The Final Farewell
By "TV Dave" Neff
The ringing phone startled Angel from her sleep. She sat in Chris' easy chair looking blankly around the room, until she realized the phone was ringing.
"Hi Hon, it's me," she heard her husband say. "Did I wake you?"
"Yes, you did. I guess I dozed off," Angel said as she looked at her watch; it was about 9:15 am.
"I called work and passed the news about Sabrina."
"How did they take it?"
"Disbelief, shock… (BEEEEP) Huh? What was that?" asked Dexter.
Angel thought for a moment and then exclaimed, "Oh! I guess Chris has call waiting! Hold on and let me check." She clicked the hang up button, and put the phone back up to her ear. "Hello?" she asked.
"Yes! Mr. Chris Foxx please, this is Lester Otter of the Otter Family Funeral Home calling,"
"Hi Lester, this is Angel Collie. Chris is sleeping now. Can I help you?"
Lester broke from his professional demeanor, to a more personal one. "Hello, Mrs. Collie, and, yes, you can. When it's convenient, Mr. Foxx needs to come over to make arrangements for his wife and sign some papers. Also, if you can, please help him go through his wife's things for a nice dress. Alternatively, he can pick one from the selection we have here."
"Of course, Lester, I'll do that," Angel replied. "Dexter will be here soon; he'll bring Chris over then. OK?"
"That will be fine, Mrs. Collie. I'll talk to him then. Thank you, and goodbye."
"Bye, Lester," she said. She poked the receiver button, and said, "Dexter, are you there?"
"That was Lester Otter. He says he's ready for Chris." Angel felt a tug on her dress, and looked down to see Alan. "And Alan is awake," she said.
"OK Angel, I'll be over in a few. When I get there, I'll get Chris cleaned up and take him over to the Otter's."
"All right, and I'll get Alan some breakfast," Angel said as she smiled down at Alan.
Angel hung up the phone and arose from the easy chair. She placed both of her paws on Alan's shoulders and fixed him with a cheerful grin. "Now, what can we get you for breakfast, young man?"
Alan looked past her, pointed a paw to the kitchen, and said, "I want Captain Wizbang's."
"Huh?" asked Angel. "What's a Captain Wizbang?" He took her by the paw, and padded off to the kitchen. Once there, he pointed up to one of the cabinets and said, "In there."
Opening the cabinet, Angel found three boxes of cereal. She pulled out the first one and showed it to Alan, "Is it this one?" she asked.
"Naaaa! That's Wheat Flakes, Dad's stuff," Alan laughed.
She pulled out the second box. "This one?" she asked.
"Nope! That's Corn Crunchies, and I don't like them," he said, wrinkling his muzzle.
Angel held out the third box. "So I guess this is the one?" she asked, with a grin.
"Yes!" Alan cried. "Gimmee, gimmee!"
Angel read the front of the box. 'Captain Wizbang's Chocopuffs Space Food!' 'Chock Full of Vitamins and Minerals!' 'What Every Growing Fur Needs!'
Hmmmm, and as much sugar as your dentist can deal with, Angel thought. "OK, Alan, lets get a bowl and some milk for you." Looking at the dish rack, she found a clean bowl and spoon and gave them to Alan. As he carried them over to the kitchen table, she searched the refrigerator for milk.
"Would you like some orange juice too, Alan?" Angel asked.
"Uh huh." By now Alan had taken his seat at the table poured his cereal and was awaiting the milk and juice. In just a few moments, Alan was happily crunching away, and reading about the adventures of Captain Wizbang and his Space Fur Rangers.
There was a knock at the door. Angel checked once more to be sure Alan was set for breakfast, and then turned to see who the visitor was. As she crossed the living room, she saw Chris coming down the hall. He was rubbing the sleep from his eyes and looking very unkempt since he had slept in his clothes. She waited by the door, until she had Chris' attention, and motioned to him to sit down on the couch. She opened the door to find a young rabbit with a beautiful bouquet of red carnations.
"Delivery for Mr. Foxx," he said.
