Travels With Sally

My wife and I recently embarked on a trip that lasted 30 days and 6300 miles. We visited friends in Missouri, cousins in Chicago, daughters (and grandchildren) in North Carolina and New York, and friends and family in Pennsylvania.

One person I didn’t expect to encounter was my oldest sister, Sally. After all, she died 18 days before her 62nd birthday—in 1998.

On my last full day at my mother-in-law’s, I was up early (as usual) and checking e-mail (as usual) and there was a note from my older sister in New Mexico forwarded from our oldest nephew, one of Sally’s three sons, informing me that the funeral director who had presided over her services had some remaining ashes (they’re called cremains) and could I pick them up?

(For reasons not clear to me, my sister’s wishes to have some of her cremains scattered at the childhood home were not followed. For other reasons not clear to me, I don’t know why the funeral director still had some of her cremains. And the background on why there was a sudden interest in scattering her cremains at the childhood home is family business and not fodder for blogs.)

The arrangements made, I called my nephew from my car after picking up the cremains and we agreed that I should leave some of them at the house where my mother, sisters and I lived with my grandparents after my parents separated. (Sally would have been about 13 then.) My grandfather was the caretaker of a company-owned reservoir, and while we didn’t live there more than five years it is the place from which we draw many of our fondest childhood memories. It was where uncles, aunts and cousins gathered and played even before we arrived.

I called my older sister and informed her of the plan and said I knew the place to scatter some of the cremains. I had been at the house a couple of days before, taking photographs (with permission of the owner), and had noticed a modest three railroad tie footbridge across the road. I remembered going over to the spot when I lived there and told my sister that’s where I would scatter some of the cremains.
“Oh,” my sister said, “that was Sally’s favorite place.”

I had no idea.

Later that day I scattered some of Sally’s cremains under a baby pine tree. When I reported that I had accomplished the mission, my older sister said it was probably Sally’s happiest day.

Mine, too.

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