No Headstone? Here’s Some Ideas

Originally published on on 3 Jul 2016.

“Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.” Elie Weisel

Hubby and I went to the cemetery last week – not to check a record, take a picture for a memorial request or to honor an ancestor.  Instead, we went to check on space availability for what would become our final real estate purchase.  It was a very weird experience.

We grew up with the Jackson 5, literally.  There are some historical moments that most Boomers claim to remember for the impact that it made on the world and to them personally  – where they were when the Kennedys and MLK was shot, the moon landing, and 9-11, for example, but one of the most pivotal moments to me was the death of Michael Jackson.  Seriously.  I grew up about a mile away from the Jackson family household in Gary, Indiana.  As a student council representative as a freshman in high school I was placed on a committee to select a band for an upcoming dance the organization would be sponsoring. That was how I first became involved with the Jacksons…

I am tone deaf – most people say they can’t carry a tune but for me it’s so bad that people ask my to stop singing  I can dance, though, and quite well.  So keep this in mind as I tell the tale….

The committee met one day after school to listen to 3 bands that had been narrowed down, I guess, from others that had expressed interest in playing the upcoming dance.  The Jacksons were one of those bands.  It was before they were famous. I’m not sure if Dianna Ross was dating Mayor Hatcher then.  Likely she hadn’t yet arranged for all those talented people to transform the Jackson family into – The Jacksons.  Michael was still too little, as was Janet, when the band auditioned.  I’m older then both of them.  The song they played was not danceable.  Very weird beat.  

I was not impressed with the Jackson’s performance and neither was the others on my committee.  Which says a lot about our ability to recognize talent or about how much practice (and the right coaching) makes perfect.  Either way, we selected another band.  Can’t remember their name, can’t even remember the dance very well but I remember the Jacksons because within a very short time after this they were everywhere.  

Gary’s previous favorite sons were Karl Malden (who had gone to high school with my uncle) and George Karras, who’s brother owned the house next door to us and who I price gouged once but that’s another story.  Oh, Gary was also famous for the dumb song from the Music Man that repeats “Gary, Indiana.”   Gary was not known for music so your can imagine the city’s pride in the Jackson 5.  They performed a concert at Gleason Park, just 3 blocks from our home.  They sounded great that night.

Like the Jacksons, my husband and I left Gary to follow our dreams elsewhere.  I haven’t been back there since 2001 when my mom passed.  

When Michael Jackson died I was on a bus with fellow educators on I 75 south of Tampa coming back from visiting a then brand new state of the art community college that had been built out in the sticks.  It had been a tiring day and we were being driven back to where we had all parked our cars so we could go home.  A counselor who was sitting a few rows up had gotten a phone call and I heard her exclaim, “Oh, no. That’s …” and her words trailed off.  I knew she had an elderly mom and assumed something had happened to her.  The woman ended the conversation, rose from her seat and half standing, announced, “Michael Jackson is dead.”  

I couldn’t process this sentence.  How could he be dead?  He was younger than me.  Certainly my lifestyle was not as stressful nor did I make the life choices that he had but….. he was younger than me.  Certainly I had experienced in my lifetime the passing of those that were young – several fellow students, friends of the family, colleagues and neighbors’ children.  But Michael, well, he was bigger than life.  In my mind, he was permanently young and invincible.  My memory wasn’t of him after the numerous plastic surgeries.  I still remembered the little kid and I was stunned.

I told my husband as soon as I returned home that afternoon.  I reached the conclusion, on the drive home that day, that our preparation for death needed to occur.  So we scheduled an appointment with our attorney the following day and had our wills updated.  That was as far as we got – didn’t think further than that.

A few weeks ago I received a thick packet in the mail from a rural Indiana county.  I was delighted to examine the probate file of a couple I was writing about.  My delight soon turned to sadness as I read that the grown children had to come up with the money for the burial, repay the man’s debts and take in their mom, all due to the lack of planning on the couple’s part.  When the mom died several years later the kids again had to put their money together to make sure the burial was paid.

