I Know You Are Not Dead Yet But I Want That

by admin on October 11, 2010

I will try to make this as short as possible, but some back story is required. My mother was divorced in 1984. A few years later she met a wonderful person. Both were divorced, so they took things slowly as neither wanted to rush into another marriage. Time went on, they lived together, and as the years passed the need to get married seemed less and less. They owned houses and cars together and the thought of spending money on a big party to celebrate their love seemed silly. They were both in their forties when they met and would frankly rather spend their money on other things. They’ve been to Paris, and taken cruises, really enjoyed themselves. They have been together for 22 years now. For the purposes of this story I shall refer to them as my mom and her partner.

Right after my mom divorced she met a couple we will call her “friends”. They have rarely lived in the same city, but have remained friends for 25 years. They have kept in touch by phone and visited when they could.

My mother and her partner live on the west coast. They had previously spent about 15 years in the Midwest. The plan was always to move back to the Midwest. So about 5 years ago they purchased their dream house, a large Victorian, and started renovations. The goal was to work on the house while they were still working and making a nice salary on the west coast. Then, by the time they were ready to retire they would move back to their dream house. The renovations were all done with this in mind. The laundry was put upstairs so that they would not have to carry laundry baskets when they got older, the bathroom has a separate tub and shower for easy access, that kind of thing. The house has minimal furnishings in it, only the basics for when they visit, as they were going to bring all of their antiques and other furniture when they moved.

Now we are at the present. Two weeks ago, my mother was feeling “off”. She went to the doctor and had some tests. It was discovered that she has a brain tumor. Stage 4 cancer. There is nothing they can do. The surgeons have given her approximately 6 weeks to live. She is 62 and was just starting to think about retirement. Her partner and I have been in constant communication. I currently live 2,200 miles away so cell phones have been a blessing. I should state I am an only child.

Now, I have left all decisions up to her partner. My feeling is they have been together 22 years, they might as well be married. I am here for any support needed and if my opinion is asked I happily give it. Since they are not married, I am the only legal heir. They do however each have a will naming the other. I told her partner from the beginning, I don’t want anything. Everything belongs to the two of you. You worked for it, you earned it, it is yours. This is going to be very difficult not only emotionally, but financially. My mother actually earned quite a bit more money and the financial strain is going to be enormous. I said, sell anything you want and use the money, you’re going to need every dime. I’m 44 years old and have built my own life, I don’t need anything of yours, just make sure you’re going to be able to survive.

So of course their dream house will be one of the first things sold. It is way too large for one person and frankly it was my mother’s dream. You can’t walk through there without feeling her in every corner. Her partner has decided to stay in the house they own on the west coast as it is smaller and the mortgage is less.

Here comes the tacky part. My mothers “friends” the couple I mentioned in the beginning of the story live about 20 minutes from the retirement house and for some reason my mother had given them a key. Most likely so that they could check on the contractors for her and that kind of thing. When they heard of my mothers illness, they went to the house. The walked through the entire house and made a list of all the things they “wanted”. These things include the brand new couch, my mothers old car which is stored in the garage for when they visit, a few antiques that were bought locally, brand new appliances, and other small items. They called my mother who is easily confused because of where the tumor is sitting and gave her their list.

First of all, she is still ALIVE. Second, why in the world would they think they are going to be given these expensive items? They did not ask for mementos of my mother. No pictures, or books, or letters. Just the most expensive and newest items they could find in the house. Needless to say, they are getting nothing. It is amazing to me that people hear of this kind of tragedy and their first thought is “what’s in it for me”. 0909-10

Condolences, LW, on the impending passing of your mother.

There was a quote by Elizabeth York that I used in my second book that went like this, “Weddings are fabulous crucibles that reveal the character of all those involved.”   As I’ve grown older and encountered more funeral and death related situations, I’ve amended that to, “Funerals are fabulous crucibles that reveal the character of all involved.”   Weddings may be the harbinger of latent character flaws but a death in the family will *really* bring out either the best or worst of people in ways one would have never expected.

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Bint October 12, 2010 at 1:39 am

My mother is also 62 with cancer, OP – I send you deepest sympathy.

These people make me want to vomit. Change the locks. How can they even live with themselves? This is one of the most revolting things I’ve ever heard. And to ring a seriously ill person to tell her this! I would have killed them.

Lock them out of the house and your lives, and I hope you are able to find some comfort in the time you have with your mother.

