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Death — “Honorable Mention” Winner Medium Writer Challenge 2021

Bittersweet Symphony

Heather S. Wargo
9 min readJul 31, 2021


The black rotary phone rings on the wall in my parent’s kitchen, interrupting our quiet conversation.

Late summer sunshine filtering through the pines outside the log house is fading to dusk. I jump up quickly to answer the phone before Mama is disturbed.

​“Maybe it’s Troy,” I say.

The rest of my siblings are sitting at our massive scrubbed wooden table adjacent to the kitchen.

This table has hosted thousands of meals, laughs, tears, the benches sturdy, holding the family.

Its surface is now littered with photographs. My oldest brother Troy is en route, driving home to join the rest of us.


“Heather?” I hear a soft voice ask nervously.


“This is Howard Jenkins, dear.”

My brother, David, and I had left Howard’s office that morning.
He is the local funeral director.

My father is in his care for the moment and David & I had already dropped off clothing, Rosary, and related items that Howard had asked us for to ready our Dad for the visitation service and funeral Mass tomorrow.

In our rural county, there is only one funeral director in each town, and Howard is ours.

Perfectly suited for the job, he is compassionate and caring, while being human and tactful, guiding with clarity.

Thank God.

He takes care of everything without seeming creepy. Howard knows that within the last twenty four hours we have formed a shield around my mother, suggestive of a pride of lionesses guarding a cub.

​“I am having difficulty with the suit you dropped off, honey.” I hear him say.

This is the absolute last thing I expect.

“​Wh-what? What do you mean?” I stammer. I turn, fully facing the windows so my voice doesn’t carry.



Heather S. Wargo

Italian American Writer in PA wilds. Gen X survivor attempting to climb shrinking narrow. Despite all my rage, still just a rat in a cage.