Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hazardous Material

Yesterday's mail brought proof of Dad's military service -- the documents my sister sent me -- so today I assembled everything the Coast Guard chaplain needs and went to the UPS Store to mail Dad's cremains and the paperwork. I thought I remembered that the chaplain had advised me to use UPS.

Evidently not, because the young woman behind the counter said, "We can't do that. We can't mail ashes."

"Why not?"

"It's against the law."

"Against the law? Why?" Appalled, I had a sudden vision of trying to drive to Oregon and back before Fran arrives on Monday.

"They're hazardous material."

I almost laughed. "Oh, come on! They aren't hazardous material. They're sterile -- they've been heated to a bajillion degrees or something -- and I have the permit to transport them."

"I'm sorry, we can't do it. Call the funeral home and ask them what to do."

I called. Turns out the U.S. Postal Service can do it, but not UPS. Go figure. Ashes are hazardous in one situation but not the other? This makes no sense.

I went to the Post Office, where a very nice lady told me they ship ashes all the time, but said I'd have to put everything together in a bigger box. She gave me the box and tape and bubblewrap, and I did a pretty messy job of putting the box together and getting Dad packed in there while fellow postal customers eyed me curiously. The clerk, though, couldn't have been sweeter, listening to a very short summary of Dad's boating career ("It sounds like he had a wonderful life") and convincing me to send Dad registered express mail and get signature confirmation ("Honey, you don't want somebody stealing the box thinking it's jewelry"). Before I left, she patted the box and said, "We'll take good care of him, don't worry. I'm going to put him in a special bag."

I wonder if it's labeled "hazardous material."

So that was all fairly surreal. I went straight from the P.O. to my psychiatrist's office, where I convinced her to lower my meds dosage yet again -- after this step I'll be off completely! -- despite her obvious skepticism. "Are you sure you don't want to stay on for a while? You have so much going on."

Yeah, well, that's not likely to change anytime soon. But under the circumstances, I think I'm doing fine. She said a lot of people go off, do splendidly for three months, and then crash, but I can always go back on if necessary.

In computing news, the 10.1" Pixel Qi screen won't fit my 10.2" Samsung. I'm trying to find a netbook that will do okay in sunlight, but as Gary said, if I just wait another six months, the sunlight-readable screen will probably be standard issue.

In fiddle news, I recorded myself playing Ashokan Farewell -- three times, in fact -- but on each occasion it sounded like I was playing the accordian, not the violin, even though the tune was recognizable and most of the notes were even right.

I hate accordians.

I have no idea what caused this, but I'm sure Charlene will know what to do. In the meantime, Jean, please be patient! If I ever get a recording that sounds like an actual fiddle, I'll post it.

Tonight I called the Coast Guard chaplain to alert him that Dad's remains will be arriving Friday. He's going to send me a copy of the service he uses. "We'll probably be doing it about 9:40 in the morning, so if you folks want to say it along with us at that time, you're welcome to." He'll also call me Tuesday night to let me know if weather conditions look good for Wednesday, and if he was able to get a sailboat rather than a powerboat.

Bon voyage, Dad. You're off on your last grand adventure.


  1. "Honey, you don't want somebody stealing the box thinking it's jewelry"

    This line, brilliant. Makes me think of every nice postal worker I've ever dealt with. All two of them.

  2. Anonymous2:10 PM

    Suddenly all choked up reading that last paragraph about the chaplain's invitation to worship with him from afar as he scatters your father's ashes next week. What a wonderful person!

    I know this has been a bumpy road for you this year, but I am so glad for the many acts of kindness that people have been able to share with you as you have been walking along through all the good and the bad of it.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us,


  3. "We commit his body to the deep, until the seas shall give up their dead."

    Blessings, Beloved.


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