Waiting for the Mourners to Arrive

Updated on February 14, 2018

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Frank Atanacio


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      • profile image

        Pir Mudasir 

        11 days ago

        Wow! so deep, yet the words are awesome!

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        11 months ago from Shelton

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

      • Lisawilliamsj profile image

        Lisa Chronister 

        11 months ago from Florida

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        11 months ago from Shelton

        hey Genna East thanks for stopping by..:)

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        11 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        11 months ago from Shelton

        thank you Coffee Queen

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        11 months ago from Norfolk, England

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

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        11 months ago from Shelton

        thank you Peggy

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        12 months ago from Houston, Texas

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

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

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

      • CaribTales profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        12 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • profile image

        PIR mudasir 

        12 months ago

        Itz very real and intresting sir

        It gave me the immence pleasure while reading!

        Thnx a lot

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

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

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

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

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        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 profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        12 months ago from Texas

        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.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        12 months ago from Queensland Australia

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

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        12 months ago from USA

        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.

      • shprd74 profile image

        Hari Prasad S 

        12 months ago from Bangalore

        The conversation is realistic and expressive.

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

        - hari

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

        thank you Peg Cole bless you

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        12 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

        No Jive, Clive? LOL thanks my friend

      • clivewilliams profile image

        Clive Williams 

        12 months ago from Jamaica

        This is real frank. very real.

      • Frank Atanacio profile imageAUTHOR

        Frank Atanacio 

        12 months ago from Shelton

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

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        12 months ago from England

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

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        12 months ago from Olympia, WA

        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 profile image


        12 months ago from london

        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 profile image

        Maryam Rehman 

        12 months ago from Pakistan

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

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 

        12 months ago from London

        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.

      • RobinReenters profile image

        Robin Carretti 

        12 months ago from Hightstown

        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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