And so it came to pass….

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….that living in the Land of Schwarzenegger, in the area of the Bay, there came to be a fish. A small fish. A fish who was filled with faith and hope.

A fish purchased under the accursed impulse-purchase vexation.

The fish was of the Betta clan, and was given the name of Benito, meaning “blessing” or “blessed one” in the Spanish culture (and meaning tiny little dictator in the Italian tradition).

And so it was that Benito came to live in the house of The Good Man and true to his name, blessed us all.

Benito swam and ate of the bloodworm. And it was good.

Until it wasn’t good.

And forsooth, Benito ceased to eat, and lay on the floor of the tank, flat on his side, and took on a gray pallor.

Which only raised memories of Frank, also of the Betta clan, who came before Benito and expired so painfully.

And so it was that The Girl wept, felt necessary to rend her garments, gnashed her teeth and howled to the heavens, “Why! Why must I have the curse of killing helpless fish?”

Then The Girl resigned herself to the knowledge gained that she was not meant for fish ownership.

Another matchbox coffin was prepared, and sadness befell the house of The Good Man.

In the last, desperate hours, The Good Man proclaimed, “he who believeth in the bettas shall never die.”

Thusly, The Good Man brought his mighty hand down and created freshly treated water and added the miracle of the antibiotic powder.

The limp body of Benito of the Betta clan was deposited into the fresh, medicated water and hope was not held out.

In the break of the morn, The Good Man, in his grace, went to the tankside of Benito of Betta, and proclaimed, “Yea, tho I believe this crazy fish is hungry!”

And chopped up pieces of bloodworm were deposited in the tank, and verily Benito of Betta did eat.

“No %$&#ing way!” came the cry from The Girl, who stared in disbelief at the miracle The Good Man had wrought.

“Yeah, don’t get your hopes up,” The Good Man admonished, but despite his downplaying the whole thing, The Girl did ignore him and did in fact get her hopes up.

And forsooth! Benito of Betta did continue to eat. And became more upright, and began to flap his fins in a normal manner.

And Benito of Betta was thusly nicknamed the Lazarus Fish, having risen from the dead.

So it is that some two weeks from coming to the house of The Good Man, Benito of Betta continues to live and eat and could almost be described as thriving.

And with the focus on a new, recovering fish, The Girl finds the sadness over the loss of Frank is beginning to ease.

With the help of The Good Man, guardian of the broken pets, The Girl may in fact learn to be a suitable owner of small helpless fish.

And for the moment, it was good again.

But don’t get your hopes up.

P.S. Margaret, female of the Betta clan, and The Good Man’s fish, continues to thrive quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.

We all have to remember in our own way

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A tree stands in the median on I-25, north of Las Cruces, not quite to Radium Springs.

It’s a scrubby little tree, maybe a mesquite or a juniper. You know, the kind of hardy tree you see out there in the New Mexico desert. Something tenacious.

This particular tree stands out because it’s festooned with tinsel and garland.

It’s been that way for several years. I’ve seen it, driven past it several times, actually.

The first time I saw it, the time of year wasn’t much past Christmas, so I figured it was a leftover holiday decoration.

But when I saw it again a few years later, I realized it wasn’t just leftover holiday decorations, but something more serious. I knew it was a roadside shrine often found in our fair New Mexico.

The roadside shrine is a memorial located where someone has lost their life out there on the roads. It’s a pretty common sight in New Mexico.

It’s a tradition I grew up with and so it’s never occurred to me to question it. I find outside the borders of my homestate, it’s questioned. A lot.

Questions of taste and decency, actually. Whether it’s appropriate, or not, to put one’s grief so garishly on display.

See, I think we in our American culture have really weird and uptight ideas about death and dying. Ok, it’s probably because I grew up in the cultures of New Mexico that I feel that way.

But I’ve always really appreciated the Hispanic and Latino cultures celebrating and remembering their loved ones who have moved on. I appreciate the ability to show grief openly without remorse or embarrassment.

Dia de los Muertos offrendas and roadside shrines are simply the outward display of deeply held cultural beliefs. Beliefs such as that the dead have moved on to another world, but a world that is not so far away from our own.

A woman is comforted, perhaps, by knowing that her child, while not in her arms, is not that far away. While she remembers with a keening loss the child who was taken away, she can still bake bread and place sweets on an offrenda, and it helps her cope.

A mourning wife can drive to the spot where her husband met his end, and remember him. She refreshes the shiny bits of paper, and can feel her husband not so far away.

I think this is healthy, personally, and I don’t find it to be weird. I find it to be beautiful.

Those roadside shrines are called descansos. They aren’t just tacky plastic crosses and brightly shining tinsel. For the family that constructed the shrine, they are an essential part of the grieving process.

The garlanded tree located in I-25 highway median is a descanso to honor the memory of a child.

The shrine in the photo at the end of this post honors two kids who rolled their ATV by the irrigation banks on the Bosque in Los Lunas.

When someone you truly love dies, the grief never goes away. It tends to ebb and flow, welling up sometimes, overwhelming. Other times, the volume is turned down and you can almost, but not quite, forget.

I think we all have to find our own way of grieving.

No one can say who is right or wrong.

Source: Las Cruces Sun News