"It's just unfathomable!" Grandfather's ashes get lost in mail

Donald Pickering, 88, passed away in July in Nebraska
DIX HILLS, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island woman is distraught and outraged after her grandfather's ashes got lost in the mail

Donald Pickering, 88, passed away in July from complications of dementia in his hometown of Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Laura Helfner said his dying wish was that his ashes be buried next to his wife, and so the funeral home sent the ashes to Helfner in Dix Hills.

But she says the box was battered and ripped open when it arrived, and the urn and the ashes were gone.

"I was pretty shocked when I came home in anticipation of him arriving, and I came home to see the box," she said. "And then the box was torn to shreds. And not only was it torn to shreds, it was empty."

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Taped to the box was a note from the postmaster expressing regret for the damaged package and apologizing for any "inconvenience."

"It's just unfathomable, and it just makes you feel terrible," she said. "To think that something could have been done differently, if someone would have just noticed that the box was ripped and looked around when it happened, you know, maybe they wouldn't have delivered an empty destroyed box on my doorstep containing nothing."

She received the package Thursday, and more than a day later, no one can explain how it happened or where the urn could possibly be.

"It was almost worse than receiving a call that he had passed away, because now he's just gone," she said. "And the carelessness. When you see this thing, it, it shows the lack of thought, the lack of care, for something that you care so deeply about."

Helfner had planned to return to Nebraska to fulfill her grandfather's wishes in the spring, when she hoped the coronavirus pandemic will have subsided.

"He had a plot next to my grandmother, who he loved for many years, was the only love of his life, and his last wish was to be buried next to her," she said. "So I was going back home in the spring to accomplish that...I'm not sure what happened right now, but hopefully we can find him and still lay them together."

The urn departed Nebraska City on August 19 and was processed through Des Moines, Iowa, before arriving in Jersey City, New Jersey, on August 24.

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It remained there for two days before being shipped to Helfner.

Eyewitness News has reached out to the Postal Service for comment, but so far, we have not heard back.

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