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Maryann October 12, 2010 at 1:45 am

This reminds me of a disgusting incident I’m ashamed to report occurred in my own family.

When my great-grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother) died, my great-uncle (her son) and his wife, who lived closest to the home in which she had lived with my great-grandfather, went to the home and simply cleaned it out before anyone else could arrive.

Some of those items were sorely missed, both for sentimental and financial reasons, but the real kicker is that my grandmother (my great-grandma’s younger daughter, of two) had, as a little girl, been promised her mother’s engagement ring as she sat in her lap. This was known and not argued in the family, and my great-aunt (Grandma’s older sister) was glad to let her have the ring.

But my great-uncle’s wife, I kid you not, took that ring off her mother-in-law’s finger as she lay in her casket and put it on her own, in front of my grandmother’s face. My grandmother was too deeply in grief and shock to do anything, and after that, preferred to keep the peace than make a fuss.

But after the woman died, our family finally recovered the ring. Or I should say the setting, sans diamond.

I am the only child of my grandmother’s only daughter, and the ring would one day have been mine, and been treasured. The ring would have been worn from altar to casket by four generations of women. I’m glad to have the setting but I must say, I feel very robbed not to have the in-tact ring. I wish I had been there at the funeral… the trashy, greedy old bat would not have gotten that ring off my great-grandmother’s finger.

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Xtina October 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

OP, I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. What a blow to you and her partner, and to be losing her when she’s still fairly young. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Those “friends” are not friends. What they are asking for is preposterous and shows where their priorities lie. Change the locks and tell them in no uncertain terms that they will not be receiving anything, and that you are sorry that 25 years of friendship with your mother means nothing more to them than “cha-ching”.

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DGS October 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

I am so sorry for your impending loss, OP. Your mother and her grieving spouse sound like wonderful people, and how incredibly sad that they will not get to live out their days in that cherished house together. I hope that with the difficult times upon you, you can find solace and comfort and peace in your true friends and other family around you. As for those two “friends”, change the locks and tell them in no uncertain terms that their dispicable behavior is unacceptable, that they will not be receiving anything, and keep them away from your mother’s partner.

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Gena October 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I disagree with the comment about common-law marriages or marriage defacto rights – if you want the rights of a marriage – then get married. It’s not necessary to have a big party, or even any party at all. There are many reasons people choose not to get married, and that’s fine, but you then have to expect the disadvantages of not being married as well.

Condolences to the OP, and her family. It is unbelievable how people act in such circumstances. I hope you can put this aside and not let it cloud the remaining time that you have with your mother.

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Chocobo October 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Absolutely — change the locks tomorrow, and never return a phone call from them again.

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Cooler Becky October 12, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Maryanne, sounds to me like the rest of the family should have put their foot down in that case! People get away with these things because they know they’re not going to get called out on it.

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gramma dishes October 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Maryann ~~ Did anyone in your family ask her other family members “Where’s the diamond?”

This woman sounds like a real piece of cake (and the great uncle too for letting her do it), but I don’t understand why the family didn’t protest right then and there. I understand that the Grandmother was distraught and might not have wanted to address her at that moment, but surely there were other people around who could have. No?

I don’t think you could do much after the fact about them “cleaning out the house”, (although your family might have if there was a will stipulating who was to get what), but the ring was clearly a family heirloom and everyone knew who was supposed to get it. Family or not, theft is theft.

These kinds of people bank on other people not wanting to make waves and they’re usually right and therefore get by with the most egregious behavior. They need to be stopped in their tracks.

Sometimes to heck with etiquette. I think if I’d seen her do it, I’d have said in a voice that could be heard by others, “What are you DOING?”

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Kai October 13, 2010 at 4:13 am

I think gramma dishes is right Maryann. If everyone in the family knew what was to happen to that ring, then they had the responsibility to ensure that their beloved relative’s wishes were respected. And shame on your great uncle for allowing his wife to do what she did.

But even had there been no pre-decided wish of what to do about the ring, what she did was essentially grave robbing (only that your grandmother had not yet been buried). Disgusting behaviour, but I’m glad that you eventually got the remainder of the ring back.

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Twik October 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

Just a small quibble – the OP isn’t the “only legal heir” if her mother has made a will. Whoever is named in the will is a legal heir even if not a spouse or blood relative.

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RP October 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm

First, my condolences to the OP.

