91. Along for the Ride

91. Along for the Ride

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Along for the Ride

It’s been a pretty fun ride, to tell you the truth.

~R. Lee Ermey

Thursdays were always busy: classes, shopping, and laundry. One sunny Thursday in spring, I had to make a special stop before starting out on my errands. It was to our local mortuary to pick up Aunt Peg’s ashes.

I was greeted by an “Igor-ian” looking gentleman who asked, “May I help you?” I could have sworn he said, “Would you like to see my crematorium?” Shaking my head to clear the voice, I looked around and didn’t see another living soul in the place. Maybe it was because the lighting was so dim.

I explained to “Igor” that I was there to pick up ashes, and he eerily smiled and headed for the back of the facility. I stood glued to the spot for what seemed an hour, but was only a minute or so. Smiling and whistling, Igor handed me Aunt Peg, now reduced to a square box with her name neatly printed on top. Thanking him, I quickly made my getaway and safely stowed her under the driver’s seat of the truck. Peg always loved going for car rides, so I thought it fitting to take her along on my errands.

Aunt Peg was my husband Doug’s favorite aunt. She was a no-nonsense, articulate Stanford graduate of the 1920s. Her greatest passions were reading and listening to classical music. She became an accomplished bookbinder, rebinding many of her own two thousand volumes.

Stopping at each store, I told Peg where we were and what I was doing. Obviously, I wasn’t going to take her with me into the stores, although I’m sure she’d have loved it. What fun to stroll the grocery aisles in the baby seat of the grocery cart!

Errands done, I brought Peg home and placed her on the dresser in our bedroom where she had a good view of the backyard, the bird feeders, and flowers.

“She’d love that,” I said to myself.

By and by, Doug came home from work. As he was changing clothes in the bedroom and I was preparing dinner, I heard a weird gasp from the bedroom.

“Good God almighty, is that Peg?” he called out.

“Why, yes,” I said. “She’s been spending the day with me, and we’ve had a wonderful time.”

Doug quickly grabbed his jeans and headed for the bathroom to change. “I don’t think this is going to work, having Peg in our bedroom day and night,” he said.

“She’ll only be here until we take her out on the boat for burial,” I replied. Since this was Thursday, it would only be a few days until we could go out to sea.

Preparing our boat, we set out Sunday morning with our children (who adored Peg) and headed out to sea. We decided on a nice, tranquil spot to put the boat in neutral and strew flowers. Bobbing up and down in the boat, I carefully and as dignified as possible opened the box containing a sturdy plastic bag filled with Peg’s ashes. Among the ashes you could see various tiny bone fragments, fillings, even some gold flecks sparkling in the noonday sun.

Doug said he wanted to spread some of the ashes, so I handed him the box. The ever-practical engineer, he stuck his hand in the bag, grabbed a huge handful of Aunt Peg, and flung her over the side.

I thought perhaps a more dignified way would be to sprinkle the ashes from the bag, so I took the bag from him and began the sprinkling in earnest. Without warning, a gust of wind caught us off-guard. Aunt Peg came flying back to us: all over the boat, our clothes, our hair, really joining the family once again.

All we could do was laugh, and laugh we did. Peg would have loved this scene. She was one of the wittiest women I’ve ever known. As we doused ourselves with buckets of seawater, she finally made her way to her final resting place. I must say, dear Aunt Peg, the last laugh was literally ON us.

~Ann Michener Winter

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