FUNERAL PICS • by M. Schmidt

Ms. Alice Foy
Berkshire OH 45044

Dear Ms. Foy,

I’m writing in reply to the multiple obscene comments you’ve left on our company’s Testimonials page as well as the scorched-earth social media campaign that you’ve undertaken against us in the weeks since your grandfather’s funeral. We at Amy’s honor grief in all its forms — even the cursing, threatening, poorly spelled and punctuated form that yours has taken. Having made that clear, however, you’ve lobbed some rather hurtful accusations at us (I found your post of 15 June claiming that our services were a “real crapp sandwich (sic)” to be a particular doozy), so I’m writing to clear the air.

When your lovely daughter, Reagan, hired us to help her through your family’s loss, her state of mind was fraught. I’m sure to you your grandfather was a super guy, one who let you ride on his shoulders when you were a girl and took you to the circus and the like — but that wasn’t Reagan’s experience. To Reagan, he was just a scrawny man in an elder-community situation whom she hadn’t seen in a decade and whose name triggered only a memory of a musky and mentholated odor.

One cannot love a musky and mentholated odor, Ms. Foy. Was your daughter wrong then to wonder how many days she must perform grief for your benefit (when it was you, after all, who chose not to make your grandfather a larger part of her life and so denied her those shoulder rides and circuses, etcetera?). Days which would awkwardly restrict her social posting, for fear that she appear uncaring and too quickly over the cultural conventions of mourning? Was Reagan wrong for wondering, “Will my social network @ me for sharing meal pics of this neighborly casserole which in my fraught state I’m only able to fork and nibble?” Did the “stunt” she “pulled” by hiring Amy’s for the funeral necessarily make her “the worst kind of spoiled brat,” as you posted on 17 June before unfriending her?

Perhaps social media isn’t important to you, Ms. Foy (though, considering the hay you’ve made in your 280-character outbursts, this assumption may be specious). But, at Amy’s, we cater to a younger generation, Reagan’s generation, one for whom an online presence is as important as the sock hops or soda fountain gatherings that your generation found to be so “neat-o.” Our services aren’t “inconsideret (sic)” to the next of kin as you posted repeatedly on 16 June. Far from it. At Amy’s, we know the conventional customs of grieving all too well. But we see too what a drag they can be on our clients’ social clout and influence. Going dark during a period of mourning is as perilous as risking atonal, untimely posts that read to their followers as gross.

Having studied your complaints, I find your basic facts to be correct. Your daughter did indeed hire three of our professionals to photograph her during your grandfather’s funeral (with our top-quality lighting and hazy late-life Liz Taylor camera filters). It’s also true that we posted those beautiful pics across the spectrum of her accounts and to our own beefy network of followers. In so doing, we saved her from any perceived violation of etiquette during a time of sorrow. We shouldered all risks of social morbidity, preserving Reagan’s relevance while she simply mourned as the well-framed star of her bereavement. But, does that make her a “monster” as you’ve claimed? Or justify “those jerkoffs” as your go-to term for our camerapersons? I think not.

To your assertions that the exciting new field of funeral photography is in some way immoral, please consider that wedding photographers are ubiquitous and that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. This means that half of all wedding photographers’ time is spent cruelly documenting the sorriest mistakes their clients will ever make. At Amy’s, we simply aim a soft lens at the fate that is eventually guaranteed us all while making our survivors look like rock stars of demise.

I hope this letter helps to soften your view of what transpired at your grandfather’s funeral, some of which was admittedly unfortunate. Reagan simply wanted to perform the acts of mourning that were expected of her in a way that was beautiful and public-facing. And we simply wanted to provide her that. I know this may be hard for someone like yourself to accept, Ms. Foy — considering that your public tirade against us has been the equivalent of a weeks-long ugly-cry — but grieving can be beautiful. That’s the gift we give.

Finally, to your claim that Arlo, one of our trio of photographers, arrived intoxicated to your grandfather’s funeral and consequently devastated the congregants (while in pursuit of a particularly tricky angle of darling Reagan wiping at her nose with a hanky) when he tripped into the casket and tipped it over, partially evacuating the deceased into a sitting-up luge configuration… well, to that I can only say mistakes were made. For that one, we’re sorry. But please know that Arlo wasn’t intoxicated. He was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from a particularly nasty inner ear issue which temporarily compromised his balance. Yes, he should have taken the day off work, but that’s Arlo for you. He’ll die with that camera in his hand.  

In closing, Ms. Foy, can I ask that you end this little campaign of yours, and let sleeping dogs lie? I hope so. We’re a small business, after all, and not necessarily immune to such attacks as yours. I know the pain you’re feeling (I have a grandfather of my own, you know), and to help make things right, I’ve enclosed a coupon for 20% off our services at your next tragic loss. (Family, friend, or even pet!). If you’re as excited by this offer as I think you’ll be, maybe show some love by following us on Facebook. And please remember that you have our deepest condolences and lasting prayers.

Best,
Amy


M. Schmidt’s fiction has appeared in publications such as Every Day Fiction, Litro, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and Dime Show Review. He has work forthcoming from Spectrum Literary Journal, Red Earth Review, and Abstract Magazine. He hold an MFA in Creative Writing.


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