Thank you for your kindness last week; it meant the world to me knowing I could take a break to focus on my family.
Working my way up for air…slowly. And writing this email is part of that process, so thank you, readers. (and there will be zero gifs, for once)
So far in my life there have been two occasions on which my younger brother, Matt, has called me on the phone and opened with: “you’ll need to sit down.”
No one ever wants to get phone calls that start out this way.
The first time was in 2010 when that same brother had just learned of his diagnosis of stage 2 testicular cancer. It was like a hard, swift punch in the stomach. I’m beyond grateful to report that he’s had a complete recovery thanks to surgery and chemo. He’s gotten a clean bill of health for well over ten years by now.
The second time was a short two weeks ago on May 31st, at exactly 7:45am, when he called to tell me that our older brother had unexpectedly passed away. An equally immediate yet nuclear bomb-sized punch this time. What?!? When?!? How?!! So many immediate questions.
And raw, searing pain. Some of the worst I’ve ever felt.
Yet in the midst of that suffocating pain, I needed to immediately start making phone calls, plans, and preparations. And, we can’t forget, my youngest son’s high school graduation was the very next day. Timing…ugh.
I’m still unsure how I made it from that life-altering moment Wednesday morning through the graduation celebration, the furious packing, the plane ride to Raleigh, then having to witness my mother’s pain, the plans and preparations for the gatherings, the fervent clean-up of my departed brother’s somewhat (ok, quite) neglected house for the celebration of life…not to mention the constant deep sorrow for my grieving nephews and the two loyal German Shepherds that miss their Papa.
Just so I don’t make this most depressing email ever, I’ll share some observations and reflections I had in the midst of the preparing and cleaning process at my brother’s home. I seek to find nuggets of hope and lessons for the future.
First of all, as we swarmed the rooms stash-tidying, decluttering, and deep-cleaning, my tried-and-true mantra of WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER was like a comforting safety net throughout every piece of this process. Magical strength came when I had none. Friends and family are worth their weight in gold and bitcoin!
Secondly, as we were making such a swift and incredible difference in a short period of time, I kept wishing that Mike could have been able to enjoy how great it looked. For sure it would’ve given him a real lift! His mobility was greatly reduced about ten years ago and he lost the ability to do too much physically around his house, so it showed in the state of the house.
With his medical issues, it had been over a decade since he’d been up in his own attic and I’m certain that Mike knew it was full of long-ago stashed stuff that needed to come down, but it was a daunting task. And therefore, left to the dust and attic heat for years.
Can we say major ENERGY LEAK??
So what did we do? We offered food to my nephews’ friends to come help us unload that dustbowl of an attic! We bought a big ol’ dumpster bag and in a matter of a few hours, that attic was EMPTY! Can you imagine how great that would’ve made my brother feel? Plus it wasn’t all garbage! We found family archival documents and decades old memorabilia that we all would’ve enjoyed looking at together. I kept having these feelings of “if only…”
And lastly, we found so much PAPER: OMG. So many old bills, old business files, old memorabilia. We found BOXES and BOXES in the attic that were the perfect playground for silverfish and epic layers of dust. Most of the paper is utterly useless and ready for the shredder.
What we did not find, and still have not, is a will, in any form.
NO WILL AT ALL.
If I hadn’t already decided to get mine and my husband’s financial papers fully and 100% organized this summer, this would’ve done it. (We do have wills, but we have updates that are needed)
Public service announcement: do your will. Don’t do this to your family. It’s irresponsible.
You know I love to hear back from you, so this time, let me know that you have a will, or have clear plans to get it done.
It’s an energy leak that you must take care of.
Thanks for walking this with me, readers. I treasure you!