Sheila Stogsdill

The Oklahoman

EUCHA, Okla. (AP)/ Cancer victim Mike Morrison's wake was going just as planned until a Delaware County deputy showed up to confiscate his body.

Morrison, 64, died Tuesday at his rural Eucha home after a lengthy battle with malignant melanoma.

"He didn't want to be embalmed or cremated," said his son, Don Barrows. "He wanted a private family wake at the house and to be buried in the simplest fashion as possible."

Morrison was dressed in his best Sunday suit and placed in a pine coffin handmade by his sons, grandsons and a daughter-in-law. Wednesday, the family placed the casket on the dining room table with an air conditioning unit blowing on the body, Barrows said.

"He looked better than most corpses at the funeral home," Barrows said.

The first barrier to honoring Morrison's last wishes was encountered earlier in the day when the family learned the Eucha cemetery would require a cement vault not an easy thing to do without the involvement of a funeral home.

Barrows said he had some stressful conversations with a funeral home and some state agencies on the specifics of burying Morrison without embalming his body. The family was told the body had to be buried within 48 hours. Then somebody decided it should be 24 hours.

But Chris Ferguson, deputy director of the Oklahoma Funeral Board, said both were wrong. When a family uses a funeral home but does not embalm the deceased, state law requires burial within 24 hours, Ferguson said. But that doesn't apply to a family burial.

There is no law that says how quickly an unembalmed body must be buried by the family, Ferguson said, "but time is of the essence."

Morrison, who Barrows said was married four times, left behind two children, 39 stepchildren and more than 150 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

About 60 friends and relatives were gathered at the home when Deputy Mark Berry politely knocked on the door.

"I arrived at 6 p.m. and was trying to find out what was going on," Berry said.

Berry and the family would spend the next five hours trying to make sense of the situation. Berry called the state's medical examiner's office in Tulsa, but officials had no answers.

Berry said he was never told who filed the complaint against the Morrison family.