Facebook connects people all over the world and from all different time frames in a person’s life. Now, in the case of one Madison Heights man, Facebook is responsible for reuniting a family with a father in the afterlife.
Christy Sanchez, who lives on the military base Fort Hood in Texas, was cleaning a vacant rental home during the first week of March when she made a shocking discovery: a small box containing ashes was on top of the refrigerator.
“It was just kinda tucked up there,” says Sanchez, who owns the The Maid Brigade, a cleaning business that caters to military families. “When I first saw it, I was like, ‘What in the world?’ ”
The label on the box read: Michael Thompson: February 23, 2008. Inside the box was a small portion of his cremated remains.
At first, Sanchez called the woman who had recently rented the house. “She said, ‘Oh my goodness, no,’ ” Sanchez said. “I think she was little creeped out about it, so I told her, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.’ ”
The search turned out to be a little more than Sanchez bargained for. At one point the rumor mill on base was spreading the story that Sanchez had found a dead body, which then became body parts.
“My husband’s command then began questioning my neighbors,” Sanchez said. “It turned into a pretty hot mess.”
In jest, Sanchez says she began talking to the ashes:
“I was like, ‘Listen now, Michael, you better get your act together. I don’t know what you did during your lifetime, but I don’t need your bad juju following me around me anymore.’ ”
Social media aids in search
Sanchez turned to Facebook to help her search for Thompson’s family. Two weeks ago, she posted a photo of the box of ashes with this message: “I recently found this hidden in a house. Can all my friends share till we can find the next of kin, please.”
More than 500 people contacted her, she says, so many that she had to temporarily shut down her Facebook account.
Last week, employees at Southern Michigan Services, the Royal Oak crematorium listed on the box, were deluged with phone calls. Their records showed William Sullivan Funeral Home in Royal Oak handled Thompson’s services. Funeral director Sherry A. Marshall said they were equally inundated with well-meaning Facebook users who wanted to help locate the deceased man’s family.
“I think that Facebook post must have gone around the world,” Marshall said.
Marshall’s records showed that Thompson’s next of kin, Carol Thompson, died last October. So Marshall contacted Carol Thompson’s daughter, Rebecca Maxon (Mike Thompson’s stepdaughter), who lives in Macomb County. Maxon then reached out to Christy Sanchez. At about the same time, Sanchez had heard from Carrie Wilson, Thompson’s daughter from his first marriage.
When she was told her father ashes surfaced in a vacant home in Texas, Wilson, who lives in Waterloo, New York, said she wasn’t surprised.
“My dad was always taking off and then reappearing when we growing up,” Wilson says. “He’s done this all his life.”
He found love again
Carrie Wilson also is a military wife, which explains why her dad’s ashes wound up in Fort Hood.
“But I never lived in the house where they were found,” said Wilson, who moved from Texas to New York in January 2013. Her share of her father’s ashes is one of seven boxes shared among the family. “It’s typical because he was in and out of jail while me and my brothers were growing up,” she said. “Rebecca got the good memories with my dad. We didn’t get the good memories.”
Rebecca Maxon said while Thompson nay not have been a model citizen, in his last years of life he was very much in love with her mother. The two had dated when Carol Wells (her maiden name) and Thompson attended Madison High School together.
Decades later, they connected again and were married in 2006. Carol was 51 and Thompson was 52. Maxon said they both worked through a temporary agency taking odd jobs to stay afloat during the recession. “Mike had tried to stop drinking many times, but sometimes the disease wins out.” And he would still disappear for one or two days at a time. “He was a drifter, but we got used to it,” Maxon said. “It was just how Mike was; he really needed to be alone and have that solitude.”
What’s most important is that “they really did love each other very much,” Maxon said.
“Mom had a big heart, she always rooted for the underdog,” Maxon said. “Mike was always kind to the family and did his best to get along with my mom’s grown children. He would have done anything for her.”
On Feb. 13, 2008, Thompson went to a 7-11 to get tobacco; he rolled his own cigarettes. He stepped behind the dumpster to roll a cigarette for the walk home when he had an epileptic seizure, hit his head and died.
After Thompson died in 2008, Carol Thompson had a hard time coping, her daughter said. She died six years later of complications of liver disease while awaiting a donor liver.
When her mother died, Rebecca Maxon assumed ownership of the bulk of Thompson’s ashes, his flag from his military service and some photos. So last week she packed everything up and sent it to Christy Sanchez in Texas. Sanchez is adding the ashes she found and sending them to Carrie Wilson in New York. Wilson said all of her father’s remains will then be sent to a cemetery in Arkansas where he will be laid to rest with his mother.
“It’s where he needs to be” Wilson said.“Maybe then he really will rest in peace.”