he simply copied Aidan and made fun of Andre’s comment about the frogs zipping up and down in the water. We sang a song to close our memorial service – “Thank you, thank you, Jesus” in both English and Swahili.
Aidan and Luc jumped back into the house, eager to get back to Basement Olympics. Andre stood on the doorstep for a moment, without tears. But a frown came over his face.
I could tell he was working through his emotions.
“Dad, I hate frogs,” he said.
And with that he went inside.
(Paul is married to Terese. They have four children and both work hard to keep their house a place of peace, joy and all good things. Some days are better than others. Paul is a pediatrician. Terese is a family physician. They are parishioners at St. Sebastian Parish, Milwaukee.)