Carol Lalonde knew something was amiss when she returned home Christmas Eve to an unlocked door. She soon learned a television, computer and jewellery box had been stolen.
But it was another missing item that left the 77-year-old in tears – the thief made off with her late husband's ashes.
"You feel as though you've been robbed of some part of you, like 58 years of marriage," she said from her Delta, B.C., home.
Ms. Lalonde is pleading with the thief to return the remains in what, strangely, appears to be one of three Lower Mainland urn thefts in less than a week. Police say the urns, often made of precious metals, can represent valuable booty for robbers. The thefts don't appear to be related, the only tie being the perceived value of the ornate containers.
The Lalonde urn was silver and, in its style, unique: To commemorate Laurence Lalonde's love of Canada's national pastime, it was shaped like a hockey puck.
Mr. Lalonde passed away in October, 2010. His wife remembers the 32-year military man as generally composed and serious, though he had an affinity for joke-telling. Mr. Lalonde, who was 77 when he died, was also an avid sports fan and played hockey for most of his life.
Most of his ashes were buried in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont., but the family kept some so he'd always feel close. The remaining ashes were placed inside puck-shaped containers – Ms. Lalonde and her three daughters each had a puck of their own, and the mother's was inside a black silk box when it was stolen.
Delta police believe the thief might not have realized what was taken, and they have joined Ms. Lalonde in calling for the remains to be dropped off anonymously at a community police station or church.
"At this point if the suspect wants to have someone else drop the urn off, it would be without questions, as the most important thing is to get the urn back to the family where it belongs," said Constable Ciaran Feenan.
Ms. Lalonde, who lives with one of her daughters, has called Delta home for three years. She grew up in Ontario and her children were born in Quebec.
She said she was so angry when she learned of the theft that she was physically shaking. But the grandmother of seven is holding out hope the ashes will be returned.
"Do I think it'll happen? I don't really know," she said. "It's something that is very personal. Only we appreciate the fact that we have a few of his ashes in this puck."
Constable Holly Marks, a Langley RCMP spokeswoman, said her department received the first report of stolen ashes on Dec. 22. Mounties went to the scene of the break-and-enter and collected possible evidence, but Constable Marks said they don't have many leads.
Speaking generally, she said urns can be stolen because of the perceived value of the metal. She echoed Constable Feenan's point that some thieves might not recognize the metal as an urn.
After the Lalonde theft, there was a third reported of a stolen urn, this one in Surrey. A woman has told local media her father and aunt's ashes were stolen Christmas Day.
However, Surrey RCMP spokesman Sergeant Murray Hedderson said the force does not appear to have an official file of that incident. Sgt. Hedderson said urn thefts are "very rare" any time of year, let alone the holiday season.