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'It's been a long road': Billings widow finally holds her husband's lost remains

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Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 10:26:12-04

A Billings woman can finally get closure and plan her late husband’s military memorial after his remains were finally returned back home after they were lost in the mail for two months.

On Monday morning, a carrier with the United States postal service dropped off a cardboard box with the remains of Donald Tyler at the Billings residence of his wife, Christine Tyler.

Tyler had been waiting since March to get the remains in her possession to plan a memorial service for Don, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam.

“It's been a long road, you know,” Tyler said as she waited for package to arrive.

Billings woman finally receives husband's cremains in mail

The Tylers were visiting Spain and Portugal in March. The couple takes an overseas trip every year and were celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary.

However, Don became ill while in Spain and later died after hospital officials told Christine he contracted COVID-19.

When Don’s cremains landed back in the United States, Christine lost track of the shipment in Chicago. The cremains were finally found Saturday in the back corner of a mail center in Chicago, she said.

Both of Montana’s U.S. senators, Jon Tester and Steve Daines, assisted in tracking down the remains. Tyler said she got a call from Daines explaining the urn would be on an accelerated track back to Montana.

Christine’s routine mail carrier showed up at her home Monday morning and apologized for how long it took for the remains to get home.

Christine, with tear-filled eyes, replied with a “thank you” to the man and clenched the box tight, saying: ”He’s here. He’s finally here.”

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However, as she unwrapped the box, she was shocked to find the urn was badly broken.

“It's in a gazillion pieces,” she said.

Now that Don’s remains are back home, Christine says she’s going to try and figure out her next step. She says she’s barely had time to grieve the loss of her husband and hasn’t been able to nail down funeral arrangements because of the uncertainty surrounding his remains.

“Maybe I can eat, maybe I can sleep,” she said. “Maybe I can start figuring out what my new normal is.”

But she wants to make sure no one has to wait like she did.

“I’m not one to just zip it, I’m not. They don’t know me,” she said. “Hopefully I can fix something, change something, do something.”

Christine is planning a July 31 memorial for Don with military honors.

Related: 'No veteran should be treated this way': Billings woman searches for husband's remains
Related: Billings veteran's cremains found and 'coming back home' after getting lost in mail