Thursday, June 23, 2016

Death and the Genealogist

My friends and colleagues like to kid me about my genealogy passion and my organizational skills by asking if I’ve already written my own obituary.  My reply is always, “I haven’t – yet!”  I really will, though, and just might get a start on it this summer.  Although I wish my kids would write one like the son of a recently deceased woman's did: “Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday,” the obituary read, which was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, May 17.”[1]  I’ll spare my children having to come up with something clever and will do it myself.  I plan on keeping it short but definitely not like this obituary, the shortest ever published:  “Doug died.”[2]  Perhaps a genealogists nightmare as there is so little information provided but it is telling about the gentleman's personality.
I think it’s important to be prepared so that my living loved ones don’t have an added burden.  My mom had her will drawn and paid for her cremation more than 20 years before she passed.  I greatly appreciated that; her death was not unexpected as she had suffered with Alzheimers for many years but her loss was difficult for me, none the less. Her planning ahead made it much easier.

My mom was a product of the Great Depression and would have been very pleased when a small check was sent to me several weeks after her cremation - she had earned a rebate.  Perfect last business transaction!

Following in my mom’s lead, hubby and I have our wills done and our financials all up-to-date with our children able to pick up immediately when we’re gone.  What we haven’t done, however, is make a choice of a final resting place.  I want my body donated to science as I’ve spent my entire life in the educational realm and figure it’s a good way to end it . The process is called “silent teaching” which would be a first for me - teaching without opening my mouth.  I’d be happy to enhance a medical student's education. Hubby has decided he wants to do that, too, but still wants our remains together after the students are done.

Unfortunately, some states have little to no standards regarding cadaver “donations” so if you’re thinking about it, make sure you’ve thoroughly investigated the laws where you reside. 

When I write “donations” I need to clarify, too, that the donor is paying for some of the costs.  This is not a free burial.  In fact, some organizations will only take embalmed bodies with that cost incurred as a responsibility of the donor.  The (c)remains may or may not be returned to the family.  If they are, there is a cost involved there, as well. 

Since hubby wants a standard burial I figure we’ll get one plot and do a two for one!  We have set up a meeting next week with our city cemetery to get additional information.

Then we have to decide on the marker.  Wow, designing a tombstone is a whole other area where I get to be creative!  Click to view some genealogist epitaphs I came across this week.  

Thinking about tombstones led me to ponder about the discoveries we make on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves.  For example, I know I have a distant cousin buried in a cemetery but the family couldn’t afford a stone so there is no visible sign of the interment.  The individual has a memorial on Find-A-Grave but no place of burial is listed.  That will be problematic for future genealogists!

I have also found a family member who has two stones in two different cemeteries.  Since obviously one cannot be buried in two places at one time there’s a problem here!  Turns out that the first stone was inscribed with the name and birthdate of the individual while married to wife 1.  Individual decided after marrying wife 2 to be buried elsewhere.  Without checking the cemetery records you don’t know for sure where the individual was buried. Yet another reason to seek more than online sources!

Do your descendants a favor and leave no genealogy mysteries about your life!  


[1] http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/this-woman-chose-death-over-voting-for-trump-or-clinton-in-funny-obit-w207281
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/01/obituary-two-words-doug-died_n_7710444.html

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