"Oh! How lovely," Angel said as she took the flowers. She signed the pad the young rabbit held out to her and brought the flowers over to the coffee table and sat them down in front of Chris.
Chris looked up at Angel. "Who are they from?" he asked.
"Hmmm… let's see," she replied, as she looked the bouquet over. She found the card in a plastic holder and gave it to Chris. Opening the envelope, he found a small card with 'Sympathy' printed on the cover. Inside he found a paw written message, which he read aloud to Angel.
I am so sorry about your wife Sabrina,
Please accept my condolences,
If there is anything I can do,
You know where you can find me.
Chris sighed, and put the card down on the table
"Oh! I nearly forgot!" Angel exclaimed. "You need to go get cleaned up! Dexter is on his way to take you over to Otter's." She reached over and took Chris by the paw and helped him get up. "You need to go get a shower, and change clothes now," she said firmly.
"OK! OK! I'm going," Chris said as he started toward the hallway. "Could you please make me some coffee, and some of those toaster pastry thingies? You'll find them in the fridge."
"Will do," Angel replied, as she went into the kitchen.
Chris stopped outside his bedroom door and hesitated. He knew what waited inside. Taking a deep breath, he put his paw on the doorknob and opened the door.
There in the dimly lit room, Chris looked over to the bed that Sabrina had made yesterday morning. At the foot of the bed lay her blue nightshirt, folded neatly, just where she had left it. Next to the bed was the vanity where all of Sabrina's combs, brushes, and makeup were kept. Her closet door was open, just how she had left it yesterday.
The whole room screamed of Sabrina. Chris' eyes bounced from one object to another and could see her touch on everything. He could smell her scent on the curtains, on her clothes, and on the bed they had shared for so many years… Slowly he sat down on the edge of the bed where he reached over, picked up her blue nightshirt, and, with both paws, brought it up to his muzzle. Inhaling deeply, he started to weep into it. Why? Why her, dear God? Why my Sabrina?
Chris didn't know how long he sat there crying. He suddenly realized someone was sitting on the bed next to him when he felt a paw on his shoulder. He looked up to see Dexter.
have to stop meeting like this," he said.
Chris tried to smile weakly and wiped his eyes with the shirt. "I'm sorry, Dex," he said. "I just couldn't help it. I walked in here, and it just hit me."
"No apologies necessary," Dexter said. "This is going to happen again and again. As this draws out, you're going to feel bad, you're going to feel loss, and you're going to cry. It's normal, it's part of the process of grieving."
Chris was still wiping his eyes with the shirt.
"But now I need you to get cleaned up, because Lester's waiting. So, go get a shower. Oh, and Sabrina's friends are here now too."
"Ah jeez! Dex, when did they get here?"
"Just a little while ago," Dexter said. "All four of them, they're out in the kitchen now, making a fuss over Alan."
Chris just looked down at the floor and shook his head slowly. He took a deep breath, and then looked at his friend. "Well, Dex," he said quietly, "let's go do this."
Alan sat in Amy's lap at the kitchen table, enjoying being the center of attention. Just a little while ago, the four femmes appeared at the door and had been talking about him ever since.
"He has his mother's eyes," Cindy said.
"He has his mother's fur," declared Amy as she fluffed his black and white foxtail.
Susan reached over and touched his muzzle with her paw. "He has Sabrina's face," she said softly.
"And his mother's markings," chimed in Debbye. "He's almost a duplicate of her, but with his father's ears and muzzle."
"Yes, he sure is," said Amy, as she reached up with both paws and tickled Alan's ears, making him wiggle and laugh.
Dexter walked into the kitchen, and all eyes turned on him. Angel got up from the table and went over to him; putting her arm around her husband, she asked how Chris was.
Dexter was quiet for a moment as he looked at all the furs in the kitchen. "He was crying again when I found him," he said; there was a chorus of 'awwws' from around the table, "but now he's in the shower. He should be out soon."
Dexter looked around the kitchen; he saw more flowers had arrived, and were starting to fill the counters in the kitchen. "Any phone calls, Angel?" he asked.
