Ashes to Ashes

U.S. Postal Service Publication 139 states, “The United States Postal Service offers the only legal method of shipping cremated remains domestically or internationally. When a family member assumes the responsibility of shipping a loved one’s cremated remains, they can trust the USPS Priority Mail Express® Service.” 

Well, you pretty much have to trust them, don’t you?

Last November, I promised my mother a trip to Cape Cod once she was out of the hospital and recovered. It’s a place we’d visited throughout our lives, and she’d been asking for another week on the shore. She never recovered. I remember we’d discussed Richard Russo’s novel That Old Cape Magic, about a man who brings his mother’s ashes to Cape Cod. Mine said, “You’d better do that for me.” OK.

I called my stepfather in Florida, to ask if I could bring my mother’s ashes to the Cape. As we spoke, I Googled “shipping cremated remains” and found the USPS document. I told him I didn’t need all of her, just some. Treasure Coast Seawinds Funeral Home & Crematory (the name just seems wrong) later recommended that Bob send everything. He did, for $53.50 with guaranteed delivery by 3:00 next day, signature required. “If anything happens, not that anything will happen, you’ll get a full refund.”

And Susan Blanchard came north again, her first trip in years. Three o’clock came and went, so I checked online to see what was keeping her. She was in Flint, MI. WTH? And we thought purgatory didn’t exist… It’s the sort of black humor we used to enjoy together, during our meandering phone calls. I could almost hear her from Michigan, “Got ya, didn’t I?” Needless to say, Bob was upset. But now her fare was paid, at least. I knew she’d get here eventually – she wouldn’t miss a trip to the Cape.

She arrived 23 hours later, which I assume counts as fashionably late for a dead person. The carton is intact, but I haven’t opened it yet – my humor stops at the packing tape. I put the box on my desk, and then moved it to the closet. We leave in 11 days. I still have time to work up my nerve, divide, and pack.