My dad, Walter Lee McCrarey, grew up in Memphis. My grandfather was a riverboat captain, and like him, my dad loved the Mississippi. Dad also spent most of his adult life sailing the oceans of the world with the U.S. Merchant Marine. In fact, he first went to sea at the age of 15 in 1942 serving on the freighters carrying precious war cargo to the UK.
Dad wasn’t a particularly religious man, nor did he have much sentimentality regarding his mortal remains. Many times he reminded us that it wouldn’t make a whit of difference to him if we threw his dead body on the curb when he gone. Instead, we donated his body to the University of South Carolina Medical School in accordance with his wishes. When the medical students were done with him, he was cremated and the ashes were returned to the family.
Well, I was mindful of the fact that he didn’t want any big deal made of his remains, but I nevertheless had a box of “cremains” staying in my house and I wasn’t satisfied with that arrangement. In consultation with my brothers, it was decided to place some of the ashes at mom’s grave site (she was sentimental that way) and the rest would be deposited in the Mississippi river where they would eventually make their way to sea, just as he had so many years ago. And so that’s just what we did.
Dad (standing, 3rd from left) with some of his buddies on a fishing expedition. I’d like to imagine it was near the same spot on the river where we deposited his ashes.
Dad in his early days with the Merchant Marine.
In his later years at sea he was still keeping those big engines turning…
And he never lost his love for the open sea.
Brother Keith carrying dad’s remains to the riverside.
This is the spot we picked to say our final goodbyes.
Keith recited one of dad’s favorite poems:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
And then we poured him into the muddy waters of the Mississippi river.
So we said our goodbyes in the best way we knew how. And then we went on with the business of living.
Time, beckoning me
Goodbye my love,
Till it’s gone forever
Goodbye my friends,
Till it’s gone forever
Places I Go
John McCrarey: That's the plan. It