I don’t want that to be me.  Hubby and I discussed it and decided that he, too, was going to donate his body to science.  I’ve previously written about that so check out my blog Death and the Genealogist from 23 June.  He wants his cremains returned so that’s how we ended up at the cemetery last week.  

Burial is big business and expensive.  I am thrifty.  We reached our decision of where to be buried based on 

  • where we live – we wanted it close to this area that we’ve called home for many years, 
  • what the place will be like in the future – have experienced too many forgotten cemeteries so we wanted assurance there would be some level of maintenance
  • reasonably priced

That led us to a local city owned cemetery.  On the way there the song, Stairway to Heaven, played on the radio.  Had to snicker about “and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”

When we arrived we learned there was a problem (why is there always a problem?!).  The cemetery was running out of space.  We looked at the limited options and Hubby jokingly said it was kind of noisy, being right off the main street.  I laughed and reminded him we both grew up on main streets so it would be coming full circle.

In our community we can no longer be buried in ground.  Looking across the expanse I saw lots of empty space so I didn’t understand how there wasn’t much space left.  I was informed that many people didn’t have markers.  Lots of reasons for that – the cost, lack of planning, couldn’t decide, it aged and fell apart, and so on.

That made me really sad!  I recently did some client work and that was the case with the woman’s great grandma.  Buried between two of her children she was the only one with no marker.  The client was upset and said she was going to see that a marker was put up.  So I really wanted a marker

The cemetery employee said we could order the brass plaque now and they’d put the final dates, included in the price, on it later.  We sat in an office and looked at insignias to add to personalize the plaque and wasn’t real impressed.  Discovered my real first name, with my maiden and last name, is too long for the plaque so had to go with initial of my maiden name.  Can only put the year of birth and death and no relationship to each other.  Wow, so much for helping out a genealogist in the future.  I will be leaving in the cemetery file copies of our birth and marriage certificates and the obits for our parents so at the very least, if requested, the future inquirer will have a start of a paper trail.  Check to see if that’s available when you do your planning.

Yesterday, hubby and son were building a brick bbq grill in our backyard.  He had laid the cement foundation a long while ago but had never gotten around to finishing the project. Last night, he remarked about an idea that came to him when he was building.  I have to admit this is quite humorous to see how one’s mind works but here is the trail…. Building the bbq grill reminded him of my family stories about my grandmother’s house that had a bbq grill just like the one he was working on.  That led to him thinking about my mom who loved helping us with around the house projects and who would have loved to know that the crematorium had sent us a rebate after death because she had over paid.  That made him think about the cemetery we had just selected and the people who had no stones and why couldn’t inexpensive “stones” be used.  He recalled laying the cement for the bbq and he figured, if he could do it, anyone could and a cemetery base could be prefab and easy to install, too.  Always looking to recycle, why can’t someone use excess countertops, like Corian, and engrave the deceased’s name and dates, then affix it to the cement base?  I dunno!  Why can’t they?  Probably because there’s no money in it!  All I know is that as difficult and strange is the experience to select one’s final resting place for us, it’s done and we can happily live the rest of our lives knowing we planned til the end.  

Death and the Genealogist

Originally published on on 23 June 2016.

My friends and colleagues like to kid me about my genealogy passion and my organizational skills by asking if I’ve already written my own obituary.  My reply is always, “I haven’t – yet!”  I really will, though, and just might get a start on it this summer.  Although I wish my kids would write one like the son of a recently deceased woman’s did: “Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday,” the obituary read, which was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, May 17.”[1]  I’ll spare my children having to come up with something clever and will do it myself.  I plan on keeping it short but definitely not like this obituary, the shortest ever published:  “Doug died.”[2]  Perhaps a genealogists nightmare as there is so little information provided but it is telling about the gentleman’s personality.

I think it’s important to be prepared so that my living loved ones don’t have an added burden.  My mom had her will drawn and paid for her cremation more than 20 years before she passed.  I greatly appreciated that; her death was not unexpected as she had suffered with Alzheimers for many years but her loss was difficult for me, none the less. Her planning ahead made it much easier.
My mom was a product of the Great Depression and would have been very pleased when a small check was sent to me several weeks after her cremation – she had earned a rebate.  Perfect last business transaction!

