"It could only happen at St Albans ... memories are made of this," wrote a Facebook user when the ashes belonging to a NSW man's dead mother turned up in flood waters - a year after being washed away in a previous flood.
Michael Hedger, who lives between St Albans in the north-west of Sydney and Darlinghurst in the inner city, had been scattering the ashes belonging to his late mother, Laura Hedger, around the base of a maple tree on his St Albans property when the flood carried them away in March 2021.
"I planted a tree in her memory in 2019 and I happened to know that you shouldn't put all the ashes around the tree at once as it burns the roots," Mr Hedger told ACM.
"So I scattered some of the ashes and put the box on the table in the garden thinking I'll add some more later.
"But in the big flood in March 2021, there was still a lot [of ashes] there, and the flood washed everything away and I realised of course that the box was gone.
"Some of the local fire service's gear turned up at Coogee beach so I was thinking my mother had gone out to sea and I thought, well that's nice."
Almost 12 months to the week later, another flood devastated the St Albans area, which sits alongside the Macdonald River - part of the Hawkesbury valley.
As locals were moving into their second week of flooding, the unthinkable happened: via Facebook, Mr Hedger - who was back in Darlinghurst - received a message from a friend who said that someone had posted a message on the St Albans Community NSW Australia page on Facebook, claiming to have found an urn of ashes marked 'Hedger'.
The finder was Suzi Deryk, who along with her partner Corey - herds people for the St Albans Common - had been checking on the herd via their boat when they found something floating in the water on Monday, March 7.
"We were out in our tinny checking out the unbelievable amount of water over the St Albans Common and checking to see if we could find any of the stock, cattle and horses and to see if they were ok," Ms Deryk said.
"We travelled approximately 6km before we had to turn around due to the water not being deep enough. It was on our way back that we noticed something bobbing in the water up ahead.
"Corey came up alongside it so I could grab it and I remember being very surprised at how heavy it was. I placed it in the boat and saw that it had writing on the top of it and told Corey, he then realised it was an urn and said, 'Wow that's someone's ashes!'
"We both then wondered how it got here, who they belonged to. I decided the best way to find out would be to post it on our local community Facebook page."
Ms Deryk and her partner are still in possession of the urn, and Mr Hedger will pick it up when it is safe to do so when flood waters recede.
Mr Hedger thanked the duo for finding his mother's ashes and said they were definitely "in the right place at the right time".
"I think Mum would have thought this was very funny," Mr Hedger said.
"My father's ashes, the main part of them, we tipped into the sea just off the break water off Surfer's Paradise. I was actually thinking it's quite nice that mum has gone out to see as well - but she's back again.
"It will be nice to put her back under the tree and scatter her around a bit more rather than leave it there again and lose it again."
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