Shallow words. They said everything you’d expect. All the customary platitudes flowed freely from their lying lips: We’re sorry for your loss, he was the kindest person I ever met, he was my friend for fifty years, and so forth. Fair enough, in some cases. The comments about his character bothered me the most. They said he was kind and welcoming, and that he led people to the light of Jesus. He was a beacon of comfort and civility for everyone in his life.
I stood behind the casket with a plastic expression. I felt like a doll, sitting there on display for all to see. He and I were a package deal, wrapped up together and laid on the shelf. The stream of mourners passed by, like browsing shoppers. I smiled for each of them, and when they spoke, I responded with equally hollow words. What a stupid custom. Bile swelled in my throat as I turned my eyes towards him. He lay there so serene, him faced pale with makeup and his hands folded perfectly on his crisp suit. A silver cross glinted in the mellow light, breaking up the blackness of his clothes.
He was plastic, just like me. Beneath that suit, his abdomen was stitched together and his veins were drained of blood. The mortician had wired his jaw shut and pinned his eyelids down with special contact lenses. Perhaps they manipulated or even broke his limbs to keep him in the right position.
A gap without mourners came along, like a break in the clouds. I had my chance. Quietly and with swift motion, I learned over the casket. My fingers wrapped around that cross, so carefully draped around his neck. With a firm grip, I pulled. The chain snapped.
“You don’t deserve this,” I whispered.
I slipped the cross into my pocket. He would go to Hell without it.