Following in my mom’s lead, hubby and I have our wills done and our financials all up-to-date with our children able to pick up immediately when we’re gone.  What we haven’t done, however, is make a choice of a final resting place.  I want my body donated to science as I’ve spent my entire life in the educational realm and figure it’s a good way to end it . The process is called “silent teaching” which would be a first for me – teaching without opening my mouth.  I’d be happy to enhance a medical student’s education. Hubby has decided he wants to do that, too, but still wants our remains together after the students are done.

Unfortunately, some states have little to no standards regarding cadaver “donations” so if you’re thinking about it, make sure you’ve thoroughly investigated the laws where you reside.

When I write “donations” I need to clarify, too, that the donor is paying for some of the costs.  This is not a free burial.  In fact, some organizations will only take embalmed bodies with that cost incurred as a responsibility of the donor.  The (c)remains may or may not be returned to the family.  If they are, there is a cost involved there, as well.

Since hubby wants a standard burial I figure we’ll get one plot and do a two for one!  We have set up a meeting next week with our city cemetery to get additional information.
Then we have to decide on the marker.  Wow, designing a tombstone is a whole other area where I get to be creative!  Click to view some genealogist epitaphs I came across this week.

Thinking about tombstones led me to ponder about the discoveries we make on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves.  For example, I know I have a distant cousin buried in a cemetery but the family couldn’t afford a stone so there is no visible sign of the interment.  The individual has a memorial on Find-A-Grave but no place of burial is listed.  That will be problematic for future genealogists!

I have also found a family member who has two stones in two different cemeteries.  Since obviously one cannot be buried in two places at one time there’s a problem here!  Turns out that the first stone was inscribed with the name and birthdate of the individual while married to wife 1.  Individual decided after marrying wife 2 to be buried elsewhere.  Without checking the cemetery records you don’t know for sure where the individual was buried. Yet another reason to seek more than online sources!

Do your descendants a favor and leave no genealogy mysteries about your life!



A Serendipitous Burial Location

Originally published on on 5 Nov 2015.

In my last blog I wrote about how I felt after getting “a sign” regarding my decision as to where to inter my mom’s cremains.   Today, I want to let you know about a serendipitous burial location for my mom’s best friend:

My mom met Helen when we relocated to Florida in 1973.  The two worked together at Montgomery Wards and shared many common interests.

After my mom died, I continued to send Helen, who had left the area, Christmas cards with an update on my family.

In early July of this year, I received the email below:


Just wanted to let you know that my Mother passed away on the 21st.  She was 89 years old and was as ready as anyone could be to go home to Jesus.  

 My wife and I are going through her things at our house and I’ve noticed cards from you for many years.  I’m not sure exactly who you are or what church you went to but it seems you and my mother were close at one time or the other… 



(Note to self:  Remember to keep your old email addresses forwarded to whatever you’re currently using so people can still connect!)

I emailed Bill and explained my relationship with his mom.  We corresponded back and forth via email discussing ways he could preserve his mom’s many pictures and mementos.  Unfortunately, by the time we connected, he had tossed out the many letters my mom had sent Helen.  As he continued to go through his mother’s belongings he discovered a clipping his mom had kept of my marriage announcement in the newspaper and he sent it to me.

In genealogy we don’t often think about family friends as retaining our family information but seeing that clipping reminded me of the importance of checking outside the immediate family for records, too!

About a month after his first email, Bill sent me the following:

“We finished up cleaning out my Mother’s apartment yesterday and that is a relief.  We’ve been going through her things when we can and it is so difficult as she had re-organized to a method we are not familiar with.  Things from the 20’s next to a package from some charity asking for money from recent years.  Just trying to organize the photos is tough enough.

