cigar with ash
( This photo is in the public domain. )

Letter to a Funeral Parlor Client

Dear Ms. Davis,

I am writing to you to object to your objection to the word cremains, which was used by my representative when he met with your mother and yourself at least forty-eight hours after the cremains were ready for our special encapsulation expertise.

I have no objection to you or your mother, professionally, as you both made sure the bill in its entirety was paid on time, in full, on the spot. And while it wasn’t as if you’d purchased one of our highest quality urns, I do not debase the value of any payment, large or even quite, quite, small.

What baffled and, well I’ll say it, irritated me—and my representative when I showed him the letter—was what seems to be your united lack of understanding of our particular expertise. You see, it is with the utmost respect that we discussed the cremains’ final resting place. And yes, I will continue to refer to the cremains as ‘the cremains’ because that is what they are called. And whether you and your mother have a fondness for our professional nomenclature matters to me—and my representative—very little. That is the proper and kindest word to use on this most somber occasion.

In fact, I will staunchly argue that we might have received a similar letter from you had we done something as ghastly as referring to the cremains as ‘Your daddy’, ‘Your dead hubby’, ‘Mister Davis’s scorched body parts’, or simply and most accurately put, ‘Dead David.’

And I further and most vehemently object to your request for my representative—a man who has been working with cremains and their still breathing relatives for more than thirty years at my facility alone; a true expert, gentleman, and professional—to use, and I almost stutter to write it, the word ‘ashes’.

There is nothing wrong with this word. Ashes is a fine word to use after roasting a few hot dogs with friends over an open fire or lighting up a joint and discussing it smolder as your faculties diminish and you get your giggles going.

But a grieving family would be further aggrieved if either me or my representative, or anyone for that matter, were to belittle the cremains with such a simple term. Your father was not once a fine cigar, an Oscar Meyer wiener, a Marlboro Red, or a S’more.

For as my honorable representative would have informed you had you mentioned this retort in person instead of sitting in fine condescension, the cremains are far more than ashes, far more than burnt embers. If it ‘frankly upsets’ you that not I, but the world, has divined such an accurate term for a person’s remains then I cannot help you here and I won’t apologize. And I dare say, when your own cremains demand discussion and a final resting place, please tell your next of kin that despite the sign out front, Frankie’s Fun Funerals does not have Just the Urn for You!

Yours sincerely.


Editor’s Note: This story is a response to the story Letter to a Funeral Parlor by Lydia Davis. Listen to it here.