Saturday, November 26, 2011

You May Be Halfway Dead. Wake up!

(I'm having trouble with the other Skarrs, so I'm skipping over
 to the Earles, my other paternal great grandparents)

"Send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee,"

~John Donne~

Hannah Earles, my great great paternal grandmother (read about her HERE) had 11 children. By 1900 only 6 were still living. Ten years later she and her husband Thomas were gone along with John and William who both passed away within months of each other, leaving 4 siblings, Miles, Michael, Thomas and Margaret.

I've already written about Michael and John. The first five children of Thomas and Hannah are proving hard to document. My children may have to find them in Ireland and Civil War records.

For now I'll concentrate on William and the remaining 4 children, all born in Wisconsin after arriving from Ireland in the mid 1800's.

William Henry Earles died Wednesday April 28, 1909, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 4 months after his brother, John Earles. 

He died of a cerebral hemorrhage...
...he was a surgeon

I seem to be finding more and more lessons for me and how to live my life as I study my ancestors' lives. William's life is no different. I'm reminded of how precious life is and how we make choices every day about how we want to spend it. 

William's half-life birthday, although he didn't know it, and therefore wouldn't have celebrated it, would be in December, 1880, another census year. A year he was in medical school or already practicing medicine. I'm not sure. He was 28 and still a bachelor for two more years.

This is the record I found on that prompted this post:

Name:William Henry Earles
Birth Date:1854
Death Date:28 Apr 1909
Death Place:Milwaukee, Wl
Type Practice:Allopath
Practice Specialities:Milwaukee, WI
Practice Dates Places:Milwaukee, WI
Hospital:Trinity Hospital
Medical School:Rush Medical College, Chicago, 1880, (G)
Professorship:Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: Marquette University School of Medicine, surgery
JAMA Citation:50:1551
Cause of Death:cerebral hemorrhage

So William, with a wife, age 46, and three boys ages 16, 18, and 25, died suddenly at the age of 56. He was a surgeon. He'd studied the human body and knew a bit about how to take care of it. I have to wonder, because it's all about me, did he practice what he practiced and possibly preached? 

It just struck me as ironic that a surgeon would die of something that may have been preventable, but in the end even he couldn't help himself with all of his skill and knowledge.

But there's always the flip side to that wondering. He may have been at peace with his life and what he'd offered to his world, both the medical profession and his family. I've heard that the sacrifices one makes to pursue a passion in the medical field are high and not too conducive to family life. 

William and his wife, Persis Day (gotta love that name. Reminds me of Doris Day!) had been married for 27 years when he died. She lived for 18 more years. And believe it or not, she moved to Seattle sometime before 1920 to live near Bridget, her sister-in-law who'd lost HER husband, John in 1909 as well! (Seattle must be a wonderful place to live. So many ancestors of mine flocked there!)

Sometimes the story of a person's life is not only in how they lived it but what they left behind, and how those that they love move forward when they're gone. It looks to me like William left Percis comfortable. I can't see anywhere that she worked after she was married. Guess some people might consider that to be one of the perks to being a surgeon's wife. I think I'd rather enjoy them while they're alive!

So, really, for me , the message is simple and clear. William's life was not nor will it ever be one for me to judge or to live. It just gives me a bird's-eye view of how short a life can be and still be very full of passion and purpose. AND...when your time's up it's UP! So you'd better be caught doing something that you love!

"Don't ask what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people that have come alive."
~Howard Thurman~

Who are you? 

If you're still breathing you can still do a little something that makes you feel like you today. Go do it. For 5 minutes. Hide the clock. You may spend the rest of your life blissfully entertained and entertaining!


  1. Great lessons for life, Betsy! I love how you're exploring your ancestry and bringing us along on your journey.

    Imagine 100 years from now how our ancestors will marvel at how short our lives were! And how ancient our technology and medical advances were. It really puts it all into perspective.

  2. I know Carolyn! It feels likes it's turning into more of a journal than a story! But thanks for the encouragement!

  3. So, really, for me , the message is simple and clear.


What do you think? I'd love to know.