Cindy picked up a pad and passed it over to Angel. "There were seven calls, so far," she said, "and Zig Zag called again, says she wants to talk to Chris. She also asked what funeral home she could send flowers too. I told her Otter's."
"That's good," Dexter said. "Amy, you said your husband was going to bring Sabrina's mother and sister some time today, didn't you?"
"Yes, Thomas is going to call when he leaves there, and he hasn't called yet."
Susan stood up, and asked Dexter to take her chair. Chivalry fought, and lost, to exhaustion, so he went over and sat down. He patted her paw gratefully.
"Coffee dear?" asked Angel.
"Thanks, that would be great," he said. He took the cup she offered and sipped it. He gave an appreciative sigh as he tried to relax.
Debbye, who had been twisting a tear-soaked tissue in her paws, looked up and asked, "Mr. Collie, what happened yesterday?"
Dexter took another sip of coffee, and sat back in his chair; he could feel eight pairs of eyes on him, looking, begging, and pleading for answers.
Taking a slow breath, Dexter started to explain what he knew. "While Sabrina was driving home yesterday, she apparently slowed down when the snow suddenly got heavy; a driver in a truck behind her lost control on the ice and hit Sabrina's car, crushing it. She was rushed to the hospital over in Grove City, and Chris was called. Chris and Alan got to see her for a few minutes, and then she went into cardiac arrest..."
"And the doctors tried to fix mommy!" Alan blurted out.
Amy, who was still holding Alan, turned her head to look at him, "Did you get to see your mommy, Alan?"
"Uh huh," he said. "Dad took me in where mommy was, she had tubes in her mouth, and couldn't talk. Dad was talking to her…" He stopped for a moment, and then went on. "Then her heart stopped, and the doctors came, and there was lots of noise, and I was scared." Amy hugged the young todd tightly, but didn't say anything.
Alan then looked up. "Hi dad!"
All heads turned to see Chris come into the kitchen. "Hi, son."
Susan was the first to reach him, since she was standing. She threw her arms around him, buried her head in his shoulder, and started weeping. Between sobs, she kept telling him how sorry she was. Chris just patted her on the back with his paw, quietly telling her it was OK. Debbye and Cindy then got up and came over to join them; Amy just sat there holding Alan, resting her chin on his head.
Chris didn't know what to do, at first, with three crying femmes holding on to him.
"OK, OK now, please, I need to go. Dex, some help here?" he pleaded. Dexter got out of his chair and gently began to peel them off of Chris, one by one.
"I want to thank you all for coming," Chris stated. "It's good you're here to help me get through this, but right now I have to go and do some things for Sabrina. When I get back, we'll talk," he finished, fighting back his own tears. They nodded and went back to the table.
"Alan! Son, come here!"
Alan got out of Amy's lap and padded over to his father, who reached down and picked the boy up. "Alan," he said, "you're the man of the house until I get back, so make sure everyone behaves here, OK?"
"OK dad!" Alan reached around his dad's neck and hugged him. Chris kissed him on the cheek and put his son down, who scurried back towards Amy.
Angel started to speak, paused a moment, and then went on. "Chris, when Mr. Otter called a while ago, he asked if we could bring something nice to dress Sabrina in. Is there anything you have in mind?"
Chris thought for a moment, and sighed, "Angel, I just can't go back in…our room right now. I wouldn't know what to pick, honestly I wouldn't."
"I have something," Amy said quietly, almost in a whisper. "I brought it just in case." She lowered Alan to the floor, got up and went into the living room. There was a pile of suitcases, on the top of which was a black garment bag. Picking it up with both paws, she brought it back to Chris. Holding the hanger end up with one paw, she unzipped the bag with the other, revealing a white cotton summer dress. The dress had white lace at the neck and sleeves, and was embroidered all over with white flowers.
"Sabrina used to borrow this all the time, when she would go out," said Amy, now with tears flowing. "Please take it... for her… please," she whispered raggedly.
Chris reached out with a paw and touched the dress. Yes! He had seen it before! Sabrina had worn it on a date from time to time, and had looked stunningly beautiful when he saw her in it for the first time. The girls gathered closer to examine it; even Angel reached out to touch it.
