Death can be a traumatic time, but as my genealogy research as shown, it can also be a little bit smile-inducing. I am sure you will think I am dreadful for smiling at my ancestors misfortune, but perhaps you will think these stories are interesting.

Take for instance my great-great-grandfather, John Wiley Kidd, who died at the ripe old age of 72. No peaceful death-while-sleeping for him. No, my ancestor was hit by a truck while jaywalking in 1933 Ironically, he was hit while leaving court, where he had just reported for a ticket received for jaywalking earlier in the month. I guess he didn’t learn to cross at corners.

Sometimes death can come early. My maternal grandfather lost his father when he was just shy of ten. My great-grandfather collapsed while working in a field and was carried to the hospital by his family. While there, he woke up, screaming, “They’re after me!” in a violent rampage. He destroyed a great deal of the hospital equipment and was unable to be restrained. Apparently, he encountered “a colored employee of the hospital” who gave him a fatal head injury, which fractured his skull and the brain tissue inside. Scuttlebutt in my family is that he was hit with a mop handle, but then again, they thought that the attacker was leaning over my great-grandfather and scared him, then hit and killed him. Either way, he rallied briefly, then died. He was a few months shy of his 32nd birthday, and left my great-grandmother with three children.

Now, the story in one way is rather horrifying and leaves me to wonder about my family medical history. Because several of his children and grandchildren struggle with heart problems, the family conjecture is that he collapsed due to heart problems. Personally, I’m hoping for simple heat stroke; otherwise, the screaming of ‘they’re after me!’ could signify mental problems. Then again, I have noticed my mother acting a little odd….

Not quite humorous, but truly tragic was the death of my great-grandfather’s parents when he was 15. For years, his mother struggled with a disease and was confined to her bed. I am sure that my great-grandfather, Styrle Taylor Sr., expected to lose his mother. However, surprisingly, his father died of an accident at the mill he owned when a saw blade flew off and cut him in the leg less than a week before Christmas in 1914. Less than three weeks later, young Styrle lost his mother, as well. I can only imagine how heartbroken he must have been at the unexpected double loss.

Death can be cruel, but He has shown his twisted sense of humor more than once in my family. I often wonder what other gems can be found in the obituaries. I think I’ll go search some more right now.