Although the Prays say they are more comfortable with death than others, they will never become numb to grief. It will always be difficult entering a home, not knowing what might be inside, says Joe, who still lies awake at night thinking about how he can care for people properly.

But the Pray name might not last through a third generation. Tyler earned degrees in mortuary science and English, so he’s eager to travel and experiment with words and music for a while, and isn’t sure he will carry on the family business himself.

Joe says the home will always be part of this small town, even if Pray is removed from the sign out front, because families count on someone to be there. And Tyler says he will see to it that the business is preserved.

For now, he wants to live — he’s looking to dabble in acting and other artistic ventures like poetry. In a way he’s had a lot of practice already; each funeral service is a performance of its own where he tweaks lighting, music, makeup and follows certain stage directions. But once a week, he escapes Charlotte for a few hours, placing himself on the other side of the cosmetics as independent filmmakers near Detroit transform him into his latest part of a political campaign adviser.

“I needed something creative to do in mortuary school because it was kind of a drag sometimes,” he says. ” I might even get stabbed at the end of the movie.”

At least then he can plan his own funeral.

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About The Author

Claire Cummings is a former newspaper reporter from Michigan who now teaches in Las Vegas. Follow her story at

3 Responses

  1. Mike

    I’ve never been so interested in something I knew so little about. Excellent writing and a wry writer’s eye unveil a coolly inviting story that hums around in my head and clasps hands around my heart. 🙂

  2. Nina K.

    There is a name for someone that does dead peoples hair.

    What is it it’s driving me crazy!!!!!

  3. Kayla Rae

    This story was amazing! Really interesting. I love how the end ties the funeral business into other art forms. Not many people would view funeral preparation as a form of art.


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