"Chris, it's beautiful!" she said softly. "This is perfect, take it." Not saying a word, Chris zipped up the bag and took it from Amy. He folded it over his arm, gave Amy a silent hug, and stepped back.
"Yes, Sabrina will love this, I know she will. Thank you, Amy," he said as tears began to flow down his cheeks. He turned to Dexter and, with as much control as he could muster, said, "Let's go, Dex." Without waiting, he headed to the door and went outside to the car.
Dexter turned to Angel, and squeezed her paw. "Be back soon, dear," he said, and trailed Chris outside. The girls followed them as far as the porch and watched them drive away. They hurried back inside where it was warm, in time to hear the phone ringing again.
The Otter Family Funeral Home was just two blocks away from the building where Chris and Sabrina worked. Chris had never given it much thought; had never considered that he might ever go in there. Today, however, he found himself inside the funeral home, sitting across a conference table from Lester Otter. They were discussing what type of service would be held for Sabrina. Chris had decided on an early afternoon viewing, with a three o'clock service, followed by a sunset interment. Just making these decisions had stretched his emotions nearly to the breaking point. It was a relief when a middle-aged fur came into the office with a tray of coffee.
"Gentlefurs, this is my wife, Esther," Mr. Otter said, as Chris and Dexter both stood up.
"Dear, you know Dexter Collie?"
"Yes, I do," she said, as she took Dexter's paw. "And how're Angel and the boys?" she asked.
"Angel's fine, and the boys are big and still growing - they're going out for their college's baseball team," Dexter replied.
"And this is Mr. Foxx," Lester continued.
Esther turned to face Chris, and took both of his paws into hers. "Mr. Foxx," she said, with genuine sympathy in her voice, "I am so sorry about the passing of your wife. If there is anything you need or want, just let us know, and it's yours."
"Thank you," Chris said. He tried to smile, but the tears in his eyes made it hard to see.
Esther saw the garment bag folded over the back of Chris' chair. Touching it with a paw, she asked, "Is this for your wife?"
"Yes, it is," Chris answered quietly.
Esther reached over, picked it up by the hanger, and, with her free paw, partially unzipped the bag to see the dress inside.
"My! This is lovely," she said. "This will complement your wife beautifully." Esther then reached over to the table for a tissue, and gave it to Chris. "Mr. Foxx, your eyes," she said kindly.
"Sorry," Chris whispered.
"No need to be sorry, Mr. Foxx. If you feel like crying, you just let loose. Lester, I'll page you in a few and let you know when Mr. Foxx can see his wife."
"I... I can see Sabrina?" Chris asked, his eyes lighting up.
"Of course you can, Mr. Foxx. As soon as we can get her dressed, Lester will bring you to the repose room."
"The repose room, what's that?" Chris asked.
"Well, it's a room set aside for the immediate members of the family. Where they can view our work, and see if any changes need to be made for their loved one. It's like a bedroom," Mrs. Otter explained. "Lester, when you're done with Mr. Foxx here, bring him to the room, please."
"Fine, Dear, I will," he said,
"Mr. Foxx, I'll see you in a bit." As she turned to leave, she smiled at Dexter, and said, "And please say 'hi' to Angel for me, would you?"
"I will," Dexter promised, and she left the room.
The three furs sat back down, and Lester waited for Chris to regain his composure. Then he continued where he left off. "Now Mr. Foxx, we were talking about a place of internment." He opened a three-ring binder and pushed it toward Chris. "This is Wood Lawn Cemetery, and it's just a few minutes outside of town. It has easy access to all the cemetery sections, gardens and the new chapel as well."
Chris turned the pages slowly, looking at the photos. Then a picture at the top of the page caught his eye, and the memories came flooding back. This looked just like the spot where he had proposed to Sabrina! Tapping the photo with his paw, he looked up at Lester and asked, "This place here, where is it?"
Lester reached over and turned the binder so he could see, "Hmmm! That looks like one of the memorial gardens there at Wood Lawn," Lester replied. "Would you like a plot at that site?"
"I want that spot," Chris said. "Right there in front of the benches, in the trees."
