It all started with the death of her father.
When ordinary folks have a death in the family, they typically plan a funeral, have a viewing, and bury their loved one in a specific way; i.e., in a coffin or urn and buried in a plot or placed in a niche. Mind you, I said “ordinary people”.
In her family, things were not quite so normal. When her dad died, it was a blow to many because he was relatively young at the age of 53 and his death was the result of a vehicle accident. Many years before, he had divorced his first wife and had remarried a few years later. He had a new family, which included a young daughter. His first family consisted of eight children and an ex-wife. These days, that is not such an unusual event and, for most folks, would have only created a small dilemma because of the different wishes or beliefs of one family against what the second family wanted to do regarding the type of funeral or where he would be buried.
In this case, because of his aversion to being buried in the ground and his macabre way of thinking about being eaten by worms, her dad had always wanted to be cremated. This was fine with most of the family and did not present a major problem. Unfortunately, his second wife was somewhat a card short of a full deck and her ideas were considered strange by everyone else in the family.
That is, once she had received the cremated remains (called cremains) that were contained in a can (similar to the type of can King Syrup came in) from the funeral home, she decided that keeping dad on the mantel, or burying him in a location where family could visit was not the way to go. Instead, she decided that his burial spot should change every few weeks. As a result, one week she would bury the father under his favorite tree on one farm and then, a few weeks later, would dig him up and bury him in the flower garden at the home where he lived. That was bad enough and certainly strange in this current day and age, but when she continued to dig up the man and replant him in yet another unused location every few weeks; it was just too much for the oldest daughter of the first family. It was ironic though, since her father had always been a “traveling man”.
So she complained often and usually loudly to everyone in the family. It just didn’t seem right, she said, that once a person died, that he could not be allowed to “rest in peace” and would be forced to travel around the countryside on the whim of one person. Most of the time, no one knew for sure where he was buried because his wife never thought to “mark the spot” so to speak, and each of the children had concerns that she might forget just where she had buried him last. That is when a brother decided his sister was right and that something needed to be done to end the vacation style burials their dad was going through.
One night, he called his sister’s home and told her to meet him at his house by midnight that night. Unaware of what he had planned to do, but knowing that something was up, she headed to his house. Once arriving there, things moved quickly and though she still did not know what was about to happen, the sister was rushed into a waiting van and then they sped off into the night.
The trip was uneventful other than it was trying to snow and the fact that no one had said a word about what they were doing. The sister was pragmatic enough to realize she was probably not supposed to ask questions and was along for the ride. It was only after they had reached the driveway to her dad’s home did it begin to dawn on her what was about to happen.
The driver of the van, a friend of her brother’s, synchronized watches to make sure their times matched and he was informed to be back in 30 minutes. He drove off and left the brother and sister standing at the end of the lane. By now, the snow had increased in some intensity and was beginning to lie on the red Virginia mud, the result of several days of rain the preceding week. However, this night was quite cold and the ground was mostly frozen, so they left little in the way of footprints as the pair headed to where their father had lived for twenty years.
After reaching their dad’s yard, her brother motioned to his sister to be quiet while handing her a shovel and drawstring denim bag to carry. Using a very small penlight, he began to inspect the ground around a tree that marked the beginning of the property the father owned. He soon found a quarter that had been placed where another brother had found the cremains by the use of a metal detector. The second brother lived on a neighboring lot and did not want anyone to know he had found the current burial location. The first brother began to dig.
Suddenly, lights came on at the mobile home where the father’s second wife was living. She walked out on the porch and was listening, apparently knowing that something or someone was outside of her home. The two of them tried to hide behind the tree and to not breathe or make a sound as the woman walked back and forth on the porch while obviously trying to decide whether she needed to investigate further. A long couple of minutes later, the woman finally went back inside and the brother and sister would not have been surprised if she had come back out after they had to gasp hard to breathe again.
Finally hearing a clinking sound, the brother reached down and uncovered the can their dad had been sent home in. Wiping off the dirt, he opened the denim bag his sister was carrying and placed the can inside of it. By now, she was excited over what they were doing. Because she had been very unhappy about the situation, the sister whispered that she wanted to leave a note in the hole that stated, “Gone Fishin'”, but her brother would not let her. He later said he didn’t want their dad’s wife to realize exactly what had happened that night. Reluctantly, she had to give up the idea though she still believed it would have been funny, especially since her dad never went fishing.
Once they had him in the bag, the two siblings quickly walked back down the lane where his brother’s friend drove up at the very moment they reached the end. Jumping into the vehicle, there was still very little conversation except to let the driver know that the mission was accomplished. Their father lay quietly at the girl’s feet for the two-hour ride back to her brother’s house.
After they arrived there, the brother told her to do what she thought best with the cremains, but to let him know what was being done. He, in the meantime, went home where he called their grandparents, the parents of his father, and let them know what transpired that night. The sister carefully placed her dad on the backseat of her car and went home.
The next day, she took her father’s cremains to a local funeral home and had them placed in an urn with his name, date of birth, and date of death inscribed on it. When they called to tell her the urn was ready, she picked him up and took him home. For a month, he stayed on her dresser for a period of visitation. After that, each child in the family was allowed to keep their dad for one month while the family figured out what to do with him.
Then, one night her brother called to tell his sister that their grandparents had given them a cemetery lot in Tennessee. Their dad was finally going home and, after being quickly delivered to the brother who was going to take him there, he made his last traveling trip. Both brothers made the trip down to the cemetery where their father was finally entombed with a brass plate to mark where he was buried.
During the following years, the second wife often complained that she didn’t know where her husband was. She assumed she had indeed forgotten where she had buried him. One day, about ten years later, while visiting at one of the older children’s home, she saw a photograph of her husband’s gravesite. The cat (or rather the husband) was now out of the bag. There was little she could do about the theft of her husband except to go visit him and put flowers on his grave. Everyone else felt that their father was finally at peace, at least in their minds, and there he remains to this day.