You have mail!

We were to be heading back home after breakfast this morning, when the telephone rang. It was the Butler post office calling - Daddy had arrived and was on the delivery truck! But we couldn't get it, as it was addressed to the funeral home. Should be delivered by noon.

A short discussion later we delayed the return trip in order to complete the burial. We headed for Starbucks, one brother taking back breakfast for the princesses and my sister-in-law, the other riding out with me to dig a hole. We had breakfast in the car, while driving. I had a cinnamon bun about the size of 8 Swedish kanelbuller, that should be enough calories for a day or two.

There was a light snow, and these Pennsylvania curves are treacherous. My cousin remarked yesterday that they just let loose a snake in Pennsylvania and the paving machine follows right behind. And the hills - oh my, my stomach recalls exactly the rhythm of the hills leading down to the farm. We passed the old Brownsdale store, long out of business, and drove past the old farm house. We pulled into the driveway of the neighbors - they seem to be thankfully not at home.

We chose a spot up at the top of the lot with a good view both of the house he built himself and the house his mother and sister had built when they sold off the rest of the farm. Looking back one can see the woods behind the cornfields. The top of the ground was frozen, but the shovel quickly bit through that, the rest was not frozen. We took turns digging. There was just a bit of topsoil, then lots of clay and stones that were not easy to get out. While I dug, my brother looked for stones; while he dug, I made a cross out of sticks and some ribbon that was among the flotsam on the floor of the car.

We got a nice deep hole dug and headed back to the hotel. The princesses were enjoying the swimming pool, we had them get out and get packed. We packed up the car and headed back to Butler. We know the way by now without the GPS system. At the funeral home they had us sit down and wait, while they looked. Yes, the mail had come. Yes, there was a box for us there. The postal worker had forgotten to ring the bell, the registered mail thingy was still attached to the box, unsigned. The box was postmarked December 21, the cremation was December 13. Where did he spend that week? How on earth an registered mail that was supposed to be sent overnight took more than a week to get from Florida to Pennsylvania remains a mystery.

We signed the forms, declined to buy an urn, and headed back to the lot. I rode with the box on my lap, a very strange feeling. This, then, is all that remains of a person: about 2 kilograms of ashes, in a box. As we came down towards the village I had my brother take a short drive up and down Main Street, a sort of farewell to the church, the school, and the train tracks. Then we made it up the hill and parked.

I had prepared a short ceremony that we followed, lowering the box into the hole, pouring a bottle of good red wine in on top, and then everyone taking a turn at putting the dirt back into the hole. We tamped it down, lay the cross and the stone down so we can find it to plant a dogwood tree there in the spring, and we found that it was now good. The spot was just perfect for him, and we all felt a sense of relief, a feeling of closure, that we had completed the mission.

Rest in peace, Daddy!

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