Saturday, June 2, 2007

Reading the Will, aka Leave Us a Little Something

When my mom died, my dad cancelled his insurance policy. They had recently moved into a new house, with a mortgage, so I wasn't expecting much of an inheritance. After Dad died, the grand kids all started talking about the jewels and gold coins he had hidden. Apparently he had told them about a secret safe where he kept all his money. It was pretty far-fetched but they were insistent, and, hey, it's the kind of thing you want to believe.

The day after the funeral, all four kids and many of the 22 grand kids were at the house deciding how we would proceed with selling the property and dividing up the furniture, etc. Some of the boys started searching for the safe. Eventually they found it. It was the base of an end table, covered by a tablecloth, in their bedroom. It had a combination lock, and weighed a ton. Somehow they got it downstairs and into the back of a truck, and the next day a locksmith unlocked it. My brother called us all together that night, not wanting to open it without everyone being present.

It was about 10:30 pm by the time the family arrived, and there was an air of excitement. At one time my dad had had a lot of money. Maybe he had managed to stash something away for us, and we were just moments away from being fabulously wealthy. The safe was opened and we found a lot of stock certificates that were now worthless. There were a few loose pearls, and opals, some documents, and then we found the money! There were glittering gold and silver coins mounted in little cardboard folders. They were coin collections....the kind they sell on TV infomercials late at night for $32 with the promise that they are worth triple that. $96. By that time we were all laughing so hard! It was typical of dad to weave these tales, and typical of us to hope they were true.

The laughter and love was the real inheritance. When the house sold we all got a nice sized check, and we all have bits and pieces of furniture, china, and silverware that remind us of our parents. I do feel fabulously wealthy with what they left me, though: faith and hope, great memories of a happy childhood, sisters and a brother and the goodness of their example.

Dee recently gave a presentation about compiling a life history. It made us think of all the different ways people can leave something behind. An obvious and traditional way is a journal, or autobiography, but there are so many other forms.

Today my friend Sher posted pictures of a couple of her beautiful quilts. I have china mugs made by my grandma and a cup and saucer made by Dee's mom. His brother is an artist and we have some of his paintings, and my mom left recipes that we treasure because they are handwritten. My kids are photographers, scrapbookers, gardeners, builders and artists. Dee has made shadow boxes of mementos, with the story of why they are important mounted on the back. I've created a CD with the songs our family used to sing together, and my niece compiled the lyrics to these songs and made us all a songbook. These are just a few ways a legacy can be created, and a history told. I'd love to hear other suggestions from you.

When our descendants gather for the reading of the will, there probably won't even be $96 to divvy up. (Actually our goal is to break even.) But I hope we'll be leaving a little something that's worth while and that tells our posterity the story of what we were all about. In large part, it will be them!


mama jo said...

i remember that day...that was pretty fun...all the excitement and then the laughter when we knew it was nothing...but, you're right...the things i value the most are what i've learned from them...i love the pieces of them like you said...i have an afghan made by grandma b after her stroke, it's all crooked but i cherish is, but what i'll always remember is dad's advice, his optism,he was always calling with uplifting ideas while tom was's willingness to help etc...we are really lucky

CarmenSinCity said...

That was a cool post. I found you from Betty's blog. I was excited to see what was in the safe and laughing along with you!!

kenju said...

I could have written the part about having your family's treasures. As an only child, I inherited my parent's, some of my grandmother's and my aunt's things. I am rich beyond compare to have them, though they are not worth much - even lumped all together.

gramakas said...

This is such a gret reminder of what is truly valuable in our lives. Unfortunately, it is not as obvious as a big check until much later.