The last day of our beach vacation ten weeks ago ended with the call that my grandfather had died. We drove the three hours home with me in the backseat with Sun, silent tears running down my cheeks. But my mourning was immediately hampered with worry. I couldn’t help but think of the inevitable, even though then unpredictable, change his death would have on my family.
Almost immediately, I shifted into family-attorney-mode and got busy on the estate paperwork so I could get the signatures needed at the funeral from out-of-town family members. And then his estate took on a life of its own. Two sales of real estate and a refinancing of a loan my grandfather financed some ten years ago. Countless meetings, emails, calls and text messages with loan officers, real estate agents, and my family to get the work done. All allowing me to serve my family in a way I am trained all too well to do.
Thus, when the closing on the second piece of real estate came to fruition yesterday, I was ready for the great sigh of relief. The sense of accomplishment. Peace. Closure.
Instead, I woke up today feeling vulnerable and sad. My battle armor of serving as the family attorney was removed. I was now just a granddaughter missing her grandparents, realizing all my efforts were, in effect, removing the tangible proof of my grandparents’ having ever existed in this world. Their names are off the real estate records. Their assets are being slowly divided, distributed, and some even thrown away. We are further removed from their persons, their being, their existence, every day.
Then, about when I had enough of my own pity party, I received flowers from my sister as a token of her appreciation for my efforts. And a kernel of a thought slipped into my mind, and it was this: Perhaps one cannot erase the existence of people so greatly loved as easily as dismantling their home and holdings. My sister inherited my grandmother’s generosity of spirit. My daughter got my grandfather’s good luck; my uncle got his carpentry skills; my mother, his furniture refinishing skills. And my brothers all have it in their DNA to boil seafood like the old salty fisherman that was my grandfather. I inherited my grandmother’s love of reading, writing and cooking; and my aunt inherited her sense of adventure and love of traveling.
Yes, my family is still struggling with saying goodbye to a generation, to a way of existing with each other in a way that was old and familiar. Yes, we will struggle to face changes that will be unpleasant and unwelcome. Yes, my grandparents’ fingerprints on this earth will fade to nothing but dust. But we as a family still have their essence, their being, running through our veins. Our children are formed in part as a result of the love my grandparents shined upon our lives which allowed for the opening of our hearts to shine our own love on others. And even once everyone who ever loved Sunshine and Bootsie are dead and buried, my grandparents’ descendants will continue to carry their strong spirit. That is their legacy: to have loved so strongly and so well that it begot further love to spread to generations yet to come.
Love freely. Live fully. And know that the most valuable asset one leaves behind isn’t one any attorney can assist in transferring.