The funeral went very well.. I’m sure there haven’t been many like it.  The kids were all very supportive during her time in the hospital and hospice.     I’m attaching the story [that was] read and my mothers Testimony.  Also pictures of her miracle cups.  She was convinced her cups could make a difference to someone so I am attempting to follow through with her wishes. Please forward parts that are interesting to you to anyone you would like….  

We were going to record the service but after we saw the samples we realized that some memories should remain just that. …

My mother was engaged to one of the neighbors in 1981 (John)  after my Dad died in 1978 .  They were going to get married on the day after he actually died of a cerebral hemorrhage.    It was a sad time for her but it was life changing, again.  She ended up housekeeping and baby sitting for his Son and Daughter in Law in Miami. She did that for a while and they moved to Orlando.  She decided to stay and get her own apartment. Several years passed and money was an issue and the neighborhood was changing.  At that point I asked her to come back and stay with us while I was working.     She moved back in with the couple again and raised their kids through the teen years in Orlando.   [Then  we] found her an Apartment in a 55+ complex.   She said she had never been happier! 

Anyway, the point of the background:  During the service her deceased fiance’s son told me that his father’s Crypt was right over there and pointed to the first section of the Mausoleum that was very close.  Talk about shivers going down your spine!   We had absolutely no idea it was within view although I have a vague memory that my mother said that he was buried somewhere in the place.  I know she had no idea!  She had no sense of direction at all!  We picked out the place and only had her over to approve of it.  It is such a beautiful place.  Our “ashes” bench is right next to her.  We put my fathers urn and his dogs urn in with my mother.    When we asked her in the hospital if it was OK she just showed indifference.  Perhaps his religious beliefs were a factor?  If she would have known that John was laid out in sight I don’t know what the answer would have been……………. “

So dear readers, what is the probability of a family member purchasing a cemetery plot for their loved one and only discovering at the funeral that “We had no idea that John was buried in direct sight of our area……………   It was so nice that we actually went there and had lunch a couple of times on our bench with my mother.  I think she really enjoyed it there.  If she would have known her beloved John was right in view” All I can say is, WOW!

And the last email I received from Bill ties in his mom and my mom’s messages from beyond using butterflies:

“Speaking of Butterflies:  The following is an excerpt from my mother’s “Book of Miracles”.  

“I flew from Miami to St. Petersburg to visit my son and family for Mothers Day.  I told Bill that I would like to go to church as a family on Sunday.  I enjoyed church, and afterwards, we went out to eat.  It was a lovely day.  When we got back to the house we sat on the back porch for a while.

A butterfly landed on my hand and stayed there for a long time.  I could move my hand back and forth, up and down, and it still stayed there.  Finally, it flew to Bill’s hand , then to the children’s hands, one by one.  Then back to me it flew.  After it had visited each of us, it flew back to the shed and stayed there a long time.   It came out about the same time every day that I was there.  When I left, they never saw the butterfly again.”  

Butterflies seem to be a metaphor for life in some way.  So beautiful but so short a time..”
My mom had died shortly before this visit.  Was the butterfly visitor a message from my mom to Helen?  Doubters will say it is all a meaningless coincidence and psychologists will explain humans need to seek meaning in life, especially during a stressful time.  Those are two explanations but I prefer to believe that there is a lot of knowledge yet undiscovered and that we may one day better understand events beyond current explanation.

Butterflies and Flowers – A Mother’s Message of Love From Beyond

Originally published on on 1 Nov 2015.

I’ve been blogging about synchronicity – those meaningful coincidences that occur – and genealogy. I’m going to blog about events that I cannot explain but held a powerful message to my immediate family and I. Here’s what happened.

First, a little background information.  I am an only child and was extremely close to my mother. Today is All Saint’s Day, and although my mom won’t be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, she’s the closest person I’ve ever known that espoused the characteristics of a saint.  An uneducated, single mom at a time when the world did not look favorably on divorce, my mom always put my needs and wants above her own.  A hard worker, she never complained about her lot in life and always spoke up for the underdog. Material things were of no interest to her. She preferred to be outside, enjoying nature, or reading a book.  She especially loved butterflies and could spend hours watching them dance among the flowers.

