I’m still angry at something my Uncle did when our grandfather passed. My mother was sick and in a home, and was not able to go to her father’s funeral, so I went on her behalf. I asked her what she wanted, and she said, “Grandpa’s watch, a medal from his uniform, and a suitcase.” She wasn’t asking for land, or the house, or one of the nice horses he had, she asked for small things.
My uncle took me to one of the places my grandfather lived, which was piled high with junk. I wasn’t asking anything for myself, just these few things for my mother. He looked through everything, looking for something he thought was ‘appropriate’ for my mom. He opened the trunk with all of Grandpa’s old uniforms, which were covered in metals. He took them all out carefully, and at the bottom of the trunk were some corks from wine bottles. “These must be important, or he wouldn’t have them in this trunk. Here, she can have these,” he said, handing me three corks, a single bullet from the 21 gun salute for her, and one for me (he pocketed the rest). I argued and fought for her to get those few things, and I lost – even though all three things were in front of me.
His sister was sick and would never leave the home she lived in – and yet, he couldn’t be charitable enough to share the very few things she asked for. To be truthful, I’m still angry about that.
The craziest things happen after someone dies. Families that used to be loving, or at the very least tolerated each other, turn on each other. The pain caused at these times can last a person their whole life.
In some ways, I wish wills could be post-poned for four months – unfortunately paying for the funeral and making arrangements for houses, bills, etc cannot wait. It’s too bad though, that while at the heat of their grief families have to deal with financial matters.
The five stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. What a lot of people don’t know is that a lot of the time they don’t go in order – and you can be in one phase at the same time you’re in another, or several others. Because someone reacts with anger after a funeral, doesn’t mean that when their heads clear, that they’d do the same thing.
It hurts when someone dies – it really hurts. Knowing that every person will go through those five stages helps me to understand the weird things people do after a loved one passes. Not forgive necessarily, although I want to, just understand it better.
I hear stories all the time of families fighting over inheritances. Here’s what I have to say – if you can afford to have a neutral party divvy things out, do so, and if you’re in a position knowing that you’re about to pass, consider giving things to your loved ones while you’re still alive. That way, there’s less fighting, fewer relationships get destroyed, and your family and loved ones can do that which should be each of their number one priorities – grieve. Allowing them to grieve together, can only make the family unit stronger.
As an aside, when I came back to Michigan, I gave the two bullets and corks to my mother. As sick as she was, she said, “I shouldn’t be surprised,” and threw the bullets and corks in the trash, where they belonged. “Guess I’ll have to keep my memories then!” she said sprightly. I looked at her and felt so much love and pride for her.
If only I could have felt the same about my Uncle.