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Waiting for the Mourners to Arrive


Dr. Ariel Rivera was standing in front of a pine casket in the center of a church on East Main Street. There was a body of a small child in the casket waiting for mourners to arrive. She ran her fingers along the smooth pine and then brought it to her nose for sniffing. The child was lifeless but she sensed a hint of satisfaction coming from the body.

She thought about the autopsy and wondered why must a life go so young. Was there any reason for it?

She closed her eyes and prayed silently with her lips moving softly. The child was six years old and never knew what living really meant.

“What was your last thought?” she whispered. “What did you feel when death crossed your path?”

The doctor walked away from the casket and stopped at the wooden doors. On each side of the doors were pools of holy water designated for dipping. She wiped her hands on her jeans and then put a finger in the water. She made a cross motion close to her face and then paused briefly.

“I don't know how that will help,” she said without turning around. “Heaven take you, I hope.”

She walked out the door and stood at the top stair and she looked down. She had the urge to kneel and pray, but she did not. There was no reason for it. The child was already dead.

“Family?” someone said.

She turned around and saw the priest standing by the doors. He was very thin and balding. His skin was almost dry, but he had a friendly approach.

“No,” she replied.

He looked confused.

“I did the autopsy,” she added.

He nodded.

“So young,” she said.

The priest folded his arms across his chest and smiled. “He will cross the ocean with God.”

“The ocean?”

“God takes the little ones across water so that there will be no chance of fire. He will never take a glimpse of Hell. It's his way of keeping the spirit clean and pure.”

“I've never heard of that,” she said.

The priest smiled.

The doctor took a few moments to digest what the priest said. Finally she allowed those words to enter her consciousness. She then realized that the child's spirit would walk on water like Jesus did until he reached the gates of heaven.

The doctor laughed, more from nerves than anything else, and the priest understood.

“Life and death,” the doctor started. “It must look enormous to the spirit of a young child.”

“Perhaps, but with God walking along side the child, it would not be a long journey.”

The doctor looked down at the priest's shoes trying to avoid his eyes. “I have so much to learn.”

Laughing, the priest put his hand on her shoulder and said, “We all have so much to learn. But remember, no matter how long or short life is, God teaches us more when we are with him. That youngster will benefit from death which will make up for the loss in living. Pray that we all can be happy for him.”

“Easy said then done,” she replied.

“You can spend a lifetime worrying and visualizing or even imagining death, but if you do that, life will sneak past you. Pray for the dead briefly, and pray for the living often.”

The doctor smiled. It was an empty smile, but a smile nevertheless.

© 2018 Frank Atanacio


Pir Mudasir on February 06, 2019:

Wow! so deep, yet the words are awesome!

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on March 08, 2018:

hey Lisa, Long time.. hope all is good and Happy way belated New Year..:) Frank

Lisa Chronister from Florida on March 08, 2018:

This is a beautiful story,Frank! As always, your beautiful attention to detail, brought me into the church with the Doctor, Priest, and little boy.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on March 05, 2018:

hey Genna East thanks for stopping by..:)

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 04, 2018:

I really liked this short, Frank. (You do this so well.) There is so much behind the priest's words, and his closing remark to the doctor is just perfect. Nicely done. :-)

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 23, 2018:

thank you Coffee Queen

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 23, 2018:

That's a lovely story, Frank. It was very touching and moving to read.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 23, 2018:

thank you Peggy

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2018:

What a beautiful way to think of children passing from this life to the next. I enjoyed reading this one Frank.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 16, 2018:

thank you for reading MsDora and PIR mudasir... bless you borg

CaribTales on February 16, 2018:

You probably know that I totally love the spiritual perspectives in this article, including the priest's which is also new to me (making me smile). Death seems so friendly and peaceful here.

PIR mudasir on February 15, 2018:

Itz very real and intresting sir

It gave me the immence pleasure while reading!

Thnx a lot

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 15, 2018:

John, thanks for reading my flash.. a little different you may be right

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 15, 2018:

Hari and Flourish anyways, Shyron and Eric thank you guys for stopping by the mourning... bless you all

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 15, 2018:

Frank this is very very good. Your theology is wonderful like your writing.

I generally do not go to funerals. It just unnerves folks when I am smiling the whole time.

Souls never die.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 14, 2018:

Frank, this is an interesting conversation between the Priest and the doctor. I had not heard what the Priest said about walking on water, but I do understand that.

Blessings my friend.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 14, 2018:

Something a little different from you Frank, but wonderfully constructed and written. Pulling at the emotional heartstrings again.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 14, 2018:

I don’t think parents ever get over a child’s death. We tell ourselves many things to comfort one another, but it’s a sorrow so deep. This showed emotional complexity and depth and you expressed it masterfully through few words. Brilliantly done.

Hari Prasad S from Bangalore on February 14, 2018:

The conversation is realistic and expressive.

Birth and death are like graduation if the life is a university.

- hari

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 14, 2018:

thank you Peg Cole bless you

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 14, 2018:

This story is deeply touching and meaningful. Always sad to think about the passing of a child. The toy on the photo of the casket flower spray really brought the message home. I loved the phrase, "Pray for the dead briefly, and pray for the living often." Such good advice.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 14, 2018:

No Jive, Clive? LOL thanks my friend

Clive Williams from Jamaica on February 14, 2018:

This is real frank. very real.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on February 14, 2018:

Thank you so much Nikki, Nell Rose, Bill, Maryam, Manatita and of course Robin for your wonderful comments .. bless you guys

Nell Rose from England on February 14, 2018:

Wow! so deep, yet the words are awesome! I thought this was so good! nice one!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 14, 2018:

You do flash fiction so well. It's not as easy as it looks. In fact, it is too difficult for this novel writer. Well done, Frank.

manatita44 from london on February 14, 2018:

I laugher when Rivera was questioning the child and I laughed again when the priest was giving advice and the simple innocent response of the doctor. I feel that they enhanced an already beautiful piece of writing. Cool!

Maryam Rehman from Pakistan on February 14, 2018:

Very touching Frank. Specially, 'Pray for the dead briefly, and pray for the living often.' :)

Nikki Khan from London on February 14, 2018:

An amazing note on praying for yourself and for others who are alive or died.Its beautifully woven to get the best out of it as always.Loved it till the end Frank.God Bless you.

Robin Carretti from Hightstown on February 14, 2018:

Very well said about death and the visual side how kids reach out to us we all imagine this but living and enjoying life I feel our time on this good earth goes really quick

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