"OK Mr. Foxx, I'll call over there now, and see if it's available." Lester got up with the binder and went over to his desk to place the call, while Chris and Dexter watched from across the office.
"Walt? Hi, Lester Otter here. I have a client who has a question about Wood Lawn. Do you have your binder there? Good, go to page twelve… see the one with the benches? Yes, that one, do you have plots there? Sure, I'll hold on." Lester took a sip of his coffee, which reminded Chris of the cooling cup before him. He took a gulp, as the elder otter began speaking again. "OK! You do! Now, Walt, my client wants to know if the plot in front of the benches is open? Yes, among the trees…yes…yes…hold a twin plot… Sure! Thanks, Walt, I'll get back to you… bye!"
Lester hung up the phone and came back over to the table. "Mr. Foxx, the plot is yours if you want it. Would you like a single or twin plot?" Chris looked over to Dexter for help.
"I would get the twin plot," Dexter advised softly, "because when your time comes, you can be put beside Sabrina forever."
Chris did not need to think long before making a decision. "Yes," he said. "The twin plot and at that spot. Right?"
"Yes," Lester replied, as he scribbled on his pad. When he finished, he looked up, took off his glasses and laid them on the table. "Mr. Foxx," he said gently, "we are now going to go to the casket selection room, where you will pick out a casket for your wife. Once there, I will make no recommendations on any casket. Whatever you choose will be your choice and yours alone. You are doing this for your wife. Do you have any questions?"
Seeing there were none, he stood up and said, "Please follow me."
Chris and Dexter stood and began to follow the otter out of the office. At the doorway, Chris stopped, frozen in his tracks. He had a 'deer in the headlights' look on his face.
Dexter eyed him
with concern. "Chris, you OK?"
"Dex, I don't know. I don't want to go in there. I've never done this before," said Chris, sounding frightened. "NO! I can't!" He covered his face with his paws, crying again.
Lester, who had opened the door to the other room, turned to see Dexter trying to comfort Chris. With a sympathetic sigh, he crossed over to a water cooler by his desk, and filled a paper cup. He brought it over to where Chris was. "Here, Mr. Foxx, take this."
"No! I don't want to go in there!" he cried, still holding his paws over his eyes.
"It's OK, Mr. Foxx. Please take the water." With a trembling paw, Chris took the proffered cup.
"(Sniff) Thank you," he whispered.
"Now drink," ordered Lester. Chris took a tiny sip. "Drink it all, now," Lester said in a fatherly manner. Chris tipped the cup and finished the water. It was cold, and in a way it did make him feel better, but he still did not want to go into the casket selection room.
"I wanna see Sabrina… (sniff)… I want to see her now… Please! Take me to her," Chris pleaded. He reached out and took Lester by the paw. "Please!"
"Of course, Mr. Foxx, let me check with my wife first," Lester said as he tried to pry Chris' paw from his. The fox has a good grip, he thought, as he went over to his desk. Lester picked up the phone, and punched in a number.
"Hi dear, is everything ready with Mrs. Foxx? Um hmmm, yes, we're on our way now. Is that all right? Good." He hung up, and came back over to Chris and Dexter.
"Esther says she's ready for you now, Mr. Foxx. Just come with me, please."
They walked down the hall; Lester Otter stopped at a door labeled "Repose Room," and knocked lightly. "Come in," they heard a female voice say. Lester opened the door, and stepped aside to allow Chris and Dexter inside.
Inside, the room was dark except the center, which was lit from the ceiling by tracked lighting. It was focused on an elegant four-poster bed. Chris let his eyes adjust to the dark, and then saw Sabrina resting on the bed. Mrs. Otter stood next to her, smoothing out Sabrina's dress. On the other side of the bed was another female otter, who was brushing Sabrina's tail and fluffing her fur.
Chris froze at the door, and sucked in his breath. He didn't know if he could get any closer. Esther straightened up and turned to face them.
"Hello, Mr. Foxx. Please come over here." She motioned for him to come over by the bed.
Chris didn't move, couldn't move. Esther Otter came over to him, took him by the paw, and began to lead him over to the bed. "No, please…" he whimpered.
