Family, Love, Patriot

The American Way Of Death, 2020 Edition

Well, it’s been another experience.  But like most of the foregoing in my life, not as unpleasant as it might have been, although occasionally a bit bizarre.

As most of you know, Mr. Right (AKA “Frank T. Zbozny”) died a little over a week ago, on July 3, 2020.  His death was expected.  But still shocking.  And saddening,  He didn’t specify what sort of funeral arrangements he’d like, but knowing him as well as I did, I do know that “fuss” was out of the question.  The hospice folks, who were wonderful support and helpers for the last month of his life, suggested a couple of funeral homes that specialize in simple cremations, and I chose one of the options, and called the place up and explained my dilemma.  Cue the wonderful Danielle.

This isn’t a post (pace famous English/American Communist Jessica Mitford),  where I’ll complain about the cost of taking care of, and disposing of, the remains of a loved one.  I’ve think I’ve done them all, and paid for them all, in all their variations.  From the horror and sorrow of the death of my stepson Michael (in whose honor, and at the end of his funeral service at St. Germaine’s Church in Baldwin PA, I led the congregation in a hearty chorus of one of Michael’s favorite songs, Joy To The World (Three Dog Night Version), to the unfortunate death of my mother-in-law due to the misapplication of meds which should have gone to the lady in the next bed at the nursing home (a very traditional ceremony, although I’m not sure what went wrong in the embalming process that she looked so much like Mrs. Doubtfire, lying in her coffin for the viewing.  Also, I’ll never forget the nasty old lady from the parish saying that singing Joy To The World (hello???) at Michael’s funeral was totally inappropriate, and that she hoped that nothing like that happened at my mother-in-law’s service.  It didn’t.  We merely sang “How Great Thou Art,” to honor her fondness for Elvis Presley. Heh.)

Then there was my stepson Sam.  After so much heartache, a green funeral in a biodegradable coffin, in a lovely woodland setting.  Something that I think Sam would have liked, and ultimate peace.  (My mother had a green funeral, and the experience was so pleasant that I suggested, and we replicated, it for Sam.)

My Dad?  Well, he was cremated.  His output of ashes was so immense that it filled two urns.  And in 2008, my sister and I distributed one of them in and around Prince Edward Island, Canada, at some of his favorite fishing spots.  He’d have liked that, I think.  (Note to those considering something of the same:  Start early, if you’re going to attempt to bring “cremains” across an international border.  Depending on that border, it may not be as easy as you think.  The Muffett girls are the original “irresistible force.”  And there’s no competition with the “immovable object” of the State.  Still, it’s as well to plan ahead.)

Yes, the cost of all of the foregoing options is outrageous.  But, I don’t mind.  It’s the last service we can perform for those we love, and it is (as they say) what it is.

I will say that, throughout, I’ve never felt myself misled, led astray, or deceived by anyone in the process.

In my most recent experience, I called Danielle (at about 4AM on July 3), was gobsmacked that a human being answered the phone (I had expected to leave a message), told her the circumstances, and in a couple of hours a lovely couple came to collect Mr. Right.  They could not have been kinder or nicer.  The gentleman gave me a hug–a dangerous move in these times of Covid, but something I sorely needed, having just listened to my husband of 39 years stop breathing while I was lying in bed next to him, holding his hand, a couple of hours earlier.  I’ll never forget Tim’s kindness and his salvific touch.  Bless.

Later that day, I drove to meet Danielle, to take care of the details–one of the first things we cleared up was what sort of “urn” I would like Mr. She to be returned to me in.  She explained that the standard urn was plastic, and said that if I’d prefer something else, we could look at other options.  I chose a rather modest “stars and stripes” brass urn with a USMC seal on the lid. (Mr. She volunteered as a Marine in the late 1950’s, and although he never served on active duty, was always proud of the fact that he’d survived boot camp and that he’d been invited to stay in the Corps and train as an officer.  He declined the offer, and went into teaching.  A loss for the USMC.  A gain for academia, and, eventually, me!)  And finally, a little relief, in that Mr. Right’s service entitled me to ten free copies of the certified death certificate, as well as an American flag for his contribution to freedom.  He was proud of what he did.  And so was his family.

So, today, I drove to McMurray, PA  and picked up his urn, his ashes, and his flag.  Then I called his daughter.

Current plan is to wait a while, let ourselves heal, and then decide what to do with his remains.  There are options.  Once we’ve overcome that, perhaps we’ll turn his urn into the base for a favorite lamp.  I’d approve.  His daughter would approve.  I think Mr. Right would approve.  And (most important), Psymon the cat would approve.

In any event, he’ll be remembered with love.  And as the light of my life. And that’s all that really matters.

Oh, and that flag that unexpectedly came with the urn and the ashes?  Well, Jenny and I have already decided.  We’ll erect the flagpole I gave Mr. Right as a last Christmas present in December of 2019, and one day, when we can, we’ll raise it, raise a glass, and have a party!

Na Zdrowie!

And God Bless, my one and only, Best Buddy.

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