So This is Christmas: Dissertations and Becoming Dr. Death

At least, it will be on Sunday. Yesterday I had an academic shifting-discussion with a lady on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to LA. I made her, her seat mate, and the mother across the way small crocheted snowflakes on the flight. Found out that the lady, P, for short, was on her way to Melbourne although she grew up in Chicago and loves cheese and caramel Garrett’s popcorn. That was for documentary purposes at some point. The man had a scotch, and the mother had twin children, a boy and a girl.

The thing that seemed important to me was that while speaking with the woman, I decided on a doctoral emphasis and general research topic. I am between my first and second semesters of graduate school for double Masters degrees and although my life will probably change dramatically over this next year, and I hope that it does in a very positive way, I think that this doctoral emphasis could help someone. Helping someone know that they aren’t alone is incredibly important to me. The emphasis is trauma following death.

Once January ends, it will be six deaths in seven years. I was batting par for the course there for a while, but this past year has been (knock on inanimate object) the best. My first without a major traumatic life experience since 2005. Well, I moved across the country and started grad school. That is a different version of trauma all together. From my oral history class, I learned more about how to cope with and deal with trauma in real-time. That was definitely not a part of the intended learning outcomes of the course, but life experience being what it is, it happened. We read a lot about people in traumatic situations, and I am beginning to see it with a bit more of a clinical eye. Not with an eye that doesn’t care, but everyone goes through trauma eventually.

Whether or not a person believes in the Afterlife, this is still a case where it’s one of the hardest things that a person can go through. Some people never leave the state of trauma that happens with death, and some eventually find their way out of it. Seeing the quantity and sheer size of disasters these days, knowing how to deal with post-mortem trauma in survivors is important. I have no plans of becoming a psychologist, but I do plan to give some degree of relevancy and “Your life matters” to the people who get left. As universal as family and food, so is death. I also do taxes. 🙂

Relevancy when it comes to death is something that I prefer to establish through historical context. I don’t know whether that many people would see things the way that I do. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I have a unique perspective given my experiences in family history work, and a sincere love of all things old. Okay, that doesn’t make me unique. Add training and education, and I may still not be unique. However, it’s not every day that a person decides to take on the task of learning how people deal with after-effects of death in a historical context. At least, I’ve never heard of it before. I want to really become a genealogy doctor, able to help anyone who needs to know a given resource. While I consider this, I also know that I’m great at starting things. It just takes me a long time to finish them, especially to finish them well.

It concerns me how studying this topic could negatively impact my future family life. The other side is that it could give my family members a  unique perspective contributing to positive reactions, and defying the “bad fear” of death. I prefer that my children some day not have “death wishes” or that they don’t act to hasten an untimely demise, but instead never to fear death. I don’t. It’s a time for going home, but it’s not yet. You work hard in this life and you make sure that you have the relationship with God where you understand that His grace saves. That never means that you stop working hard, helping others, etc. It means that you step it up a notch and remember where that grace comes from, particularly intent on moving forward, on progression and helping make good things happen. Never step on anyone else’s agency, but help channel influence in positive directions.

There’s also an app that I am trying to figure out how to make, or to make an “appative” as it were. (App as an additive to already-existing software or freeware= appative.) Working with existing technology to make something that works better. There are things that I need to make happen, and I hope that I can do this, or find a way of making things work properly.

Yours truly,

The Genealogy Doctor


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