Bungling through….oh, nevermind. I’m calling this one You’ve Got Mail.

A few weeks ago, I got a letter from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences — where my mom donated her body — to let me know her cremated remains were about to be sent to me. While I had a choice about how I wanted them delivered, they said their preferred method was through the mail. Yep, the U.S. Postal Service.

At first I was a little incredulous. Even though USUHS had assured me in the letter that it would be certified mail, I still pictured the box of her being shoved into a big blue mailbox and winding up on my doorstep in a pile of Safeway circulars and Domino’s coupons. My friends agreed. Somehow, it just didn’t seem dignified.

I was pretty close to checking the other box, until I started thinking about what my mom would’ve wanted. She believed in “authentic” experiences. She was the kind of person who opted for bus over train (and even put me on the Trailways bus from Fresno to Redding alone when I was seventeen — “Just think of all the interesting people you’ll meet,” she’d said. “Plus, it’s cheap”). She preferred the company of complicated, slightly troubled people. She was wary of the perfect. She was cynical of the pristine. 

So. I chose the USPS. And mom-in-a-box arrived on Friday. Maybe what was left of her WAS shoved into a mailbox. Maybe it got lost once or twice under a pile of Harriet Carter catalogs. Maybe it even got pushed up against a shipment of toilet paper cozies. But I can bet that being delivered by mail was an experience, an authentic one — one that she would have found the adventure in, the imperfections in, and, certainly, the laughable awkwardness.  

Today, I learned that her body was one of four used to help the White House medical staff practice intubations and “unique” IV placements — it was a two-day cause to help better prepare the medical team in the case of a possible terrorist attack.  As an Obama supporter, a medical enthusiast, and an educator she would have been thrilled.  And she would have felt good about giving someone else an authentic experience.

For now, what’s left of her body is in a small, still-sealed cardboard box. Which only cost $9.30 to send. But this would have made her happier than a fancy funeral, or an expensive hearse, or even delivery via a special courier certified to handle human remains (I’m guessing here. Seems everything in the death-biz is quite regulated).

I still don’t know what I’ll do with her ashes, but, sadly — for me at least — I suppose having her made into a diamond and mounted in platinum is out.

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1 Comment

  1. Karen said,

    November 4, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Your writings have helped me “get to know” your mother on a more personal level. I am enjoying who she was, and she’s teaching me a little more about who I am. Keep it up.


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