DEAD or ALIVE
In Memory of… Cami Jo Bunnell Oborn
With my wife and three children, we were visiting Poppi, my wife’s 92 year old grandfather in the hospital. We had just returned from a family reunion vacation with my family, full of great memories. I was scheduled to be leaving my wife and kids the next day for a job that would take me away from them for months when I received the call. On the other end of the phone was my niece informing me that my sister-in-law Cami had been in an accident and had died.
Dead at 34, leaving behind my brother, her two sons, parents and loving family. Not to mention all the people whose lives she had touched. It just didn’t seem fair. I was in the hospital with a great man, whom for all intents and purposes was dieing of the natural causes of a life well lived. And a freak accident had cut her legacy short.
Everyone has experienced the loss of a loved one whose time has come after having lived a long life. With the inevitable approaching, many take the opportunity to start asking questions in an attempt to document the history, legacy and the life. What about a life that ends too soon? No forethought, no sense of urgency to document the moments and memories that changed someone’s life forever. No motherly advice for the first dance, first kiss, or to be there for the scraped knee and broken heart. No record of all the thoughts and the greatest tragedy of all, no words of wisdom for those left behind as to how to cope.
I grew up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). One of the values of the religion that played out in my upbringing was the importance of strengthening the family. The church says, “marriage and families are the most important social unit now and in eternity.” http://www.mormon.org/values/family
Mormons have the largest library of genealogy and are encouraged to research their family roots. It is believed that marriages performed in a Mormon temple will seal the family together for eternity. The question then becomes, “What about our ancestors who die without the opportunity to receive ordinances like baptism, or the blessings of being an eternal family?” Does it make sense that God would simply say, “Too bad, tough luck?” Of course it doesn’t. For this reason members of the Mormon faith perform sacred ordinances such as baptisms and marriage sealings for the dead.
“Genealogical or family history research is the essential forerunner of temple work for our deceased ancestors. We do it to obtain names and other genealogical information so these temple ordinances can be performed for our kindred dead. Our ancestors then are taught the gospel in the spirit world and have the choice to accept or reject the work performed for them.”
In the case of the Mormons they have a very specific purpose driving their passion for genealogical work. If you don’t have an eternal purpose for your genealogical research than why? It is said “A life not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. And yet, knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills us with values that give direction and meaning to our lives.” http://www.mormon.org/values/family-history
Imagine if all of my sister-in-laws family, friends and acquaintances participated in the documentary of her life. A biography, full of memories of her, created by all those that knew her. A history for her boys who never got the chance to ask her life’s questions and hear the answers from the one “eternal” love, that of a mother.
I may not have a great appreciation for my ancestors but I struggle to understand a fascination with the dead. And I have an even greater difficulty understanding why we don’t strive to know and understand the living, our human family.
“$1.6 billion… That’s the amount that European private equity firm Permira paid back in 2012 to acquire U.S. genealogical website Ancestry.com. A 40 percent premium over the trading price of Ancestry’s stock.”
“Genealogy is hot. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but hobby experts believe that genealogy ranks second only to gardening as American’s favorite pastime.” http://abcnews.go.com/Business/genealogy-hot-hobby-worth-16b-mormons/story?id=17544242
I recently attended the 2014 World Domination Summit. One of the guest speakers was A.J. Jacobs, “a human guinea pig and the author of four New York Times bestsellers. His next project is to hold the Largest Family Reunion in history. You are invited. Because the truth is, we are all cousins.” http://worlddominationsummit.com/speakers/aj-jacobs
Is it a hobby, is it a fascination with ancestors, is it understanding our interconnectedness or is it simply our desire to gain a greater awareness of oneself? Do we want to get a glimpse into why we do the things we do or think the things we think? Are there answers to who I am by learning who they were? I believe the answer is yes and that we shouldn’t stop the ancestral search for answers. However I ask that we turn to the living and take just as much interest if not greater in your brother or sister, mother or father and the person sitting next to you. After all, we are all cousins.
Questions I have about my sister-in-law…
What is your greatest memory of Cami?
What is the greatest impact Cami had on your life?
What did Cami mean to you?
What would you tell Cami’s sons about their mother?
I have so many questions and I need your help for the answers.