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August 25, 2010

Dad's Ashes

My father died many years ago. It was Christmas Day and just one month after my 14th birthday. My mother had him cremated and his ashes interred somewhere in Toronto Ontario. I was very close to my dad and had a rough time for several years.

Photo of my dad
taken one year
before his death
Several years later, as a young adult and just before I got married I decided to visit my father's grave. I knew he was in St James Crematorium so off I went. Much to my dismay I was told that he was in what we would call "Pauper's Field" and had no marker.  I was devastated. I couldn't even visit his grave and talk to him.

The years passed but I never stopped thinking about my father lying somewhere in an unmarked, unknown grave. Then one day a very kind man heard about this and took it on himself to find out the exact location of my dad's burial. He was successful! The Cemetery has records which provided a precise location for my father's ashes. Yes it was in a common burial ground and there was no marker with his name but the spot was marked with a tiny marker with a number.

While I was thrilled to finally have a place I could visit, it upset me that he had no marker to show his time on earth and for others to visit. None of my siblings even knew what cemetery he was in. After my mother passed away last year I realized I was the only person who knew where he was.

My dad was from Guelph as were his ancestors as far back as 1834. Most of his family - mother, father, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents are buried in Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Guelph. So I decided we had to bring dad home to be buried with his family.

It surprised me how easy it was to arrange. St James staff were very helpful. My dad was disinterred, his ashes placed in a nice urn for reburial and then he was shipped to my home. I hadn't realized you could do that!

The day he arrived at our local village post office was very emotional for me. It took 49 years but my dad was finally home with me and soon to go to his new resting place. My plan was to take his ashes to Woodlawn in Guelph and have him re-interred with his family.

Although it was an emotional time for me, there was humour in the event. When the postmistress went to the back to get my "package" she looked at the sender address (St James Crematorium), wrinkled her nose, laughed and said "Hopefully it's not what it seems!" I responded - "Yes, it's my father"

A startled look came over her face and she apologized for her levity and remark. Wanting to put her at ease (I wasn't offended), I said, without thinking, "No problem, it's okay, he's been dead for 49 years".

She looked so horrified that I realized I'd upset her even more! It's easy to forget that not everyone is a genealogist and as comfortable with death as we are.

My dad was reburied with my mother and her parents in Woodlawn Cemetery. We had a nice bronze plaque made with both their names and it is attached to the base of the stone already marked with my grandfather's name.

And so 49 years later everyone in the family has a place to visit Cecil in his final resting place.


Miriam Robbins said...

I love this story, Lorraine! I understand the need to conserve burial space by having a loved one's remains cremated (something I wish to have done with my body someday), but I also believe that there needs to be a place where people can go remember, and that place needs to be publicized among family members and friends so they can do exactly that.

Thanks for sharing.

GeneBugGrams said...

This is a great story. I am glad you were able to find your dad's original burial and have him moved to be with family. Thank you for sharing.

FranE said...

What a touching story, it makes your ache and uplifts at the same time.
Thanks for sharing.

KevinW said...

Great story. Thanks for sharing.

Donna Hansen Peterson said...

What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Mavis said...

What a wonderful story. I'm glad that you were able to bring your dad home.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

What a wonderful, wonderful story! A very emotional read. I actually have tears spilling over reading this. Isn't it just great that the cemetery was so helpful? You did a really fine thing moving your father home. Thanks for sharing!

Carol said...

Great story, well written, great info for someone who is considering moving a loved one. Thanks.

DearMYRTLE said...

Lorraine, thank-you for sharing your thoughts on this tender subject. I think it will encourage others who will learn this emotional process wasn't that difficult to orchestrate.

Each of us has opportunity to see that the final resting places of our loved ones are marked so that future generations will know from whence they came.

While photos at FindAGrave are wonderful, the personal visits I've made to some ancestral grave sites this past year have been very fulfilling.

The circle is complete, as a cousin would say.