"Sssshhhhhh, that's all right, come with me," she said gently.
Esther nodded to her husband, and he left, closing the door behind him. "Now, Mr. Foxx, I want you to come with me," and again she gently tried to get Chris to come over to the bed. Slowly he followed, step by step, until he was right by the bed.
The other female otter had just lain Sabrina's tail down and to the side and then left the room without saying a word. Esther then patted the bed with her paw. "You can sit here, Mr. Foxx."
"On the bed?" he asked in a choked voice.
"Yes, you can sit there. It won't hurt her."
Chris sat down on the edge of the bed, afraid to touch his beloved Sabrina. Esther started to lead Dexter out of the room, to allow Chris a few moments of privacy. The terrified look Chris shot them made Dexter pause.
"Do you want me to stay, buddy?" he asked. Chris nodded wordlessly, his eyes wide.
Esther didn't even
blink at his request. "Mr. Collie," she said, "why don't you
take one of those chairs by the wall? They are nice and comfy and out-of-the-way."
Dexter looked around and saw several chairs in the area that Mrs. Otter indicated. He sat down in the one closest to Chris, but out of his direct line-of-sight.
Esther then went over to the dresser in the back of the room and picked up a tissue box. She brought it over and set it by Chris, who would not take his eyes off of Sabrina. "Now, Mr. Foxx, I'm going to leave you alone in here for a while," she said quietly. "When you're done, you need to go back to Lester's office, OK?"
Chris didn't appear to hear her, so she turned to Dexter and whispered in his ear, "Give him about fifteen minutes, then take him back to the office, please." Dexter nodded in acknowledgement, and Esther left the room.
She looks beautiful, Chris thought, trying to look at her through teary eyes. Amy was right! The dress is perfect for Sabrina. It looked like she was sleeping, and that at any moment would just sit up and give him that smile of hers, but he knew it was not to be.
He reached over and took Sabrina's right paw into his and held it up to the side of his face.
"(Sniff)… Hello kitten," he whispered. "I… had to come see you… (sniff)… Alan is OK… I guess he's taking this better than I am. All your friends are here, and your mom is coming soon…." Chris stopped and put Sabrina's paw down. He bent closer and stroked the hair around her left ear. He began to weep silently, his tears falling on her face.
Dexter, now getting caught up with emotion, pulled a pawkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his eyes. God! he thought, what would happen if I lost Angel? He shuddered, closed his eyes, and shook his head to drive the thought from his mind. The two friends sat quietly, lost in their private thoughts.
After a while, Dexter checked his watch. Better get Chris back to Lester's office, he thought, and got up with a sigh. He walked over to Chris, and stood behind him for a moment. Finally, he put a paw on Chris' shoulder.
"Chris… we better go."
Chris sat unmoving;
he just stared into the face of his beloved, still stroking her hair.
"Chris!" he said again, this time gently shaking him.
Chris straightened up, and looked up at his friend. "I know, Dex," he said, sniffing. Chris turned to look at his wife once more. Reaching over, he ran his paw through the soft fur of her tail.
"She's beautiful. Isn't she?" Chris asked, his voice trembling.
"Yes, she is," Dex replied softly. Chris then picked up Sabrina's tail, brought it up to his chest, and hugged it tightly. Then, ever so gently, he laid it back down at her side. Bending over, he kissed Sabrina on the forehead, and then whispered into her ear.
"I love you Kitten, forever and always. I'll be back." He stood up and turned to face Dexter. "Dex, I need to go outside and get some air."
"Yeah, me too," said Dexter, dabbing at his eyes again.
As Chris got to the door, he turned for one last look at Sabrina. He sighed sadly, and went out into the hall. Dexter closed the door and the two friends went outside.
A while later, they were back in the hallway outside the Casket Selection Room; Chris still faced with the problem of selecting a coffin for Sabrina. Lester opened the door, and bid them to enter. The room was well lit and very wide, with many caskets arranged tastefully in the room. Mr. Otter stood in the middle of the room, and then turned to Chris. "To the right side of the room are the metal caskets; to the left, wooden ones; and across on the center wall are urns if one wished cremation. In each casket there is a card on a pillow. Once you choose a casket, bring its card to me, and I'll take care of the rest." Lester then left the room, leaving Chris and Dexter alone.
