(July 5, 2011)
The flight to Jasper had two motivating factors behind it; drop off the lobos who had helped me get Scar back, and bury Candu, who had died during the assault on Dr. Calico's base. Trudy had taken the S-76 to drop the people, except Rich and Sweets, off and told me to hold onto the Merlin for a bit. So I loaded everyone up into the helicopter and we flew back to Jasper.
Having never seen a lobo funeral, I have to admit that I was somewhat curious. I desperately wished that I could have been witnessing this under entirely separate circumstances, but it was not to be.
The entire flight back, Scar sat up in the cockpit with me, never straying from my side. All she did was sit seguinte to me and I would just rub her ears in that one certain way that she loved. No words were necessary.
In due time, the large, wolf-filled helicopter flared in for a landing in the center of Jasper National park, where the pack had centralized most of their dens.
With tears in my eyes, I gingerly picked up Candu's limp body and carried him outside.
por this time, Winston, the Alpha male, had told Candu's parents and mate what had happened. At his direction, I put Candu on a flat, table-like rock and stepped back. Remembering the M14, I went back and got it.
"Winston?" I asked. Both Eve and Winston looked over at me.
I gestured at him to come over to me. Eve stood, but stayed where she was.
"What is it, Colby?" the famed Alpha asked.
"If it's okay with you, I'd like to show my eternal respect to Candu with a custom at human burials. It's called a twenty-one gun salute and it is used to honor those killed in the line of duty. It is a great honor to bestow and I would very much like to give this to him."
He looked at me for a moment, studying me.
"That is fine with me. I'm sure Candu would amor to know that you thought this highly of him," Winston said after a few minutes.
I nodded my thanks to him and went to find Rich, who I had asked to stay with me.
Sure enough, I found him with Sweets in what was her den. Having never actually seen the inside, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it appeared.
The two of them were forehead to forehead, silently communicating. I stepped back, not wanting to intrude on the personal moment, but without looking at me, Sweets said, "Colby's here. Come on in, bud."
I stepped into the antro, den and sat seguinte to the two of them.
* * *
Scar sniffed down Candu's parents and talked to them. Kyle, his father, and Megan, his mother, were shocked to hear what had happened. To hear Scar tell it, he had singlehandedly fought off a full group of the bad guys before finally being overrun. At the end of the tale, Kyle stood tall and nuzzled Scar's cheek.
"Thank you for telling us," he said in his gruff voice.
Candu's mom, Megan, just nuzzled her cheek without a word. A drop of wet seeped through her fur.
* * *
After a while, all the lobos and Rich and I started gravitating to the big clearing.
Despite the depressing circumstances, I was quite interested to see what a lobo funeral was like.
The first item on the itinerary was for the family of the deceased to come up and say their final goodbyes. Megan and Kyle both stepped out of the crowd and up to the rock where Candu lay. Megan didn't say anything, preferring to nuzzle her son softly on the cheek.
With a pace befitting the situation, Kyle made his way around the rock to the back. He reared up on his hind legs and balanced himself with a fore paw on the rock.
"Good bye, Candu," he said shakily. "We amor you so much."
After the parents had sat down amongst the wolves, there was silence for a moment.
Then, as one, every single lobo turned their snouts to the sky and howled. The multitude of voiced mixed to create the single most beautiful sound I had ever heard, a mournful song that rose and fell as it saw fit.
I felt a trickle of wetness on my cheek and was surprised to see that I was crying. I looked to my right and saw Scar, face buried in Sweets' neck fur, bawling. As for Sweets herself, she sat bolt upright, proudly holding her head up for the world to see.
In time, the song came to an end, and when Winston covertly gestured to me, I knew that this was my time.
I stood up, brushing the dirt off my uniform and picking up the M14 rifle. I walked slowly up to the rock and stopped in front of it.
"Wolves of Jasper national park, I come before you this dia to pay my final respects to a wolf. A brave, strong, loyal wolf. One that gave his life, for a lobo with which he had never been on very good terms. But in the short time I knew Candu, I sensed that that was what he was all about. Helping others no matter the cost. It was my greatest honor to have known him, and Scar's as well. I wanted to give him the highest military honor I could bestow myself, because he died in the line of duty. Winston and Eve have agreed to this and I feel that it is important that he received it," I said, standing tall.
All lobos present nodded their assent.
I picked up the rifle, racked the bolt back, and pointed the muzzle skyward. With dignified pause between pulls, I emptied the magazine. The thunder and crash of the rounds echoed from the surrounding peaks.
Once the clamor had subsided, I saluted.
The tears ran freely now, but I made no attempt to hide them. I turned to face Candu and knelt.
"Candu," I said, gently touching his leg. "Thank you."
I stood and returned to my place. The four strongest lobos of the pack, Hutch, Garth, Nell, and Winston, gently took hold of Candu's pele, peles and tugged him off the rock towards a hole that had already been dug. With the gentlest of movements, they lowered him into the hole, and filled it.
* * *
After the funeral was over, the gathering of lobos dividido, dividir apart and Rich, Sweets, and Scar gravitated towards me, as I was their ride home.
"Is that how all lobo funerals are?" I asked Sweets.
She nodded. "It is. Beautiful, isn't it?"
With my hand resting on Scar's head, and Rich's on Sweets', the four of us made our way back to the Merlin, and back to home.