By Charlie Morasch, contributing writer
Aaron Meacham, 36, a third-generation truck driver with 18 years of commercial driving experience, died in his truck at a New Mexico truck stop in early April. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and three sons.
A TA/Petro employee in Moriarty, NM, alerted authorities when Meacham’s family contacted the truck stop April 17. Foul play was not suspected.
With family and friends grieving over Meacham, his death also created logistical problems. Though cremated remains can be shipped by package delivery companies, deceased bodies are a different matter. His family back in Vergennes, VT, didn’t want Meacham’s body hauled home amid other freight.
From 2,100 miles away, his widow, Lisa Meacham, told Trucker Charity Inc. President Lance Wood her husband “needs to come home in a truck.”
With the cooperation of Trucker Charity, two funeral homes and the kindness of two TCI Transport drivers, Wood was able to make Lisa’s request happen.
For years, Trucker Charity has helped down-on-their-luck drivers and their families through difficult situations. Trucker Charity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit since 2009, expanded into trucking last year under the name TCI Transport. Trucker Charity has three trucks, including two employed drivers and an owner-operator leased to the organization. Its drivers coordinate loads that will make money and position the organization to continue its mission of helping those in the trucking industry in need.
Wood said Trucker Charity had previously helped two other families get deceased drivers home through its “Last Ride Home” program, but had never arranged for a transport as far as the Meacham family needed.
Estate planning, even for professional truck drivers, rarely includes a plan for transporting remains, Wood said.
“People just don’t plan for this stuff,” Wood said. “I don’t think most drivers out here have any clue how their remains will get taken home.”
TCI Transport tapped its drivers’ experience and industry know-how to make the trip quick and efficient. Not long after Wood spoke with the Meacham family on April 18, Trucker Charity began working the phones to get Meacham home.
TCI Transport driver Isaac Bland borrowed an expediter to take Meacham’s body from Moriarity, NM, to Tennessee. There he met TCI Transport driver Tony Hamilton just a few days later.
Meacham’s body was moved into a dry van trailer attached to Hamilton’s truck.
Each time Meacham’s body was moved, a small service and silence was observed, Wood said.
When Hamilton’s truck came within an hour of Aaron Meacham’s home, Aaron’s father, OOIDA Life Member Robert Meacham, met Tony and planned to help escort the truck and his son’s body home. Amid the familiar rattle of diesel engines, an emotional Robert changed his mind.
“He had wanted to escort, but it was a little too tough for Aaron’s father to do,” Wood said.
On the evening of April 25, Aaron Meacham was brought to a funeral home in his hometown in preparation for memorial services.
“Initially, we told the family we thought he wouldn’t be home until April 28,” Wood told Land Line. “But I got my drivers together. We got him home (sooner).”
Both Bland and Hamilton donated several days of their own time to transport Aaron Meacham’s body, Wood said. Trucker Charity hopes donations will offset the organization’s diesel costs for the 2,100 mile trip.
“Tony said, ‘My time is included. Just put diesel in the truck,’” Wood said, recounting the conversation he had with his driver.
Transporting the deceased across state lines requires special permitting. Most bodies are transported by plane or by truck, Wood said, amid other cargo.
“Normally, they go as freight,” he said. “That doesn’t do a driver a lot of justice. I’ve been driving my whole life. If something happens to me, I want to be brought home with a little dignity and respect. Not just like a bunch of freight along with other loads.”
Wood said a funeral home in New Mexico helped Trucker Charity with the legal process as Wood researched whether a reefer would be required. It wasn’t.
Hundreds of trucking industry veterans commented on a message Trucker Charity left on Facebook, including many that touched on the sadness of a fellow driver dying alone, so far from home.
Truck driver Jose Santos was at the same Moriarty, NM, TA when he learned of Meacham’s passing by reading online. Santos wrote on Facebook that he had spoken with truck stop personnel about Aaron Meacham. “I’m still here,” Jose wrote that evening, “and will say the Lord’s Prayer for him before pulling out. RIP Aaron Meacham.”
To donate to Trucker Charity, visit truckercharity.org. LL