The two friends stood uncomfortably in the middle of the room. Finally, Dexter cleared his throat. "Ahem… Whadaya think Chris?"
"I don't know Dex. How will I know which one to choose?"
Dexter reached out with his paw, and touched Chris on the chest. "Your choice should come from here. What would Sabrina want? What would please her?"
"Yeah, I know Dex," Chris sighed heavily. At that, Chris and Dexter split up. Chris went to the right, and Dexter to the left.
Chris stopped at each casket, sometimes to touch the outside, or to reach in to feel the silk liner. He came almost all the way back to the center of the room when he paused. He went back several caskets, stopping at a simple white one with gold trim and a pink interior. He reached for the card that was on the pillow. 'Forever at Rest' was the name printed on it. So sad, he thought. Here is something I have to buy, use once, and then bury forever. His eyes grew misty again.
Rubbing his eyes to clear them, he looked down the room to see Dexter talking to Lester by the door. He looked down at the card, then at the casket again. Sighing, he went over to where Lester and Dexter were.
"Ah, Mr. Foxx! Have you made a choice?"
"Yes," said Chris, sadly, and passed Lester the card. The otter looked at it, nodded to himself, and asked Chris if there was anything else he needed. Unable to trust his voice, he shook his head no. They silently followed Lester back into his office, where he bid them to sit down.
After glancing at the accumulated forms, Lester looked up. "Mr. Foxx, let's go over this list one more time, shall we? Visitation will begin at 2 o'clock pm, with services starting one hour later. Correct?"
Chris nodded his head in acknowledgement.
"At 5:00 pm we will retire to Wood Lawn for final interment with the Reverend Al Bear giving the eulogy."
Chris nodded his head again. Suddenly, the phone rang.
"One moment, please," Lester said as he reached for the phone. "Yes dear… Un hum… very good. Thank you dear!" He hung up, and then turned back to Chris.
"My wife says Mrs. Collie just called. Sabrina's mother arrived at your house, and she's on her way here now. She should be here in a few minutes," he explained.
"That's OK," said Chris, dully.
Lester passed a typewritten paper to Chris. "This is for the local paper. If you and Sabrina's mother approve it, we'll send it over to their office today."
Chris read the obituary. It contained a short history of Sabrina's life, where she worked, and listed the surviving members of her family. When he was done reading it, Chris passed the page, now sporting a few wet spots from fallen tears, back over to the director, "It's OK," he said, after drawing a ragged breath.
Lester took the obituary back without comment. He passed several large forms over to Chris, and indicated where he needed to sign.
There was a knock at the door, and Mrs. Otter popped her head in. Lester waved a paw for her to come in. She opened the door and behind her was Endora, Sabrina's mom. Chris stood up when he saw her, and walked woodenly over to her.
"Oh, Chris!" were the only words she could say as he embraced her.
"It's OK, Mom," he whispered hoarsely back to her.
She looked up at him. "Can I see her?" she asked, her voice wavering.
Chris looked over to Esther. "Can she go see Sabrina?"
Esther smiled and nodded, and took Endora by the arm. "Yes, of course you can. Please come with me." She guided the grieving mother back to the hallway. Chris followed them to the door and watched them go down the hall to the Repose Room.
"Chris?" he heard a quiet voice from behind him. He turned, and there in the hall was Amy, Thomas, and the remaining members of the Clique.
Chris turned back and called to Mrs. Otter. When she looked back at him, Chris waved a paw and pointed to the group of femmes behind him. "Can they come, too?"
Esther smiled, and waved her paw for everyone to join her and Sabrina's mom. "Certainly! Everybody come on in," she said.
As Amy passed Chris, she took both of Chris' paws in hers. "Thank you," she whispered.
Chris sadly smiled
and nodded. Amy went down the hall. As they each passed, Cindy,
Debbye, and Susan stopped and hugged Chris. Esther waited till all were there, and then let them into the Repose Room.
