Her mother’s illness was terminal. Both of them knew and understood.
“Slow down,” her mother said. “I’ve got something to tell you.”
“I can drive the speed limit and carry on a conversation at the same time,” Megan assured her mother.
“Are you sure?”
She told her mother, “Just because you can’t drive more than 45 and talk or listen, doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“I’ll be dead very soon,” her mother said. “Can’t you be nice, at least at the end?”
“I’m not slowing down,” Megan said. “You can tell me what you need to tell me, but I’m listening and driving on my terms.”
“Okay,” her mother said. “I just wanted to tell you about the monument.”
“What about it?”
“I told them I want it engraved ‘Loving Mother and Daughter.'”
“Don’t do that,” Megan said.
“Why not? You said you were going to share Mother’s extra plot with me. She gave it to me. We agreed I was giving you half.”
“That was a long time ago,” Megan said. “I’ve changed my mind. If I never get married, I’ll get cremated.”
“You’re a little old to be getting married now,” her mother said.
“It happens,” Megan said.
“Sure, but it’s rare.”
“I don’t want to talk about my romantic future or past,” Megan said.
“Me either,” her mother said. “We need to talk about the headstone. It’s been settled.”
“No. It’s not.”
“It’s going to be engraved in the headstone. I wrote it down and sighed off. It’s official.”
“Change it,” Megan said.
“It might be too late,” her mother said.
“Then I’ll pay for a new one,” Megan said. “I’m sorry it’s turned out this way. But you should have consulted me.”
“No,” her mother said. “You should have told me. It’s rude to change things like this at the last minute. Here I am descending toward the end and you switch up how my eternity’s been arranged.”
“Slow down on the melodrama,” Megan said. “It’s not eternity. It’s letters on a piece of stone. And it’s your body put into the ground like somebody else’s turned to ash. That’s all.”
Her mother finally sat silent.
“I’ve decided I’m dying on my own terms too,” Megan added. “So how much will a new stone cost? I’ll cover it.”
“Pay for a new headstone? With my money. What an insult,” her mother said.
“It became my money when you gave it to me.”
Her mother asked, “Cremation? Why cremation?”
“It’s what I want,” Megan said.
“I don’t have to justify it,” Megan said.
“I’m just asking. Just trying to understand,” her mother said.
“I’m not in the mood for talking about it.”
“Okay,” her mother said. “Okay. But consider who’s dying and who can’t be bothered by offering a simple explanation.”
They drove a few more miles in silence.
Then her mother reached across the dashboard, jerking the steering wheel. Megan screamed for her to stop, but it was too late. Megan instantly lost control. She and her mother raced off the highway, coming to a dead stop when they smashed into a concrete pier. They were killed instantly. In the instance before dying it flashed through Megan’s mind if their ending might have been different if she’d slowed down to listen.
The funeral was held for both mother and daughter. Megan and her mother’s caskets were placed side-by-side. Friends and family wept for them both. They wept over the terrible tragedy of the accident that killed both mother and daughter.
At the burial, the headstone was unveiled to read, “Loving Mother and Daughter,” yielding more and more tears and grief.
Most people commented, despite the tragedy, how wonderful it was for the loving mother and daughter to at least be spending their eternities side-by-side.