the state of the estate

by Bella Rum

IMG_4872I received a disturbing call from my cousin yesterday. She wanted to vent about the events following her mother’s – Dad’s sister – death, and to get my brother’s cell number because she couldn’t catch him at home. She wanted some advice about 250 acres of oyster beds that her brother claims are valued at zero. LOL You can’t make it up.

She also has a sister, and quite the brouhaha commenced between the three of them when the time to divide the estate arrived.  Both of her siblings are assertive and determined A-types. She is the peacemaker and the baby of the family. She is hurting. I know her brother and sister are, too.

Note: I’ve learned that peacemakers can lose hair by the handful if they can’t make peace with themselves first, because that’s always where the ultimate peacemaking takes place.

My situation with my siblings could not have been more different. It helps when the deceased did not have great wealth or many personal possessions. The problem arises when a lot of (and sometimes not so many) assets are involved, and the deceased leaves the entire estate to be divided “equally” among multiple heirs. That’s when Mother’s pearls disappear and Grandfather’s guns can’t be found. Discord is almost assured.

I assured my cousin that in time she would come to terms with it all and put a period to it, but we all know that twenty years from now she will reach for a can of peas on a grocery shelf when, unbidden, that huge brass compass that rested on Mother’s coffee table penetrates her thoughts, or that old copper pot that she planted petunias in every spring. It sat right there on the front porch. Right there. Purple and white petunias spilled over its rim all summer long, and the shimmer of the white ones lingered even after sunset.  Every summer. Mother never went a single year without her petunias until that last year. I wonder where that copper pot is now.

Here we are at Christmastime, when such hurts are most tender. All of Aunt Ruthie’s children are grieving their first Christmas without her, and the two other people in the world who most understand their grief will not speak to them. This is the last thing Aunt Ruthie would have wanted.

It’s a sad thing, but it’s a familiar story. A loved one dies, often the glue that held the family together, and those of us who are left behind attach our memories of them to a thing they once owned. It’s a feeble attempt to hang on to them, it gives us something to focus on instead of the loss. It’s misguided, but we do it. I have my father’s anchor pendant. I wanted it. It isn’t him or his legacy. It’s just a thing, but… Thank goodness no one objected. My heart was set.

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