I had an Executors' meeting a couple of weeks ago – back at my old home, the farm.
Driving my old silver Volvo into the silver fog, along narrow and twisting rural roads, it struck me again that this is what my family is doing: walking into the fog.
I've already written about my dearly loved uncle (who was more of a father than an uncle): I won't bore you again. My sister, my brother and I are suddenly at the head of the family, steering the ship – or maybe the plough would be a better adjective seeing that the main family asset is the farm – through the minefield of legislation and tax.
Having got in all the valuations, we can just about see the next step ahead – which is to meet with the accountant and solicitor. But from there – it's fog. We have a vague idea of what is exempt and what falls into the estate, we know which beneficiaries get what (although we've no idea yet about how we reach resolution on those legacies if the Inland Revenue demand their full pound of flesh with interest), and the only thing we are certain about is that, whatever happens, we will continue to love each other and will maintain family solidarity.
Very often we're all walking into fog. We can see maybe one or two steps ahead. Possibly we know where we would like to end up (our hoped for destination), but we have no view of it and no guarantee of arriving there. It's tempting to give up. After all, what's the point?
It's all about faith. Maybe not in a God presented by religion (although I'd never knock that), but faith in yourself. Maybe you can't see more than half a step forward, maybe the destination is as vague as a dream and no more substantial or achievable than a mirage – but at least you can take that half step forward. I hope you can lean on loved ones and walk together with them for that half step – and then the next one...
My brother and sister and I were pretty clear. Right at the beginning we made a pact that, whatever happened with our uncle's estate, we were going to stay close and love each other. And it's been fine. Money and perceived value have not caused problems, the criticism by other family members, while distressing, have not fractured our solidarity.
It's not been easy; least of all, because we're not perfect: my brother doesn't communicate, my sister micro-manages, I try to appease everyone. But we have managed, somehow, to appreciate our strengths and to laugh at our weaknesses together.
Our increased love for each other, in the end, is my uncle's most valued legacy. Even if we're still not sure where we're going with the rest of it.
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