January 11, 2009

The Things I Thought I Knew But Don't

My mother, who will be 93 this year, underwent a serious operation yesterday. She was given two days to live without the operation but the surgery was risky and she was not expected to pull through. Thankfully the surgery was sucessful and she is recuperating in Intensive Care.

The night before her operation I could not sleep for worrying about the outcome. So I got up and started writing down the facts for her obituary. I hear you gasping but those of you who follow my blog know that I urge all genealogists to write their own obituaries or at the very least write down the facts that they want to have put in their obituaries. You can read about writing your own obituary at Writing Your Own Obituary or How to Really Creep Yourself Out

As genealogists we want to get the facts correct. We want future descendants to have lots of detail - how often have we been frustrated by an ancestor's obit that states "she came to America with her parents" Arrgh! Why could the obit writer not give a year? How about adding the names of her parents??

So I thought what better time to write my mother's obit than now, because if she does not make it through, it will be much more difficult to write her obituary while in a grieving period.

It was as I was writing down the basic facts that I realized there were things I did not know. That surprised me because as the family genealogist and keeper of the documents and photos, I thought I had a good handle on writing a biography of any of my ancestors, but especially my mother or father!

I know the basic event facts - birth, marriage and so on. But I realized I don't know where she went to school. I don't know where she lived growing up in Guelph Ontario. I don't know when my step-father died. That last one makes grimace in embarrassment as a genealogist! But I simply can't remember except as a 5-8 year time frame. I didn't mark it down anywhere (ouch!).

It may be too late to ask mother as she is suffering from dementia. I'm hoping I can find the information I'm missing by asking her 86 year old sister but who knows! Now I'm kicking myself for not asking my mother more questions when I had the chance

5 comments:

Apple said...

I hope your mother continues to recover. When my father died I was quite unprepared and simply gave the funeral home a copy of his resume and a list of survivors. In my grief I got one of those names wrong - my own. Everyone should have at least a basic outline ready ahead of time.

Tex said...

Good advice. I found writing my grandmother's obit strangely comforting--maybe it's a genealogist thing, but I loved going back through her life and putting it on paper. That said, I hope your Mom continues to improve and it's a while longer until you have to write her obit.

M. Diane Rogers said...

I too hope you will have lots of time in the future to research the information you want for your mum's obituary.
I also thought I knew a lot about my mum. I was lucky - she told me a few interesting details in her later years! - but even though we had really been living together for quite some time, a few minutes after she was gone, I thought of other questions I should have/could have asked.
I know she would have thought that funny,in a good way. She liked all kinds of history too.

Brenda said...

Good news to hear the surgery was successful .. you must be so relieved. Obituary or not, I always find that turning to a genealogy project (especially writing about it) at stressful times is a good way to immerse yourself in another, comforting, world for a while. Writing fuller biographies for parents and grandparents is also a challenge but can bring up fond memories. I hope the sister has a good helpful memory.

footnoteMaven said...

So glad to hear your mother is recovering.

I have started on my own obituary (not the norm) and have left instructions for dinner out - no funeral.

But then, who ever listens to me.

Please let us know how things go.

-fM