In the grand scheme of life, there are very few details that truly matter. At the same time, details can bring us comfort or crush us. Details are not easily ignored.
Jaime died on the 15th of March. We had to get her personal effects moved out of her apartment by the 1st, so two weeks after she died, we found ourselves packing up the final details of her life and wiping clean the slate of the first place she had ever lived by herself and called home. It was hard. The blessing is that my mother & father-in-law had been telling all of her close family members & friends to stop by the apartment and take anything they wanted that reminded them of her. I grabbed one of her purses (that is now my stylish diaper bag that I use every day and think of her!), her favorite mustard yellow scarf (that I wore to her memorial service), her soft yellow hoodie (that I wear all the time), a few pieces of jewelry, and a handful of other items. I hold these pieces near and dear to my heart because they were some of her favorites things. It makes me feel good to see these little details and think of Jaime every day. Other friends had taken everything from shoes to handbags, from coffee cups to arm chairs. Honestly, the apartment was fairly bare by the time we showed up on the 29th to do the final move out & cleaning. It tugged at my heartstrings to see it so deconstructed already, but it makes me happy to think of all of Jaime’s friends walking around with little pieces of her memory being held close.
When we were loading up the final boxes that day, my father-in-law walked up to me and started sobbing. I did too – it was an emotional day after all – but it soon became apparent that he was crying about something else entirely. He pulled out an envelope, handed it to me, and said “Jos, can you hold onto this for me and keep it safe? I just can’t have my little girl’s birth certificate and death certificate both in my house.”
My God. Of course.
When I got home a little bit later, I sat down to nurse Harvey & read over the death certificate. When I got to box #31 and saw the field that was checked, my heart jumped into my throat.
31. IF FEMALE: “Pregnant at time of death”
Jaime always used to say that she never wanted kids, but in the last 6 months of her life she had been dating a new guy, and she had actually told me a couple of months before her death that I was going to laugh at her, but she was thinking that she in fact DID want to get married and have kids someday. I laughed at her, told her I wasn’t surprised and that she’d be a great Mom someday.
With that being said, she was on birth control and drinking. I was pretty damn sure she wasn’t pregnant.
I immediately picked up the phone and called the funeral home (who had sent us the death certificate), and after a few gasps of regret and bumbled apologizes, it was determined that the WRONG FUCKING BOX had been checked.
My heart dropped from my throat to the pit of my stomach. Um. This is NOT OKAY. We live in a tiny community, and this is going to have to be filed with various entities. I don’t need it getting back to her boyfriend or her Dad that she was supposedly pregnant at the time of her death. They promised to fix it ASAP and send me a corrected death certificate.
About 10 days ago we received the “corrected” form — and it was now marked “Not pregnant, but pregnant within 42 days of death.”
This time I called the head coroner, and she was almost in TEARS she felt so horribly about the entire ordeal. I was calm, but I was obviously upset, and she apologized profusely and said she would go down and correct it herself. Apparently the new deputy coroner had filled the form out originally, and he was “a little overwhelmed” that day. You see, he is new to the job and not great at separating his emotions from his work yet. He knows our family and was so heartbroken that day that the head coroner basically told me he didn’t have his head on straight. She was at the autopsy and Jaime without a shadow of a doubt was not pregnant nor had recently been pregnant. He had actually marked a couple of other boxes incorrectly as well, so the head coroner promised to make sure everything was filled out correctly on a brand new form, refiled with the state, and sent to us.
Good God. This should not have been so hard.
We received the 3rd and final certificate of death in the mail on Monday, and this time the correct box was marked. It definitely doesn’t make the pain of her death any easier to handle to know that she for sure was not pregnant when she died and she never got the chance to be a Mom herself, but it makes me feel better that at least the little details surrounding her death are being done right.
Oh my god. That is a huge mistake. In death, one should have the dignity of proper documentation. The body should be treated as a medical issue, and documented as carefully as hospitals and medical professionals. Grrr. I’m so angry you had to deal with that, but so glad you out thing right.
Also I love that her parents had friends and family take the items they wanted. I’ve never heard of that way of sorting through belongings and lie that everyone that loved her can have pieces of her to carry through out their day.
Oh my goodness, how awful to have to go through paper 3 times! Ugh. I am not sure you shared or if you don’t want to, are you willing to say the cause of her death exactly? Did she have underlying health issues? This whole story just is so devastating, I wish it was not real for you.
That is just plain awful and I am so sorry that you all had to go through that.
My heart sank when you said that box was checked. Because even if it’s incorrect, it certainly reopens the wound. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. I understand people make mistakes, but twice in a row is not acceptable and measures should be in place so that it doesn’t even happen once.
What. The. Fuck. That is seriously crazy. My jaw dropped again and again reading this. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that, but so glad it was you and not someone who would have accepted it as truth.
Wild. I’m relieved for you that it was wrong!
Unbelievable. I’m glad you were able to resolve it.
I’m so glad you were the one to see that, rather than her dad. What a mess… but what a blessing you at least caught it. And ugggg… seriously, with something so painful already, the greatest care should be taken to ensure mistakes like that are not made. 🙁
Oh my gosh I can’t believe that it took them three tries to get it right! And on such an issue as whether or not she was pregnant. I’m glad to hear it was straightened out and that there are reasons (although not your problem) the mistake was made. Just continues to prove how much of an impact your SIL had on so many people.
Oh my gosh, wow, this is just awful and such a huge mistake!! I was in shock when I read that part before seeing it was a mistake so I can’t even imagine what you felt in that moment. I understand that the poor guy was in a rough place at the time too, but my gosh, what a mistake to make… and then make again! :/ I am so glad it is all sorted out now.
I really have no words. I am so sorry you had to go through that.
My mouth dropped as I read.
And, I’m the keeper of my Mom’s birth and death certificates. My Dad’s, too.