In January of my 2nd grade I contracted rubella.  I remember feeling hot, tired and itchy shortly after returning home from Sunday 9:30 AM Mass.  Mom asked me what what wrong and I didn’t know; I just didn’t feel well.  Mom and grandma decided I didn’t look well and needed to lay down.  The next thing I remember was a few days later.  I awoke and heard crying.  I felt wonderful, better than I had ever felt.  I was happy and light and filled with joy!  The crying didn’t sadden me in the least but I was curious as to who was upset and why.  It was my mother who was being hugged by my grandmother.  They were standing in the hallway outside of my bedroom.  My grandmother was speaking in Croatian, caressing my mother’s head and saying, “Doro, I’m so sorry.  I know.  Ssh Ssh.  It’s in God’s hands.”  What was in God’s hands?  It was then that I realized I was a part from my body.  I was somehow above my body, still in my bedroom but I was at the ceiling level and could see through the closed door.  Looking around, I could see myself lying in bed, covered with a quilt.  I wasn’t afraid. Instead, I was delighted that I was seeing from a different perspective.  I discovered I could move by just thinking so I decided to explore.  I moved so quickly, I call it zipping, that I soon found myself outside of my bedroom.  I could see my school a block away.  It was night and the stars were twinkling.  There was snow on the ground and the trees were bare of leaves but I wasn’t cold.  I tried to look at my hands and feet but could see nothing.  I was invisible.  Then, I saw a path of light.  I felt drawn to it.  As I came closer I noticed that there were many “stars”, little pinpricks of light that were also following along the lighted path.  I joined them but was halted by a voice.  The voice was kindly and although I call it a voice, there was no sound made.  Rather, the words were understood without noise.  The message I received asked if I was ready.  I knew what that meant.  Was I ready to move from this life to the next.  I wanted to badly because I felt so wonderful BUT I could still hear my mother crying.  My mental reply was that I couldn’t go forward as that choice would destroy her.  Instantly, I found myself back in bed with a thud.  I was heavy and hot and congested and itchy and miserable.  I regretted my decision.  I cried out and my mother and grandmother rushed in the room.  They helped me sit up and brought me a cold glass of water.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been in a coma for several hours.  A classmate who’s dad was a doctor lived down the street.  Dr. Lorenty had been summoned to check on me and had left moments before I “awoke.”  He had told my mother that there was nothing he could do and to prepare for my death. After my decision to live I made a quick recovery.  So quick, in fact, that my regular physician, Dr. Fadell,  called it miraculous.  I knew it was no miracle; I was being prepared for First Communion so I considered to be an example of free will.  I had survived because I chose to do so.

The problem was no one would listen to what I experienced.  When I first told my mom I chose to live because she was so upset she looked aghast.  She asked me to never talk about my experience again.  My grandmother was the one who told me about the physician visit.  Grandma also said to not mention what happened as people wouldn’t understand.  I did as they requested and only my husband and children knew the story, until today.

Because of that experience I have never feared death.

Unfortunately, my great grandmother, maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, several aunts, mother and father experienced extremely slow deaths from Alzheimer’s.  For those of you that have had a loved one touched by that horrible disease you understand why I say it’s a slow death.  Each of the individuals I mentioned was ravaged in a different way.  My great grandmother became childlike. She would coo to my dolls believing they were her children.  My grandmother talked to pictures and the television, insisting they were communicating directly to her.  My father and a maternal aunt stopped communicating entirely.  My mother, however, fought the disease until the end. She volunteered to take part in a University of South Florida study as she wanted researchers to discover an effective treatment so other families wouldn’t have to go through the hardship.  The double blind study did not allow us to know if the experimental drug mom received was a placebo or not.  We learned at the study’s conclusion that she had been given an early version of Aricept.  Not a cure, it did allow her to probably live independently longer than she would have.  I say probably because one can never know for sure but that view is in comparison to all the other family members who had not been given the medication.

