How could Christmas festivities be continuing as her heart was shattering like a delicate Faberge egg carelessly dropped on the antiseptic tile floor beneath her feet? If she owned such a Faberge piece, she would gladly exchange it for the inevitable.
Ellen sat quietly in one of the clinicís examining rooms, peering through the oversized, curtainless window. Across the street, kids zipped along the sidewalk on Heelies dodging shoppers as they exited the department store laden with bright holiday shopping bags.
The clinicís corridors were alive with activity. Doctors were giving orders, dispensing medication, and patients were being ushered into rooms. Ellen overheard employees discussing the Christmas party they attended the night before.
ďDid you see Rogerís gag gift? His wife was so embarrassed,Ē Ellen heard someone say,
but the response was lost in the fading sound of footsteps.
In the room where Ellen and Sophie waited, a small, ceramic Christmas tree with red doves perching on its boughs seemed out of place against the stark gray walls. The tree glistened as if kissed by new fallen snow. What Child is This? softly played throughout the clinic.
For days following Thanksgiving, Ellen decorated her home inside and out with wonderful Christmas items she had collected since Sophie became part of her life. The large tree in the living room took almost a day to decorate. Sophie had her very own miniature tree covered with cat ornaments hanging from every branch.
It had been nineteen years since she had given Sophie a home when no one else wanted her. She had been a scrawny little thing, barely making a sound as she became Ellenís shadow. In spite of being a picky eater, she had flourished under Ellenís watchful eye. Over the years, they became soul mates.
As Ellen waited for Dr. Jordan, she gently caressed Sophieís face while she sang the words of her favorite Bible verses.
...yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me...
Ellen felt herself relaxing as she sang the lyrical words she memorized as a child, and Sophie - always sensitive to Ellenís mood and emotions - seemed calmer as well.
Over the past year, Sophieís health had begun to deteriorate. There had been weekly trips to the doctor, then twice a week. Her body began to shut down, her kidneys failing. Everything medically possible had been done.
She and Sophie had so many wonderful times together. Ellen loved to travel, and sometimes Sophie went, too. She didnít like the actual traveling, but loved being with Ellen wherever adventures took them. Their favorite vacations were to the beaches along the west coast of Florida. Sophie loved to watch the fiddler crabs; on her first close encounter with one, she learned to keep a safe distance as it skimmed across the warm, golden sand.
Sophie was terrified of thunderstorms. When lightning flashed and thunder sounded as if all the angels of Heaven had traded their harps for bass drums, Ellen would awaken to find Sophie next to her, sleeping calming.
They had shared sorrowful times, too. Sophie was there when Ellen lost her father that dreadful winterís day. And on the morning when Ellenís brother was taken off life support and she had cried until her tears were as dried dust upon a rain-starved riverbed, Sophie was there.
Ellen had never been able to stand the sight of blood, even becoming nauseated when watching a medical procedure on television. Over the past difficult year, she had left the room when Sophie was given injections. But not today. Today, Ellen would be there.
Today was the only time Ellen could remember not being in a hurry to see Dr. Jordan - today she could wait. When he entered the room, the only sound in Ellenís ears was the music drifting through the clinic...
Jesus our brother kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable of wood
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother kind and good...*
This would be Sophieís last visit to the clinic. She gazed up with big, soulful eyes, slowly blinking as Ellen rubbed her black velvety ears, kissed her paws, and watched Sophie fall fast asleep.
Scripture: Psalms 23:4 (KJV)
*The Friendly Beasts: French carol, 12th century; English lyrics by Robert Davis (1881-1950).
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