When my grandmother died in 1986, she was cremated and the ashes brought to my parents home. For some unknown reason, my parents did not have her ashes buried, and they sat in a box, sometimes not even in the house but in their garage, for nearly 26 years. This is how she was finally laid to rest:
In 2008, my sister Mary’s younger son, Brian, through his college, had a semester abroad in Hungary, specifically the city of Budapest. Hungary happens to be our place of ancestry, as our parents, and my grandmother, were born there. My parents came to the U.S., along with my older brother, in about 1949 and Grandma Anna came in about 1951. So Mary and her husband decided to visit Brian that April, and to combine that trip with a visit to our relatives there.
Mary had never been to Hungary and it was a thrill for her to meet many family members and to visit places of family history. One relative she met was my Aunt Rozsi (the “zs” is pronounced like the “s” in the English word closure), later to play a part in this story.
On their return, my husband Tom and I were infected with Mary’s excitement about her visit to Hungary. We decided that we would also go, along with our children. It sounded like a good time to introduce the children (not to mention Tom) to my background, while they were both still at home. So we made our plans to visit that very same year.
Meanwhile, Mary had the brilliant idea that we should take Grandma’s ashes to Hungary and perhaps we’d be able to have her buried in the land of her birth. I researched the laws online regarding carrying human ashes on an airplane, but the question of legality was a bit unclear. It did not seem, however, that any serious trouble would occur. We did have the official paper stating that the box contained human remains. Still, I was unsure and decided to keep the ashes in my checked-in luggage so that during carry-on inspection, it would not become an issue.
Well, we did get through without any incident, and arrived in Hungary with the ashes still in my suitcase. We had let the relatives in Budapest know ahead of time that we might bring Grandma’s ashes. When we got to Budapest and met my Aunt Rozsi, we told her about the ashes. She enthusiastically agreed to see what she could do about arranging a burial.
My Aunt Rozsi is an incredible woman. In her late sixties or early seventies, she was still full of energy and did not hesitate to be out at night in the city of Budapest, moving about easily on public transportation. She is a short little woman who takes copious pictures of people, sometimes to their annoyance, but she is totally lovable.
So, while we were out touring the city one day, Aunt Rozsi spent the entire day arranging for a pre-ceremony, for the burial, and for a church service to follow. This involved a lot of bureaucracy, because my Grandma’s ex-husband, next to whom she would be buried, had a special cemetery plot, apparently protected by the writer’s union to which he had belonged. Not only that, but to coordinate the many people involved, official and unofficial, was a momentous task.
Well, she pulled it off! If I recall correctly, it was the next day or two days later that the funeral was scheduled! At least 10 or 15 relatives came, one from perhaps 50 miles away. It was a beautiful time, followed by a luncheon attended by everyone in Hungary who could participate.
We owe a great debt to Aunt Rozsi. Grandma was finally laid to rest, after 26 years. Rest in peace, Grandma.