A Certificate Of Vital Record

A death certificate is not something you think about until you need one. It is a piece of paper like any other; words and numbers and dates. It is something you will need when the time comes to take care of the ‘surviving spouse.”

My father’s death certificate is actually very pretty; the background is a sort of salmon pink and the edge is an intricate design made of many shades of blue. My father had the bluest eyes of anyone I have ever met. The edge around his death certificate reminds me of his eyes.

A death certificate is very upfront about being a “Certificate of Vital Record.” It is that; a very vital record of the death of a man I loved deeply, respected and counted as my best friend and mentor. It does not get more vital than that.

William Charles Winkel was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 21st, 1937. He was a small business owner (self-employed) and was a (white) man born to a German semi pro football player and a woman with her masters degree in Social Work by the time she was 21.

William Charles Winkel was a Good man. I learned more from him about how to live than any other person on this Earth. The Certificate of Vital Record won’t tell you that. It also won’t tell you that he was an alcoholic until I was 16, that he and my mother spent years apart and each time they reunited  I asked, For the Love of God Why, and he would answer, “I have loved your mother from the moment we met, I have always loved your mother and I will always love your mother. “

My father’s death certificate bears the seal of The Great State Of Iowa. It warns at the bottom: IT IS ILLEGAL TO DUPLICATE THIS COPY. It is an official county record, for what that is worth, the official record of the death of a singular man.

William Charles Winkel was cremated by Lensing Funeral & Cremation Services on Kirkwood Avenue.

The Certificate of Vital Record states that the immediate cause of death was:

(a) Cardiac Arrhythmia
(b) COPD

What this vital record neglects to inform you is this;

When I talked to my mother the night of my father’s death,  she said, “Dad was having a hard time breathing. I left him to borrow an inhaler from that man down the road with the little dog named Ginger. He could not find an inhaler. When I returned, your father was not responsive. Dad’s dog had shit all over the rug. That was the first thing the paramedics saw, dog shit.”

My father was not asthmatic. The man down the road, his name is Ralph, called 911. Ralph is not asthmatic. The doctor told me that night, late that night, that had 911 been called earlier my father would have lived.

The Certificate Of Vital Record has a beautiful blue edging. The blue reminds me of Daddys eyes. The Vital Record of a singular mans death is safe in the filing cabinet.  The Truly Vital Record is forever in my heart.

~ by Step On a Crack on September 29, 2011.

4 Responses to “A Certificate Of Vital Record”

  1. I cannot imagine your pain. Your story will help others. It’s already helped me. Nearly all of my contact with alcoholics has been with those in recovery. I’m glad for you that your father stopped drinking. It is hopeful to read that you can focus on what he gave you and what he taught you about living. I know you will keep the vital record in your heart forever. It has shaped you.


    • Thank you for once again understanding. I had to care for my mother 12 hours after my fathers death and it has been one crisis to another since that day. I am realizing I have not grieved my Fathers death yet BUT I also have his voice in my head all the time leading me on. He only quit drinking because it almost killed him and after that even a beer caused too much pain. Splitting hairs, I quess, when I could be focusing on gratitude for his sobriety for what ever reason. You remind me to focus on Gratitude and Forgiveness. I am very grateful for YOU!


  2. […] The Certificates of Vital Record. […]


  3. […] A Certificate of Vital Record […]


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