When Mom broke her hip and was confined to a wheel chair she showed my kids how she had learned to pop wheelies.  She always knew who the immediate family was but she had difficulty in knowing who was living and who wasn’t.  She insisted her deceased sister and mother had visited the night before and she would relay their messages to us.  We would kid her that what she needed to let us know were the lotto numbers so we could win.  She did not find that amusing.  Instead, she always said she would send a message via butterfly that she was fine after her death.

When she lost the ability to swallow I wished that she would make the choice to end the suffering. Shortly after the terrible events of September 11th, mom passed away.

The Sunday after my mother’s death I told my family that I wanted to take a long walk on the beach.  My mother loved Honeymoon Isle so that is where I headed.  This is what I wrote after I returned home from the beach:

“On Sunday, October 7, 2001 I decided to take my walk on Honeymoon Island Beach early in the day as [my family] and I had decided to have a family memorial service for my mother in the afternoon, followed by a lamb dinner at Hella’s Restaurant in Tarpon Springs, FL, as lamb was always a traditional food used in the family during times of celebration. Although we were greatly saddened at the loss of mom/grandma, we were rejoicing that her invalid condition was over as she was of independent spirit during most of her lifetime and she hated being confined to a wheelchair. 

I often walk the 2 miles to the island point and the 2 miles back as quickly as I can for aerobic exercise and I enjoy the walk solo as others in the family have difficulty in maintaining my pace. I also enjoy the solitude of the beach as the area is often deserted.  This Sunday morning I left the house shortly after 9 AM with my pedometer on, ready for a brisk walk in the cool morning air. 

The beach was more populated than usual but most people were elderly, using canes or each other for support and congregating near the bath house. In 4 minutes, I had walked a quarter of a mile, leaving most of the people behind me. It was near the quarter mile mark when I first noticed a yellow carnation. With each few steps I encountered more and more flowers – all varieties and colors – roses, mums, daisies – in yellows, pinks, reds and whites. My initial thought was that someone had had a wedding on the beach the day before but I soon dismissed that as I noticed that the flowers must have come ashore from the gulf as they were wrapped in sea grass. The thought that crossed my mind was that someone must have had a wonderful party on a ship the evening before but the flowers were so fresh that I dismissed this, too. They were not onshore in clumps, either, but strewn almost an equal distance apart and alternating in type and color. By the 3/4 marker the oppressive fragrance of roses overcame me. I looked around to try to find the source. Nothing close by was blooming, only the sea oats which had gone to seed bent their heads in the wind. I could find no source for the odor which permeated and seemed to follow me as I walked. It reminded me of the smell that we would occasionally come across in our last house. That, too, had never been explained but it always seemed to follow a crisis of some sort and soon after, better times returned. This led me to think about my mother and I thought that perhaps I was mistaken in calling the cemetery [up north] and that maybe I should have my mother’s ashes spread in the gulf as she had mentioned once. I thought that the flowers might be from a ceremony of that type. 

At the one mile marker I noticed the only yellow rose. Being my favorite flower, it made me smile. When I looked up I caught a glimpse of something flying over the water out of the corner of my left eye. At first I thought it was a sandpiper but as it flew I realized that it had a different movement. That’s when I realized it was a butterfly – a huge brown and reddish colored butterfly the likes of which I had never seen. I stopped immediately and thought that I was hallucinating. My mother loved butterflies, the beach, flowers, and me. All of a sudden the symbolism struck me. I took out my cell phone and called [my husband] because I couldn’t believe I was really seeing these things. The number was busy. I tried again, it was still busy. I decided he must be surfing the net. (This was the days of dial up connections)  It was then that I realized that the butterfly hadn’t moved forward but was merely fluttering up and down over the waves. I said, “Mom?” and with that the butterfly moved towards me on the beach a little but continued north. I followed. The sky became dark, thunderheads mushroomed in the north and west. The waves and wind increased in strength. I spoke to the butterfly of things that had remained unsaid. At one point it came onto the beach and I again stopped. I reached out my hand but it remained just out of reach. I followed the butterfly almost to the end of the island where it crossed the small strip of sand and headed towards the bay. The sky had become even more turbulent and I feared that I wouldn’t make it back to the car safely. Even so, I stood transfixed, I couldn’t let the sight of the butterfly go just yet. The butterfly flew off across the bay. The sky in the east was bright blue and the morning sun glinted off the crest of the waves, leaving dancing lights. I watched until I saw the butterfly dip down into one wave and become a spark of light. I let out a cry, knowing that I would never see the butterfly again. I looked at my watch. 15 minutes had passed from beginning to end. I began to walk back to the car. As soon as I crossed the small slip of land to walk back along the water’s edge I came across a whole shell. It was the type that my mother often collected and prized – a large clam shell, opened but still intact. I reached down and picked it up.

