by Brenda Kern
Not For Sale
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Not For Sale
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I wanted to check in again and bring you up-to-date on our little family saga.
Previously, on “As the Stomach Churns and the Heart Breaks”: We were having trouble with life insurance collection because the death certificates were printed with a wrong Social Security number for Mom. After many phone calls and exchanges of information, the Maryland funeral home director wound up driving to Baltimore (about an hour) with supporting documentation and got them corrected. Bob Lopez was the responsible party but would not follow through. (Go figure: the SS# was only partially corrected the first time, and a second revision had to be issued!)
We three kids were able, then, to collect on a small insurance policy from the school district where Mom had taught.
Her plan was to have Bob Lopez as her only heir in her will and to have an insurance policy payout (in addition to the school district policy) to her three children. For whatever reason (probably he talked her into it), he was named the beneficiary in the insurance policy, with the expectation that he would then distribute the money to the three of us. After much distressing communication, we were informed from two different credible sources that Bob L. originally intended to walk away with the entire amount, but eventually was persuaded through much time and effort to distribute the money. However, he deducted amounts for Mom’s nursing home stay and burial and legal expenses, plus amounts for some personal loans that he had previously forgiven that became “unforgiven.” (Her will indicated that all expenses from her final illness and her death and burial should be paid by her estate, but due to wording technicalities, what he did was perfectly legal, though against her written and stated wishes and, in my opinion, immoral and unethical. Tip: be sure your will and life insurance policies will carry out your wishes!) At any rate, we did receive a reduced amount each.
A nice surprise! We found out that we were designated as the beneficiaries of her pension after her death, and we will receive a small monthly amount. (That mailing, addressed to Christina Owens, was erroneously sent to the house of Bob Lopez instead of to my sister’s address in Boston. He opened it, reviewed it, and wrote in some comments. Mail tampering, anyone?)
Mom had been receiving a “Widow’s Pension” from the Church of the Nazarene, a direct deposit. I called headquarters in May and discovered that Bob L. had not informed them of Mom’s passing in February, and had continued to collect this amount. This meant that my dad, a Nazarene pastor, was posthumously (partially) supporting two adulterous co-habitators. I felt he would have been displeased with this (understatement of the year!), and informed them of her death, so the payments would be discontinued. They said they’d need to contact Bob L. for reimbursement of the amounts he should not have received, and I wished them good luck in that endeavor.
As I mentioned before, we had to wait until at least mid-May to bury Mom in her family’s plot in Maine. After, again, lots of phone calls and e-mails, Bob Lopez finally responded to Tina that he would inform the Maine funeral home that she was to be the primary contact and she was authorized to make the arrangements. He did not contribute to the cost of the grave marker stone and the church usage fee we paid in Augusta, Maine. We had a little potluck luncheon in the church fellowship hall, a very brief graveside burial, then a service at the church. We played cassette recordings of Mom giving her testimony at the New Jersey church, of Mom and Dad singing a duet, and of Mom’s speaking about her faith at Dad’s funeral service, plus we sang lots of hymns. Most of Mom’s side of the family (the majority lives in New England) had been unable to come down to the funeral in February, so this was their chance to remember her. It was a warm and good service, partially because Bob Lopez did not attend. The service was on the day after Mother’s Day 2008, which was particularly poignant, because she had her brain surgery on the day after Mother’s Day 2007.
As far as “stuff,” as you might recall, Bob L. had begun throwing away Mom’s personal things in December, and I had been able to retrieve some of it from the garbage can. Additionally, I had been able to remove some family items. Lopez had informed Tina that he had hauled away some kitchen things to the Salvation Army when she asked for them. I checked, and retrieval of those things was impossible. Much of the furniture and even more stuff HAD gone to Bobby and Jenn’s new house in January, and we were able to go through that and divvy it up. (Bob L. and his mistress were renovating and redecorating.)
So, after the burial, the final interaction we wanted to pursue with Bob L. was getting things still in the house that had belonged to Dad and Mom and our family. Some particularly important things were Dad’s tool cabinets and tools from the garage, Christmas things, and Mom’s recipes and address book. Tina e-mailed Bob L. that she’d be in the Maryland area for the 4th of July. Excerpts from her message are below:
I wanted to thank you for distributing the life insurance money, I do very much appreciate it. It is a HUGE blessing, especially considering the fact that my future (health and ability to work) is somewhat uncertain, and I do worry about my kids’ future. Thank you.
