Three years ago this month, a cousin and I found each other from our trees on ancestry.com. Our shared ancestor was Mathew Fitzgerald, my 2x great grandfather and her great grandfather.
I knew so little about my mother’s side of the family and even Mom couldn’t help me fill in the blanks. I knew my maternal grandmother was Clara Maxine Fitzgerald and her father was Edward Francis Fitzgerald but not much more on the Fitzgerald side. Until I started researching about 6-7 years ago. I’d find some new nugget and ask Mom about it and she’d reply “hmmm, I don’t know”. But I knew she loved hearing about the discoveries I’d made.
Mom passed away in May, 2013 and I thought whatever connection I had to the Fitzgeralds was gone since she was an only child and had minimal contact with her Fitzgerald cousins. But just a few months later that changed – I connected with Patti, who’s grandfather, Joseph, was Edward’s younger brother. We were second cousins, once removed, and we’d found each other!
We had so much fun getting to know each other, sharing photos and stories, becoming friends on Facebook, and even playing Word with Friends together. She shared a photo of Mathew with me, which I wrote about here. But the photo is too good not to share again.
He looks like such a nice, and almost mischevious, man – I wish I’d known him. And how I wish my mom had been able to see this face!
Patti was a follower of my blog and often times was the first person to “like” my post on Facebook. She especially loved hearing about our Fitzgerald ancestors but, unfortunately, I didn’t have much to share. Looking back, I do recall that when I wrote this post in July about my great grandfather, Edward Fitzgerald, and his revisit to the Cooper King Mine she didn’t “like” it or comment on it, even though I had tagged her on Facebook. Rather than contact her to make sure everything was fine, I just figured she was on vacation or somehow missed it and I went on with my life.
Patti, in a roundabout way, was the cause of my most recent connection to my Fitzgerald ancestors. While researching Mathew Fitzgerald, another cousin contacted me after he read my blog. Turns out, his great grandmother was my grandmother’s sister! I clearly remember spending time with my grandmother, Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter, in Fresno but sadly, I don’t remember ever meeting her sister, Viola. But now I’m in contact with her great grandson and I’m thrilled about a new connection. My very, very small family seems to grow almost daily.
In fact, last Monday I sent an e-mail to Patti to tell her about this new connection as I knew how excited she’d be. She really loved this journey she was on and was always so anxious to learn more. How fun for us to have found another descendant of Mathew Fitzgerald. When I didn’t hear from her, I wasn’t terribly concerned because often times when we’d send e-mails back and forth our responses to each other might take days or even weeks.
But on Friday everything changed. Patti’s mother, whom I am also connected to on Facebook, posted that she had a “drastic” day after she learned that Patti had passed away! WHAT? How could that be? Had she been sick, was she in an accident, or just what? And that’s when I learned that she had been battling cancer and my heart broke because I knew nothing about it.
What I did know about Patti is her love for her family and the joy she found when working in the garden. I was tickled when I saw that she and my sister had become friends on Facebook (another cousin for her!) and smiled every time I saw them commenting on each other’s posts. You see, while I don’t have the gardening gene my sister does and together they shared their love of gardening.
And now she’s gone. I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet her in person but I am thankful for the relationship we had virtually. But I wish I knew more about her. Why didn’t I ask her questions and truly get to know her? I can tell how much she was loved by her friends and family and know what a hole has been left in their hearts.
And what I take away from this is, again, the reminder of how short life can be and how we never know if today might be our last day. I’m just happy that I had the opportunity to “meet” her, even though our time together was just a blip on the radar.
RIP, my dear cousin!