The newest post on my Facebook feed stopped everything: my heart, my mind and time. All were suspended as I read and re-read Cousin Elaine's granddaughter's post. A massive heart attack hospitalized Elaine. Recovery prospects weren't looking good. That was last week, an eternity ago.
My mind races back in time to the day quite a few years ago when I ventured into the Hunnicutt surname forum on Ancestry.com to see if one of my cousins had left any new tidbits of info. Spying a lively discussion about a distant relative, I settled back in my chair and began to read. Of course, being a Hunnicutt, I had to add my two cents worth to the chatter. The very next message was from Elaine, "Hi Cousin!"
Friends and cousins, we only knew each other through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook and family history forums. Fourth cousins once removed, we felt more like first cousins, sharing laughter over the funnier family tree entries and tall tales (a Hunnicutt family tradition), and bemoaning that one key piece of information one of us needed to make a documented connection on her tree. Every year, she invited my family to her branch of the Hunnicutt reunion. And every year something happened and I failed to show up.
With tears stinging my eyes, on Monday, I updated her family history profile on my family tree with her date and place of death. Missing from her profile are her funny posts, her steadfast loyalty, her terrific sense of humor, her deep seated love of family and God, and well, Elaine. It doesn't show the huge hole in her family's lives that she left when she went home to God.
Part of me is a tad bit jealous of Elaine. Now she's privy to all of that information that we've been rooting around to find for years! Now she knows why we have at least three Thomas Harrison's in the family during the same time period, and who they're actually named for. We used to joke that the first one to get to heaven had to help the one left behind with research. I hope she remembers that I wasn't joking.
Elaine, can you sneak me a hint somehow? And while you're getting to know the rest of the family up there, can you ask "Original" William if he just made up the family surname when he arrived in America, or if he was he just a horrible speller, a trait he possibly passed down through the generations? Did you take the list of our questions and family mysteries with you?
Rest in peace my dear cousin and partner in digging up the family tree. I already miss you! I hope you'll watch over my shoulder while I research, and if you see something I need to take a look at, just give me a Gibbs slap to get my attention. You know me, I may need more than one. And until we see each other on the other side, remember: I love you more!