UPDATED: Certificates Make It Official – Maybe

I have a certificate for giving blood on September 11, 2001. I have a certificate for participating in a former employer’s management training program. I have a certificate for participating in a financial literacy class. Hell, Ethan came home today with a certificate for sitting through a few months of Junior Achievement. Certificates – they hand them out like nothing…

And now, I have another certificate. This one says that Mike is dead.

Side note: I had to sign for the death certificates. Weird that my signature was required for a few pieces of paper, but his cremains – well…whatever

Thank God I took Greek and Latin etymology in high school. I challenged myself to break each of the causes (one primary and three secondary causes) into their root parts to decipher the meanings. Hepa = liver. Cardio = heart. Mega = large. Myo = muscle. Pathy = disease. Bili = bile.

I wanted to figure out the meaning of each of the words myself. It stretched my brain to recall information from 20 years ago. It prolonged the reality of KNOWING.  

Then I looked up the definition of the super-long, jargony causes of death, just to be sure. Bottom line: liver failure – 2 and super-duper weak heart – 2. All four causes were due to alcoholism.

Side note: Wouldn’t it be nice if the medical examiner could use “real people” words instead of a bunch of 18 letter dealios? Seriously, thank God for the Internet, but real words would have been better.

I spent a few hours wondering how long the drinking had been going on. And how I could have not seen it. I knew he was an alcoholic for a year before our separation, and I suspected the hard-core drinking might have started another six months or so before that. But now, I’m thinking, no I know, that it was going on a lot longer than that. Bottom line: he lied to me for the last two years of our marriage, then he died, so I’ll never know when or how or for how long or why…

Then I noticed the small, fine print at the bottom of the certificate. Line 28A (cause of death) and line 33 (manner of death, i.e., natural, accident, suicide, etc) were noted as “Pending Investigation.”

Investigation of what? Is there another cause of death for “alcoholic steatohepatitis”? You know, other than the alcoholism part that caused the steatohepatitis?

Of course, the ME inFt.Wayneworks, like, five hours a day, so I have to wait until (late) morning to call and ask what “pending investigation” means. And when the “pending investigation” will be closed and resolved. And if, when it’s closed, if I have to get more death certificates (because Hot Diggity, these things are ridiculously expensive)…

Damn, nothing can be just cut and dry, easy breezy.

Side note: Sorry for all the side notes. It’s a side note kind of night.

UPDATED: I just talked to the funeral home about the “Pending Investigation” on the death certificates. Per Indiana law, every change to a death certificate needs to include what was previously listed in a little bitty section at the bottom of the document. In this case, the coroner released the body to the cremation people (since the cause of death was pretty apparent by the condition of his liver), but since toxicology results weren’t in, the cause was listed as “Pending Investigation” on the death certificate (which had to be filed so the body could be cremated). Once toxicology results were back from the lab, the official cause of death changed – but “Pending Investigation” will always be part of the document since it was on the original version. Whew!

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