Thomas had stayed back with Chris, and waited until they had gone inside. He turned to Chris. "How are you holding up?" he asked.
"Not good! Not good at all… I just... I just never thought this would ever happen." Thomas could see the pain in his eyes. "I mean… it's so unfair…One minute she's here, and then…" Chris looked longingly down to the room where Sabrina was. "And the next… she's gone!"
Thomas could see Chris was trying hard to fight the tears, but was losing the battle.
"I need to go back in to see Mr. Otter. You wanna come inside?" he asked.
"Nah! I'll just wait for the girls out in the lobby. By the way the insurance carrier of the trucking company, the one whose truck hit Sabrina's car, called. They want you to give them a call as soon as you can. I wrote the number on the pad by your phone."
"OK, thanks. I'll be out soon." Chris turned and went back into the office.
Back in with Mr.
Otter, Chris went over a few more details about the service. Once done,
Mr. Otter put the papers in a folder and looked up at Chris.
"Mr. Foxx… Once again my condolences on the passing of your wife. I know the next few days are going to be quite hard on you. If you need anything, don't hesitate to call me." He reached into his vest pocket, and pulled out a business card, which he gave to Chris. "It has my home, office and pager numbers. Call me anytime."
He stood up and came around his desk. Chris and Dexter rose as well. Taking Chris's paw into his own, Lester thanked him for choosing his facility for his needs.
"Now, if you will come with me, I have one more thing you need to see." Lester led Chris and Dexter out to the lobby area. They passed where Thomas was waiting, and then walked down another hall. Lester stopped before a room with a large double door, then entered and turned on the lights.
"This is the visitation room," he began. "On the day after tomorrow, everyone will come here for the visitation, followed by the final service. From here, we'll go to Wood Lawn for the interment." Chris looked around, to see many chairs arranged nicely into rows. "As you can see, flowers have already started to arrive. My daughter Nancy has started to arrange them."
Chris could see there were about 10 bouquets of flowers along the wall, and one large blanket of white roses on a special tripod. Chris went over to inspect it.
"What is this?" he asked the funeral director.
Mr. Otter came over to where Chris was standing. "This is a casket spray," he replied. "It will be placed on the casket when we move to the cemetery. Let's see who it's from." Lester searched the arrangement for a card; once he found it, he gave it to Chris.
'Sabrina Foxx' was written on the envelope. Chris opened it; the card read simply, "With sympathy, Zig Zag and James."
"She shouldn't have," Chris said quietly. He returned the card to Lester to read. After reading it, he thought for a moment, then turned to Chris.
"Isn't she the…"
"Yes, the one and the same." Chris interrupted him. "Sabrina designed her web site."
Dexter wandered over to where they were. "From Zig, huh?" he asked. Chris nodded wordlessly. "Nice!" he said awkwardly.
Danny Otter appeared in the doorway, looking for his father. Seeing the elder otter, he went over, whispered in his ear, and then he left.
"Gentlefurs, I have some other matters I must attend to at this time," Lester said. "When you are finished here, you can see your way out." Lester then shook paws with Chris and Dexter and followed his son out.
Chris sighed. "Dex, let's go home. I have a ton of stuff I need to do."
Back in the lobby, they found Thomas, who was still waiting for the girls. He told Chris that he would stay and bring them back to the house. Chris thanked him and then stepped outside. Out in the parking lot, Chris looked about for a moment. The sky was overcast, and looking like snow again.
"You OK?" asked Dexter.
"Yeah, I guess so, Dex. But you were right."
"The longer this goes on, the harder it gets," he sighed.
"And today is just the first day," Dexter replied. "We still have the rest of the week to get through."
Chris was quiet for the rest of the way to the car. Once there, he turned and put both of his paws on Dexter's shoulders. "Dex, I want to thank you for putting up with me, and helping me through this. You've been a true friend. I just don't know where I'd be without you."
Dexter smiled back at him. "I'd save that thanks 'til later," he said. "This is far from over."
"I know Dex…
End of Part 3