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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

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