When I reached the 1 mile mark I picked up the yellow rose as proof of what had happened. It was too unbelievable and I wanted to have something tangible to show. Stranger still, was that every flower was gone upon my return – only 4 remained – all yellow, my mother’s favorite color – and strewn at each of the remaining mile markers (3/4, 1/2 and 1/4). Next was a mum, the type of flower my mother used to buy for [my husband] occasionally as she felt it was appropriate for a man. Someone [although there didn’t appear to be anyone else on the beach ahead of me] had stuck it standing straight up in my path. At first I passed it, leaving it as it had begun to drizzle but something insisted that I retrieve it so I went back about 20 steps and collected it. Then I came upon the first and second carnations, the flowers she sometimes bought for the kids. I stopped and picked them up, too. Stems, leaves and an occasional petal remained of the other flowers but nothing more. It began to pour by the time I reached the last flower. I walked back to the car and really don’t remember much of anything as I think I was in shock. I came home, [my husband] made me a cup of hot British tea and I related what had transpired. 

Later that afternoon, on our drive to Hella’s [Restaurant], we were a few blocks from the sponge docks and [my husband] mentioned the fact that in all the years we have lived in Florida and as frequently as we go to the beach (almost daily in the summer and at least 2-3 times during the rest of the year), we have never seen a butterfly on the gulf, nor come across flowers strewn as they had [been that morning]. Usually you come across the remains of a bouquet still intact but nothing of this magnitude and never with the strong odor that had come, too. Just then, out of right side in front of the car a monarch butterfly flew. We all saw it and I said, “Look at the monarch.” Instantly it disappeared. We have no explanation for any of these events. Lori Samuelson 10-8-01″

Although these occurrences are odd, another strange encounter was yet to happen.

My mother had prearranged to be cremated but she had never decided on what to do with her cremains. Whenever I’d ask the response was, “Whatever you like.”  Once she mentioned being scattered in the gulf but another time she mentioned being interred in the family plot in Indiana.  After the beach event I was torn about what to do.  I decided to go with the cemetery and arranged for the cremains to be interred during our winter break from school.  It was my daughter’s senior year and as she had taken days off to visit colleges, she had no more excused absences available.  We drove to northern Indiana on Christmas Day with mom in the trunk.  The Memorial Service was to be held the morning of the 26th.  When we arrived at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana we were told that a snowstorm was forecast and that the ground might be too hard for the internment.  I was devastated.  Maybe mom didn’t want to be buried.  Maybe I should just take her ashes back to Florida.  The clerk told us to wait inside the office and she’s speak with the workers. There were only 2 chairs in the office so I sunk into one.  I was sadly staring at the floor when I heard my daughter say, “Look, it’s grandma.”  Looking up, I saw a monarch butterfly soar across the counter and land on my daughter’s arm.  I burst into tears.  My husband said, “Amazing.”  A moment later the clerk returned and said that the workman were able to dig the hole and we were ready to begin the interment.  The clerk looked at my tears and smiled.  I couldn’t find words to explain that the tears weren’t of sadness but of knowing that my mom was okay and that the decision I made was fine.  My husband tried to explain.  The clerk said that once in awhile butterflies just show up in the office, probably came in with flowers.  That may be but a monarch in northern Indiana in late December will always be seen by me as a final message from my mom.