The following ANECDOTES & COMMENTS will provide you with an insight into how some people felt about this emotional topic and experience. The initial comment is from the author – me – with the rest from the Wrapping It Up survey respondents whose names were intentionally kept anonymous.
Over 200 real life anecdotes are dotted through out the book and each convey their own message to the reader.
MY SURPRISE: After receiving thousands of answers to the survey questions for several months I was so overwhelmed I could not do anything but simply think:
In the beginning of my research, I was overwhelmed by other people’s stories. Many were deeply emotional accounts of tragic, sometimes times funny, even surprising or beautiful accounts of their real life experiences. I kept thinking, how can I possibly do justice to these gut wrenching and heart-warming stories? You can form your own opinion when you read Closing the Final Chapter.
Many people expressed regret at rushing to complete the wrapping it up task. Several quotes in Chapter 10, p113 indicated respondents came across a variety of peculiar, junky or odd items which they threw out, only later finding they were treasures NOT trash.
It is not uncommon, when the deceased had lived in a defacto relationship, for the remaining partner to experience difficulties because outside family members did not recognise or accept the defacto or cohabiting relationship let alone acknowledge that they had legitimate ownership rights to many of the possessions in their cohabiting home.
“We lived together for many years but never bothered with marriage. When my partner died I was treated like dirt by his family and because he didn’t have a Will, it all became a nightmare and I was not able to get my possessions. It broke my heart.”
“My friend did not live with his girlfriend, but she resented me being with him, and taking on the role of carer, and then wrapper. She made it very difficult for me.”
“I felt as though the Bank was going out of their way to be very unhelpful. I had to ask the same question many times, and they still did not give me the answer that was needed; I had to go to the manager for that. I know I wasn’t thinking clearly but they made it very difficult. Also, the lawyer who drew up the Will was so unprofessional we had to seek further legal advice and take the issue out of his hands.”
“I had problems with the tax office… I requested them to advise if my dead father owed them any monies… they replied that they could not supply me (I’m the son) any details unless I sent them dad’s written/signed consent. Imagine my feelings at their stupidity and insensitivity. I had a mail war with them… asking how I could obtain my dead father’s signature. They came to their senses eventually.”
“I found the attitude of the Department of Housing extremely unsympathetic when I was told I had one week to get everything out. The landlords were very unpleasant and put great pressure on me to quickly remove all the possessions, even though the rent was paid for several months beyond the date when my friend died. My friend had organised all that before she died.”
“After months of chasing up birth certificates we couldn’t find them. Then I found them, all neatly in a draw that I was sure I had looked through a thousand times before.”
“It was interesting how grief affected me. One day I was looking through a drawer for something which I could not find, then a few more weeks down the track I looked through the same drawer, and the things would mysteriously be there.”
This statistic is shocking!
The saddest statistic from the website research occurred as a result of the answers received to this question:
“Looking at the overall wrapping up, did you experience or have any extremely difficult or disturbing experiences or even ‘horror’ stories?”
86% of people who responded said they had experienced either devastating and abusive behaviour, or severe emotional abuse, even intense destructive interference, or irrational, cruel, or at times physical threats from relatives. Largely all these actions and reactions were over possessions, greed and buried animosities.
“While everyone was at the funeral, another family member along with some friends used a removal truck and took most of the possessions from the house before the funeral was over, even though they were not entitled to it. It was obviously very well planned. You can imagine the shock to the rest of the family!”
Secrets are common in families. One respondent said…
“It is not uncommon for two or more family members to share secrets, while others in the family, even the other spouse, are oblivious to them. Secrets, if exposed, can be hurtful or destructive or at the very least cause suspicion.”
“Mother was one you did not want to share a lot with as she had a history of interfering in our lives causing us great distress. She always wanted to tell everyone our secrets, even beyond our family. My sister had plenty of secrets – I was the keeper of her secrets. I had to prevent others from inadvertently exposing aspects of my sister’s life to my mother. This was very tricky. The moral of this is, if you have secrets don’t let them out.”
But then this is a charming story:
“When I described to my 8 year old daughter that her Aunty, although now gone, would look down upon her from heaven like a twinkling star, she replied [dead pan]…Dad, she’s not going into Outer Space is she?”
“One night I had to sleep at my Dad’s house to let a repairman in early next morning, so laying in the bed that he died in watching his favourite video (Seinfeld re-runs), the light above the bed starts flickering! When I looked up it stopped, but as soon as I looked away it would start again, this went on for some time before I called out ‘Ok, I get it, you’re here, I’m guessing you’re ok.’ Then it stopped. This has happened at other times when I’m alone in my new house too! I take comfort in the thought that he’s watching over us!”
Earlier last century it was not uncommon to bury money in small tins under the ground in the chook yard; people even now have reported finding money buried in some special place in the garden.
“My mother and I found bundles of $100 notes in a brown paper bag at the back of my father’s sock drawer. So check pockets, handbags, purses, under mattresses, containers in the freezer and other hidey holes before giving away, and if you have one, don’t forget to look in the chook yard!”
Author Comment: The following response was rare, but so important and beautiful:
“I felt the wrapping up process was a privilege and a chance to give love and respect to my Father. To me, it felt like I was keeping him company walking with him on the first part of the next part of his journey. That was very special.”
“There were many hilarious exchanges, which we all know added to the healthy transfer of experiences. Wrapping up was like our own personal grieving ceremony. At one time grandchildren and other offspring had a dress up parade of mum’s magnificent wardrobe collection, which needed to be dispersed. At first I felt uncomfortable at what seemed disrespect but had to accede when a 7 year old boy appeared dolled up in mum’s hat and furs which he obviously thought were the ultimate in dress ups. We all joined in and found it a really cathartic experience.”
QUESTION “Did you experience any extremely difficult, disturbing events, horror stories or totally unexpected surprises?”
“I was wrapping up my father’s home after he passed away …. When I was going through Dad’s papers I made an astonishing and painful discovery. Dad it seems, had been living a double life. There were letters written to him from another woman and there were photographs of her with Dad’s illegitimate child. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I read the letters, some written only two years earlier. I was devastated and I lost all focus on the task of wrapping up my Father’s belongs.”