08 May 2009

Missing Dead Relatives

One of my past posts commented on an earnest couple of the next generation who underwent a sea change with the birth of their first child. To celebrate the event and hail the new world order, they ditched their family surnames and created a new one. We are told this is being in tune with the planet. Go figure. By the time the baby has grandchildren, a budding family historian could meet a rather high brick wall trying to piece things together. Missing ancestors.

Recently I’ve seen a few stories about missing relatives. More precisely, missing remains—the occasional ancestor who obviously died but can’t be found memorialized in a place of burial. Even with a date and/or place of death, some of them defy being found. These are people who are not buried where you expect them to be, or people who are not buried in a family plot, or people whose kin did not place a marker, or people missing in mortuary records.

It happened in my family. A rare visit this week with cousins reminded me of what occurred when a favourite cousin died a few years ago. The gathering, as funeral things go, was replete with fond reminiscence and renewal of family ties. We knew that on the morrow we would be at the cemetery after the church service. Most of us didn’t know that we would be burying three people! Seems dearest cousin had been storing her parents’ ashes in the cellar next to her stacks of homemade preserves and jams. And I thought I knew her!

Cremation is good. Ashes might be more problematic for the living. The deceased might have made clear wishes to be buried with spouse, parents, children or a specific location. On the other hand, maybe no wishes were spelled out verbally or otherwise. I suppose there could be many reasons why ashes would get carefully set aside or toted around from one home to another. As for the wishes that specify being sprinkled on the ocean or catapulted into space, let’s not go into that in present company.

For something like 50 years my aunt and uncle had waited in dim silence. To this day I don’t know if they were neatly labelled on the shelf like their succulent neighbours. Dignity restored.

1 comment:

Kiril The Mad Macedonian said...

What a great story!

Luckily the parents didn't get into a jam, um, hee, hee! ;-D

One of my few successes as a researcher was discovering the fate, and final resting place, of an Aunt missing since 1958.

She currently hangs out in an unmarked paupers grave, but one day I hope to give her a small marker all her own.