Piecing together the lives of my ancestors is a big part of the joy I find in genealogy. I request death certificates, look at census records, find whatever data I can, and try to interpolate the details that would make these people real. Look at the dates, the events, the people who are suddenly conspicuously absent, and try to imagine what their lives were like, how they interacted with one another, how their lives were so different from ours.
But sometimes, in my zeal to track my lineage to the Old World, to piece together lives lived centuries ago, I skip past the more recent history.
Ordering a death certificate for a family member who has recently died… it’s an awkward and melancholy situation for me. It seems almost the opposite of what I’ve been trying to accomplish with my more distant ancestors; seeing someone you knew, someone you loved, summarized in dates and places and a cause of death — it’s rough. I’ve done it for my Memaw and my Granny, and it was strange and sad, but now I’m feeling even more awkward about doing it for Aaron’s family. Specifically, his Grammie (d. 2008) and his mother (d. 1992).
I feel like it’s important to have the documentation, even though it won’t tell me anything I don’t already know (or so I assume). Still, though, to see two very real lives boiled down to their endgame data — the thought of opening that envelope from the Ohio Department of Health is suddenly more sad, awkward, and uncomfortable than I’ve ever considered it before.
Postscript – As I was editing this entry, the song 100 Years by Five For Fighting shuffled up on my iTunes.
“Halftime goes by / Suddenly you’re wise / Another blink of an eye / 67 is gone / The sun is getting high / We’re moving on… “