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dee_burris: (Default)
Sunday, April 20th, 2014 08:47 am
I got death certificates in the mail Friday - four of them - for a great grandfather, great grandmother, and two great-great grandparents.

Fred and Eada Parrish Chapin, Victor Claude Balding, and Mary Mathilda, "Tildie" Wharton Burris.

They were related to each other not by blood but by marriage, so I can only use any similarities in causes of death as they apply to me, and other common descendants of the multiple blended families.

The years of death are 1938 (Fred Chapin and Tildie Burris), 1944 (Eada Chapin), and 1945 (Pop Balding).

And as I laid them out side by side, I noticed something else.

Three of the four of them died at home - or at the home of a child, where they had been living. (That's the multi-generational family living under one roof thing that was the rule instead of the exception until after World War II.) They were surrounded by people and things that were familiar, and even if in a small way, comforting.

And it struck me.

What a grand way to die...
The aftermath of World War II not only saw a change in the way American families lived, but also how - and where - they died.

Prior to World War II, only in exceptional circumstances did people die in hospital beds instead of in their own beds, in their own homes, or a home of relatives (frequently their children) that had become their home.

My paternal great grandmother, Tildie Burris, died on 26 May 1938 at the home of her daughter, Emma Burris Crites. Her death certificate notes that she died of chronic nephritis, or kidney disease as we would say now. It also says the doctor saw her for three days leading up to her death and she was in a partial coma. As has been noted by memories of her grandchildren, some of whom said she got "mean" in her later years, the certificate says she had senility.

The next death in the chronology was my great-great grandfather, Fred Chapin, on 29 Dec 1938. He died at Baptist Hospital of prostatic hypertrophy - a condition in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged. He also had kidney disease - a combination of which we recognize today as dangerous for older men. His doctor attended him (Fred was also diagnosed with senility) from 28 Nov 1938 to the date of his death. I'm going to guess that he was only hospitalized for part of the 32 days his doctor cared for him.

On 2 Dec 1944, my great great grandmother, Eada Chapin, died at the home of her daughter, Hattie Chapin Balding, of a heart attack. There is no note on the certificate of senility, but it does say she had arteriosclerosis.

Only a little more than a month later, my great grandmother, Hattie Chapin Balding, was present at the death of her husband, Victor Claude "Pop" Balding, when he died at home - in the same house - of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Some of those deaths were sudden, some weren't.

But I am sure now - whether I leave suddenly, or because of a lingering illness - if at all possible, I'd like to die at home.
dee_burris: (Default)
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 09:04 pm
Photobucket

You cannot explore your family history without encountering it. Death is part of the cycle, and family history is a marvel of cycles.

Still, there are stories that just tear at your heart.

This entry is re-published from the original entry on 6 Nov 2010, entitled Sometimes I don't know how they did it...
Sometimes I don't know how they did it.

The ancestors, that is.

No air conditioning or indoor plumbing.

Chamber pots under the bed at night.

Dinner was running around out in the backyard until you took a hatchet to it. Or went out in the woods with a shotgun. If you weren't faster than your prey, there probably was greens and cornbread. Again.

And you were thankful for it.

Wardrobe choices were easier, I guess.

And all those kids. Sometimes as I am adding them one after another to the database, I have to smile...there were only three of us and my parents would get confused.

Dee - I mean Vicki - I mean Lorraine...I mean, whoever it is, CUT THAT OUT!

And then, there are somber moments that accompany all those names and dates. Moments when I feel, even for just a split second when the horrible details come together, like I've been sucker punched.

Meet Charles Hardin Patterson...
The year before he married Polly Ann Wharton (my second cousin, 3X removed), Charles had what was probably the worst year of his life.

He married Sarah Ann Cowan in the fall of 1877 in Johnson County, Arkansas. The leaves were probably turning fiery reds and glittery golds when they got hitched. Johnson County is gorgeous that time of year.

They made a farm and babies, including fraternal twins Nancy Ellen and her brother, Jesse Washington, in June 1886. Sarah Ann was 28 when the twins were born, her fifth and sixth children.

Ida Bell was born in October 1888, and William, the eighth and final child borne by Sarah Ann, arrived on 11 Jun 1890.

Something must have gone horribly wrong.

Charles Hardin Patterson became a widower five days later, alone with a newborn son and a toddler daughter, both of whom shortly would become very ill. He was 32 years old.

On 5 Aug 1890, baby William died. His sister Ida followed him to a tiny grave in Buckhorn Cemetery on 23 Aug 1890. In the space of just over two months, Charles Patterson lost his partner in life and two youngest children. His oldest child was 11 years old.

I cannot begin to imagine his pain.

Sometimes it's hard to see the path through the tears.

But the journey is good.

Namaste.

I am taking the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge, albeit starting a few months late.