MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And now, a story from Washington state; a story about one family's unexpected odyssey. Seventy-three-year-old Kevin O'Grady had recently died in Seattle, where one of his two daughters lives. She mailed her father's ashes across the state to her sister, Katy, in Spokane. That's where their father, an Air Force veteran, was to be buried with military honors.
But after several days, Katy had yet to receive the ashes.
KATY O'GRADY: So I was calling post office after post office, just devastated, trying to find where my dad is. Where is my dad? Finally, probably the fifth or sixth or seventh person that I spoke to - there is your dad, there he is. Oh, we found him. He's over in Pennsylvania.
BLOCK: Katy O'Grady says the post office did not know what went wrong or when his remains would make it home. With his military honors ceremony quickly approaching, Katy called her sister in Seattle, to tell her their father was 3,000 miles away.
O'GRADY: I remember her saying, are you kidding me, are you serious? I said, but just think about it - where is Pennsylvania? And she paused for a minute and she goes, back east. I said, where has dad always wanted to go. She goes...
O'GRADY: ...back east.
BLOCK: Their dad was an Illinois native and a history buff who never got to journey back east, until now. His posthumous trip across the U.S. included a stop in Philadelphia.
O'GRADY: He landed where the Liberty Bell is. And he could have told you everything you could have ever needed to know about the Liberty Bell. His next stop was New Jersey. And then on his way back, he crossed through pretty much every state he could have ever possibly wanted to go through.
BLOCK: Meanwhile, Kevin O'Grady's honors ceremony was held without him. Nearly a week later, the post office delivered his ashes, which Katy took to the veteran's cemetery in Spokane for a quiet burial. What happened there took her by surprise.
O'GRADY: Another service was going on at that time, but you couldn't see it. And right as I kissed my dad goodbye and the gentleman places him in the ground, guns go off and then "Taps" starts playing. And because it's just open field up there, it surrounds you - like it was specifically made just for him.
I believe my dad was there. He was like, it's OK, kid - I got this.
BLOCK: Katy O'Grady is still awaiting a full explanation from the U.S. Postal Service. But she thinks her dad would be happy with the mishap, for finally getting his trip back east.
O'GRADY: He got it - on the U.S. Postal Service's dime. (LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.