Today I am grateful that Xpresspost (Canada Post’s supposedly fast, cost-effective service with tracking and on-time guarantees) finally got it right. Late, to be sure, but right in the end. This is one of those stories that my father surely would have told about one of his friends had it happened to them so I am confident that I would have his approval to share this story with you.
Laughter‘, my father was a paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic. When he was compliant with his medications, he was a happy fella who loved to play the fiddle, tell stories, a few jokes and the odd outlandish tale. He had the greatest laugh to go along with all those jokes and stories. In his heart of hearts, he was your typical Irishman stereotype.
My father began his journey to his next life on Saturday, March 24, 2007. He was 75 years old at the time of his death and was living in Powell River, BC, some four provinces and thousands of miles away from me. When I received word of his passing and was given the details about where to call to make arrangements for his return to Ontario, I gathered the troops to meet me at my home for some much needed support. My troops included Sauerkraut, my sons, my mother and my best friend, Reba.
It is important to note before I go any further that one of my father’s many paranoias was our postal system, Canada Post. I can’t begin tell you how many warnings I received to never, ever trust Canada Post. “They’ll open and pilfer your mail,” he would shout emphatically. “Never trust those sons of b’s at Canada Post. NEVER!!!” Right, Dad, right. I took these warnings, like all his warnings, with a grain of salt.
In addition to Canada Post, my father could not stomach organized religion. While he was a spiritual man and could recite many passages from the Bible, he had very little good to say about organized religion itself. Organized religion was right up there with Canada Post. “Never, ever trust either of them,” he would admonish. This distrust of organized religion stemmed from a scarred childhood of being picked on by the nuns and other religious members of the Church because my father came from a poor family. My father was one of eleven children; while his parents were rich in faith, they were poor in pocket. Many times throughout my life, my father told me that his God was in nature and in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. That was where my father found peace.
Now back to the story. When my father passed on, I decided that the best way to honour his memory would be to hold an informal Irish wake. I knew darn well that if I had a funeral for him, he would come back from the dead and haunt me for the rest of my life. No way was I tempting that, so, an Irish wake it was!
With everyone gathered around me in the living room, I made the difficult long distance phone call to the funeral director in Powell River. It didn’t take me long to realize that the funeral director had the personality of a post. After he answered, I explained who I was, why I was calling and where I was calling from.
Funeral Director: You’re lucky that you caught me here today. I don’t usually come in on a Saturday.
Me (once I regained my composure): I’m sorry that my father chose to die on your day off.
(Inside thoughts: had my father known that today was your day off, I’m sure he would have waited until Monday to die as well as die between the hours of 9 to 5 so as not to disturb your breakfast or your dinner. Do you take an hour for lunch? Just so we know when to schedule his exact time of death. Yes, I was pissed and rightly so.)
FD: How may I help you? (Not an apology nor an offering of condolence to be heard from the man. So, yes, definitely a post.)
After a brief discussion, I decided to have my father cremated and have his ashes returned home to me in the care of our local funeral home director (who definitely was not a post). I also hoped that he would return home by his favourite method of transportation, Greyhound bus.
Me: How will you be sending him home?
FD: By Xpresspost.
Totally inappropriate, I know.
FD, Sauerkraut, Sons, Mom and Reba:
I tried to compose myself, really I did. But I just couldn’t help myself. I was nervous about calling the funeral director in the first place. I was emotional because my father had just died and everyone in the living room was watching me. PLUS my father was going to be returned to his roots by his arch nemesis, Canada Post. AND the funeral director was a idiot. All of these factors combined were totally begging for an inapporpriate reaction. And, so, inappropriate I was. I mean, really, what else would you expect from me??
Me: I’m sorry. You would have to know my father to know why this is all so terribly funny. Is there any other way I could have him sent home?
FD: No. This is the most cost effective and best way.
Me: Okay, then. (Inside thoughts: “you dumb ass funeral director. Why did you become a funeral director in the first place if you weren’t going to show any compassion, you frig arse, you?”)
After the phone call, I continuted with my plans for his Irish wake beginning with the selection of a date that would allow enough time for his ashes to arrive. The invitations went sent out, the luncheon was organized, and the blessings, toasts, jokes and stories were selected that were going to be shared. The best darn Irish wake ever was ready to go!
Only the ashes didn’t arrive.
That’s right. Canada Post lost my father’s ashes on their journey home and my father missed his Irish wake by three days. Three days! Can you imagine holding an Irish wake without the deceased being there?
Hell, yes. That is exactly what I did. I had no other choice. We toasted the man who loved a good story never expecting that he would become the star of the greatest story of all, how he was late for his own wake. AND how it was all Canada Post’s fault. Oh, the irony and drama of it all!
I could easily imagine him playing his fiddle up there in his heaven high above the Rocky Mountains, stopping for a second, and with that sparkle in his eye, looking down to admonish me “See, Lynn, I told you to never, ever trust Canada Post!”
And by the way, it is totally appropriate for you to have laughed while reading this post; so don’t be feeling badly if you did. Why? Because it is a pretty darn funny story after all and my Dad would be so happy knowing that he made people laugh one more time.
Irish wake: 1