The loss of a parent is one of life’s most unforgiving tricks. But alas, your mother’s higher power has a plan. He gave your mother a lifetime with the most precious gift there is and He removed your mother from this Earth at precisely her destined moment.

Photo by The Good Funeral Guide / Unsplash

by Michelle Hoeckel-Neal

“Miss Payne, Mister Payne. Thank you for taking the time to come visit us at Dr. Lee Departed Funeral Home. I am Doctor Bear Lee, the funeral director. It is my honor to assist you through these dark, dreadful moments as you arrange to lay your dear mother to rest.”

“Hi, Doctor Lee. Uh, thanks.”

“Sure, I’ll have one.”

“Mark, what?”

“Oh, sorry—I thought he offered us a drink.”


“Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, can I offer either of you some tea? Water? Blood on the rocks? Oh—that’s just an old mortician joke. It’s just cranberry juice, I think. I am also the mortician, though.”

“Never mind, I’m all set.”

“None for me, Doctor Lee.”

“Right. So, I understand that your mother requested an open casket service.”

“I guess.”

“Ah, well, I want to assure you both that your mother is in good hands. I get weekly manicures to ensure that all bodies are embalmed by hands that are exfoliated, moisturized, and seasonally scented. Sniff my hands! See? Apple crisp. We also use only the highest quality face paints—I mean, make-up—to give your departed the lively complexion that you know and love.”


“Okay…the next step is to select the casket. Here you can see our full selection.”

“Can you show us your most affordable options? These ones are more than two grand.”

“Miss Payne, these are our most affordable caskets. You see, we offer only the finest selections. Please remember, this is the bed your mother must lay upon for all eternity. We wouldn’t want her getting a neck cramp because someone chose the wrong one, would we?”

“Mark, which one? I can’t pay for this. But maybe with that Christmas bonus you mentioned… you know, the one you were planning on blowing away at some casino in—what was it, Punta Cana? …Mark? Mark. Put you phone away. For fucks sake.”

“Jeez, fine, Kit. Uh, I don’t know. That one?”

“The Mahogany-Copper Two-Tone is an excellent selection, Mister Payne. You mother is sure to rest comfortably in this. And at only $8,500, you may still have some tropical gambling to do yet! Now, let’s move onto floral arrangements. Here you will see some displays of various blossoms and color tones. Did your mother have a favorite color?”


“I see. Thank you, Miss Payne. Well, unfortunately we have no green flowers. Perhaps violet? Or red? Ah – here’s the trick! We have yellow and blue blossoms. Tulips and forget-me-nots. Those two colors make green, right? So, that should do.”

“Forget-me-nots. Yeah, that’ll suit mom well.”

“Miss Payne. Mister Payne. Please, have some tissues. You need not hold back your grief in this space. The loss of a parent is one of life’s most unforgiving tricks. But alas, your mother’s higher power has a plan. He gave your mother a lifetime with the most precious gift there is—two beautiful children who loved her unconditionally—and He removed your mother from this Earth at precisely her destined moment. Now she will fulfill her destiny in His heavens.

“Doctor Lee, my mother killed herself.”

“Oh. Oh, dear. I’m terribly sorry. The—the file said that it was an accident.”

“Sure, technically the garden shears that lodged themselves through her esophagus was the unintended cause of death. But those blades would not have been anywhere near my mother’s bodily form if she hadn’t been attempting to hang herself in the garage and then slipped on the step stool.”

“I suppose not.”

“Right. So, I’m not sure if this—uh—higher power you mentioned had such dignified plans for my mother. Not if her exit was any indication, at least.”

“I see.”

“Yeah. So. What about the plot?”

“Yes. The plot. Your mother had not yet secured a cemetery deed. However, her will does request to be located—and I’m quoting now— ‘Wherever that bastard, bloated buffoon of a man is living. He will look at my stone and think of these million-dollar calves until his sorry ass finally kicks it. Also, somewhere close enough to my daughter, Kit, so she can visit me every day and remember all the amazing traits I passed down to her.’”

“That’s mom.”

“What traits? Crippling depression? Or, like, your witch’s nose?”

“Oh, Christ, Mark. Now you’re paying attention. Fuck off.”

“Do you want my credit card at the end of this or not?”

“Why are you such a terrible person?”

“It is so common for grief to resurface tensions between mourners. This is good. Embrace your sibling squabbles. Allow the tragic loss of your mother to bring you two together, closer than ever before. You may not see it now, but this is the beginning of a new chapter in your journey as brother and sister, bonded by blood. United in grief.”



“What was that, Miss Payne?”

“Newark. That’s where you can bury her. The one called Mount Grave.”

“You’re sure, Miss Payne? Don’t you live in Connecticut?”


“Yes, you’re sure? Or yes, you live in Connecticut?”


“…Yeah. Yes. Okay. Well. We’ve made lots of progress in this meeting. The remaining details will need to be arranged by you two independently. Her clothes, for example. You will need to select what outfit and accessories you’d like your mother to be buried in. After that, we should be in touch to discuss more details about the funeral service. Music, pallbearers, reception. All of that. Mister Payne, perhaps you would be one of the pallbearers?”

“It’s Mark. Not Paul.”

“Yes, Mister Payne. I was asking about the pallbearers?”

“Is that a sports team? The Sox are going to kick their asses this season. I’ll bet you a Benji.”

“Oh. That won’t be necessary. Miss Payne, are—are you alright? Oh, dear. Let it out. Cry it all out.”

“I—I’m not crying. I’m…laughing! Jesus, Mark, you have got to be the dumbest fucking realtor of all time. Are you high? Pallbearers? A sport’s team?”

“Kit, jeez, get a hold of yourself.”

“I. I’m not truly sure what’s happening.”

“Kit…you’re making me laugh now! Quit—quit it. It’s not that…funny!”

“Miss Payne, Mister Payne, are you two quite alright? I see. Ah, you’re flicking me off. That’s nice. Well, since it appears we’ve come to a natural conclusion, I suppose I’ll show you out. No—not that way. The door is to the left. Yes, thank you. We’ll be in touch. And my sincerest condol—oh, they’re gone.”

“That guy was a fucking trip.”

“Mark, you’re a fucking trip. Now give me the car keys.”

“Did you remember to ask for daisies? Mom loved daisies.”

Michelle Hoeckel-Neal is a graduate student of English concentrating in creative writing at the University of Maine. She is a writer of short things, strange things, and things that aren’t all-the-way true. She is also a teacher for the University’s first-year writing course, and an editor for the Spire Journal of Conservation and Sustainability. She is not much of a tweeter, but you can find her @MHN_hello.