Losing your mother is never easy. It doesn't matter how old you are or how old they are, she will always be your mom. Donald Mink experienced this loss back in February when his 77-year-old passed away. She was in a hospice in North Dakota, but her home town was all the way in Indiana. Her son thought that would be the best to bring her home to be laid to rest.
He intended to have his mother cremated in North Dakota and then shipped to Indiana so she could be buried between her own parent's graves. He started the process and paid the $65 fee to ship his mother's remains to her home town, but that's where things went wrong.
Mary Louise Mink's remains were shipped on February 28th. They were expected to arrive at their destination within two days, but Donald Mink never received the package.
When he called the crematory to see why his package hadn't arrived yet, Mink was left with more questions then answers. "His exact words were, ‘The post office is supposed to get a hold of you.’ I was like, why? ‘Well, they’re going to call you and explain everything to you, and they’re going to make it right,’" Mink recalled.
He was forced to go in between the post office and the crematory, with both sides telling different stories. The crematory claimed that they weren't allowed to give out the tracking number, but the post office said that wasn't true. Eventually, after many phone calls, one of the crematory employees said that “I didn’t want to be the one to tell you but your mom’s remains have been lost.”
He was finally able to look up the tracking number online and found that it was listed as "Dead Mail".
This is when Mink launched a lawsuit against the postal service...
The website had a message that stated “Your item could not be delivered or returned to the sender. It is being forwarded to a USPS mail recovery center where it will be processed.” But that wasn't good enough. He filed a complaint and got a lawyer who was able to get a copy of the envelope the last time it was seen.
At that point the envelope that the urn had been place inside was ripped and empty. The Postal Service recommends that an urn should be sent in a box, not an envelope. Mink's lawyer used that and the fact that they did not include a full return address as evidence that they didn't properly package the remains.
“Not only are Donald and Mary’s other family members unable to complete the process of saying their final farewell by laying Mary to rest, they must struggle daily with the knowledge that Mary’s remains are lost,” Mink's attorney Stephen Welle said. “Mary Mink’s remains have not been handled in a dignified manner and my clients have suffered severe emotional distress as a result.”
Mink sued the crematory for $1 million for negligence. The Postal Service denied the complaint of negligence, saying that the Federal Tort Claims Act protects them from such lawsuits.
While the Postal Service claims to be continuing the search for the missing remains, Mink is still unsatisfied. “It’s ridiculous that they tell me that my mother’s remains are just missing mail,” Mink said. “It may be to them but it’s more than that to me and my family.”
Mink continued to speak out while the lawsuit was in process, and it ended up getting him in trouble. After he said that the crematory "didn't know what they were doing", and they threatened to sue unless he retract his statement. Mink refused and continued to fight back, but his lawyer decided to leave the case.
In July, a decision was reached by the attorney general's office and they ruled in favor of the crematory. But one good thing has come out of this is. They are trying to update the shipping regulations for situations like this. They now emphasize that a box is required to ship cremated remains, and there are stricter regulations for the labeling on the outside and inside of the box.
As for Mink, all he can do is wait. The Postal Service claims to be looking, but he doesn't have much faith.