When did someone’s cause of death become such a secret?


Once upon a time, obituaries used to tell you how people died. And no, I’m not talking about any of the following options:

  • Passed peacefully surrounded by family
  • Died unexpectedly
  • Went home to Jesus after a brief illness

Old newspapers didn’t leave you guessing  — if someone had a heart attack in their home after walking in on their spouse cheating on them, it was spelled out for you. They told you what kind of cancer, who found the body, and the important little details that just connect all the dots for the reader.

I know these things because I spend far too much free time on Ancestry.com reading about how my family members died (and Andy’s family members, because you can never skim too many obituaries or death certificates). My favorite find thus far has been my great uncle that got hit by a train in 1939 the day before his 33rd birthday. I mean, I’m not thrilled he died, but I am jazzed that people used to willingly share that type of information.

I don’t know when things changed, but today, obituaries don’t throw you any kind of bone. If you want ANY kind of clue, you have to check the very bottom to see where they want donations made in their name. And then, when people post the obituaries on Facebook, they make cryptic statements and don’t answer when one lone, ballsy person dares to ask “How did they die?” (I refuse to be that person, but I always troll threads praying that someone else will forget the rules and ask anyway.)

I have one good friend (that shall remain nameless) and I swear we only message each other on Facebook after someone dies. Every conversation on Facebook Messenger begins with “Do you know how so-and-so died?” Of course, neither of us ever knows. We try to do some stealth detective work, check in with each other periodically to see if the other found out anything — but we generally never find what we are looking for.

I also have another friend that shares my affinity for Googling social media pages of murder victims, but I think I’ll spare you the rest of the details before you think I’m exhibiting behavior that reeks of a future serial killer. FYI I have also asked this friend to make sure that when I die, EVERYONE knows how I died. I want her to tell people what I was wearing, what my last meal was, my last words, if I was in immense pain — I refuse to leave this world with my death shrouded in mystery (though that does sound kind of cool).

Dying is something we are ALL going to do — it’s legit guaranteed, I swear. And we ALL wonder how we are ultimately going to meet our maker…so why are people so sketchy about it when it happens? TWEET THE DEEETS, amiright?


**This blog post was triggered by a card I found today that I received from my 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Gianiotis, when I graduated college. He died about 2 1/2 years ago and I never found out how (his obituary pulled the “passed away unexpectedly at home” card). I even went to his wake with my mom, who assured me she would ask my teacher’s sister how he died. She either forgot or chickened out, because here I am still wondering WTF happened. I mean, using my insanely amazing powers of deduction I can narrow down the obvious choices, but damnit, I want a definitive answer so I can move on and stalk some other poor dead person.