Heather Lende writing in the Alaska Dispatch:
One pumpkin has snow on it, and two more have been cooked and frozen for pies, but Halloween and the Sunday afterwards, which in our church we celebrate as All Saints Day, are still on my mind.
Our priest, Janice Hotze (an Episcopalian) says this is the time of the year when the souls of the dead and the spirits of the living are closest. In a way, I am in the business of bridging that connection, since I write the obituaries for Haines's weekly paper, The Chilkat Valley News.
I had heard my friend Deana's mother Ruth Fuller died, but didn't call since it happened just as the paper was going to press, which meant I had a whole week. It's nice to give the family time before running over to write the story. (Obituaries are news here, so there is an element of reporting.) I also coach the high school cross-country running team, and we were on our way to a meet in Ketchikan the next day, so I figured I'd call Deana when we returned on Monday.
The ferry left two hours late because it was waiting for trucks from Anchorage with freight for towns along the route that had been slowed by fog in the Chilkat Pass.
It didn't matter to the team, since we were sleeping on the boat and wouldn't get to Ketchikan until the following night.
But it did matter to Deana, who I was surprised to see in the ferry cafeteria. I hugged her and said I was sorry. We were joined at the table by two of Deana's girlfriends, who announced they were here to support her, and handed her a gin and tonic in a travel coffee mug.
Deana's mother did not want to be in the chilly morgue. She wanted to be cremated and said so, often.
"She said she was like Sam McGee," Deana said. "It will be the first time in her life that she's been warm."
The nearest crematorium is at the Alaska Mortuary in Juneau. The only way to get there is by ferry or small plane. When you take a body on an airplane you have to charter it, and even with a bereavement discount of 15 percent it costs about $550.
Deana objected to sending her mother on a flight to the mortuary all by herself and she does not like to fly.
So Al put Ruth on a stretcher and helped Deana slide her into the back of the family minivan. Then Deana tucked a favorite quilt over her and drove to the ferry terminal.
Deana hadn't counted on the freight delay, and spent a long couple of hours with Mom in that car. It was, Deana said in the cafeteria, a little unnerving at first. Should she read? Listen to the radio? Keep holy silence? Talk?
"Mom would have loved this," she said, half-laughing, half-crying.
Read it all here.