This is infuriating and sickening behavior. I suppose if there’s any upside to this is that by making a list of demands they tipped you off in time to protect their belongings. The stories where family members committed outright theft leave me speechless.

Not only should you change all of the locks but everything on their gimmie list should be the first items to move out or sell.

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animala October 15, 2010 at 12:24 am

“Funerals are fabulous crucibles that reveal the character of all involved.”

I think this is one of the most honest and true thing I’ve read on this website.

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Lady_Lazarus October 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

To the OP, I am also very sorry about your mother.

This story brings to mind my Aunt, whose transgressions offer many submissions I should post for this site. Whenever she is at the home of my grandmother, her mother, she points to various items in the house and says to her, shamelessly, “when you die, I want this, and that, and this, and that …. oooh and that, too!”

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MP October 17, 2010 at 1:23 am

Absolutely revolting. My sister is like that with our and her family members, who are all still living. She’s openly told her in laws and our relatives: “I want that when you die” and even asked for it before! Scared of future funerals.

My condolences on your obviously wonderful mother and her partner, and kudos to you for being so down to earth.

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crella October 20, 2010 at 1:01 am

Good God, how horrible.

I had relatives that did the same thing…they lived a block or two away, all of this particular Aunt’s sisters. As soon as they found out she was dead they went into the house and took away all the silver, the good china, mink coats, Irish linen…..Uncle came home from the hospital to an emptied-out house. He sent my mother round with the message that the things were to be back on the doorstep that evening or he would come and collect them. They were returned, and Aunt’s wishes honored.

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Chris K October 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’ve told my parents I hope I die before they do, just so I don’t have to deal with stuff like this.

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Mabel November 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm

That’s absolutely awful. My mom and I have a game we play called “When you die can I have that?” If one of us finds something awesome at a flea market/antique mall, etc., the other will say “Ooh, I like it, when you die can I have that?” and the first will say “Sure!” But we’re KIDDING. These people are just rude!

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Ina November 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I want to add my condolences to the OP.
With those vultures… I would have simply told them “sure, you can have those things, and as you are friends of the family, you’ll get 5 percent off the bill”. The nerve!

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Allison December 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Change the locks, NOW.

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Ginger December 23, 2010 at 1:08 am

I’m so sorry about your mother. My prayers go out to you and your mother’s partner. I hope you called those “friends” and gave them a piece of your mind! How dare they?! Ugh!

Something similar happened to my family. When my grandmother passed, we all went to the house. My grandfather is not “all there”, not in the country, and wanted nothing to do with us (long story -not getting into it). Anyway, a ‘friend’ of my grandfather’s basically cleaned out my grandmother’s house. She took anything of value. We were so pissed because some of those things held sentimental value to us.

I don’t understand how people can “want” things before someone passes away. Sickening.

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Ash Kilday May 10, 2012 at 11:56 am

Similar story from my mom’s side of the family–they have some strange tendencies to be very possessive, secretive, grasping, even downright conniving to get material possessions and/or money. We call it the “FamilyName Blood.”

Our family history is littered with stories from that side of the family and their schemes to get money out of relatives through scams or squeezing or straight up lies.

My uncle (mom’s bro, they’re the only 2 children) got an overlarge dose of this “bad blood” and when my grandmother passed away in 2005, he was more concerned with the valuables she had stashed away all over the house. He actually lived there for years after his divorce, rent-free, and felt like he had an automatic right to go through her jewelry box, her closets, everything before my mom was even ready to think about “divvying up the assets.” I should also mention here that my grandfather is still living in the same home.
A specific point in this case pertains to their safety deposit box. Every few years, the box is audited for items, and my late grandmother had made it a point to NOT have my uncle on the list of approved key-holders because she knows about this “bad blood” and his tendency to steal and hide things. Well, during one of the audits after my grandmother passed away, my mom noticed that a valuable ring was missing. She questioned my uncle about it, and of course he claimed no knowledge. Later, she found out that the ring “magically” appeared in the safety deposit box, and it came out that my uncle had coerced my grandfather, who was still in the throes of mourning his wife of 50 years, to open the box for him to raid. I think several (small) loose diamonds also disappeared, and of course, this is eating into my mom’s inheritance of both sentimental and property-related items. Is my uncle going to reimburse her for the things he took? Not likely. First on the scene, plant a flag, all mine, regardless of wills or instructions.

Very rat-like, this bad blood! I’m praying I don’t experience any of it… it seems to get worse with age!

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