My research program considers family relationships across the life course: in early life, with a focus on disease prevention -- leveraging genetic risk information and relationships to motivate health-promoting behaviors -- and in later life, with a focus on informal caregiving -- identifying characteristics of those most vulnerable to, or resilient from, caregiver stress. It is fortuitous, if not tragic, then, that my research and personal worlds collided during my mother's final 8 months of life. Here, I discuss how this experience has shifted my thinking within both arms of my research program. First, I consider the state of the science in family health history, arguing that the current approach which focuses on an individual's first- and second-degree relatives does not take us far enough into the relational landscape to activate communal coping with disease risk. Second, I discuss caregiving from a family systems perspective. My family's experience confirmed the importance of using a systems approach and highlighted a need to identify underlying variability in members' expectations of caregiving roles. In so doing, I capture the significance of understanding the multiple perspectives that frame a context in which families adapt and cope with risk and disease diagnoses.