I also wanted to ask you a favor. I will be driving down to MD for the July 4th weekend. This is probably my last trip for 2008, and if you are still willing to part with the Christmas ornaments/decorations, or any of my dad's tools, I'd really like to come by and pick them up. I'm hoping you've had time by now to go through some of the crawl space stuff that was Mom's, and if you've come across anything else of hers that you do not need, I would love to have it. … It has been very meaningful to have some things of Mom's, I think of her often and miss her, and would really love to be able to put some of our family Christmas ornaments on our tree this year. Please reply and let me know if this will work for you.
Thank you, and hope to hear from you.
Later that day, he brought two loads of boxes of Christmas stuff and photos over to Bobby and Jenn’s. That evening, Tina opened and read his e-mail response.
Excerpted from his reply:
Your message sounded as though there was some question as to whether I was going to give you your insurance money. You obviously don't know me if you ever questioned whether that would happen after the expenses of the estate were met. I do not operate in such a dirty fashion as SOME families. I do not need to hear your insincere thank yous or any of the other tripe you continue to write. We have no reason to communicate whatsoever. I thought you would have picked up on the fact that I don't answer your phone calls and only respond to what is absolutely necessary in your e-mails. The entire Kern family showed its true colors to me many, many months ago--well before Faith died, in fact. Her passing was such a relief that I no longer had to be a part of that family. I want nothing further to do with any of you. I do not want you coming to my home at any time. I have already cleared out the crawl space of any items belonging to Faith and they have been disposed of long ago. I had no need or desire to keep any of it. Most of it wasn't fit to give to charity, but what was went to the Salvation Army. The Christmas ornaments [were] all that [was] left. …
As you can imagine, we were hurt and angry and bewildered. After some time to settle down, one of Tina’s comments probably summed up our feelings best: “I am…once again reminded that God did a GREAT and MIRACULOUS RESCUE when he took mom Home to be with HIM!!! I am SOOOO thankful that Mom does not have to spend years with this apparent monster. Praise God for His mercy!”
(A side note: I was able, via the Internet, to closely replace a mixing bowl of Mom’s that Tina wanted. What I discovered was that much of Mom’s stuff would now be considered “vintage,” and would be quite valuable in on-line auctions. So, Lopez was oddly correct when he said the things were “not fit for charity”…)
This occurred in June, and we were able to go through the Christmas things together when we all traveled to Maryland to be together for the 4th of July. (My uncle Jay picked up Mom’s tradition of having a big family barbecue on or around that day). Bob L. had included things that had belonged to him and his first wife, but we were able to pass those along to his son Robbie. Also, sadly, the recipes, address book, tools and tool cabinets were not included, and we are now considering them lost forever.
The most recent development, here in July: His daughter-in-law, Vivian, forwarded him an e-mail about an ailing family member, because he had not been included in the distribution list. Unfortunately, she had not updated her address book “nickname,” and the e-mail was transmitted to him and his mistress with the recipient being identified as “Dad and Faith Lopez.”
Excerpted from his reply:
I have the information concerning [name of family member]. Personal Phone call!!!!!!!
I don't appreciate you addressing me and Faith in emails. Faith is dead GET OVER IT!!!!!!!
I got this yesterday, and bawled some more. BUT! The difference in my attitude from just last night to today is miraculous, and I wanted to bring you all in on my thoughts through this update, though it is lengthy, I know. My conclusion: God’s kingdom is not threatened by the screechings of one demon-possessed man. Proof? Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail from Tina, also received this week, about her daughter Cassie, who will be 12 soon.
I wanted to give you an update on something beginning in Cassie's life. Last week the kids and I spent the week at kids camp at Windsor Hills, the Nazarene campground. There was a Nazarene missionary family there, the Halls, who serve in Equador. During the altar call of the Fri evening chapel, Cassie came over to me and told me that God had been speaking to her during the week, calling her to be a missionary. I prayed with her, her counselor prayed with her, and the Halls prayed with her and encouraged her. Cassie does not tend to be frivolous or say things on a whim, and this is not the first time this has come up, so I feel she is very sincere about this. I ask you all to pray for her as you think of her over the years as she continues to seek God's will for her life. Pray that if this is indeed God's path for her, that she will sense confirmation of that calling as she gets older, and pray that God will help us parents let go! Thank you!
Friends and Family: There are spiritual battles, and then there is the WAR. I cheated by flipping to the end of the book and reading the conclusion, and THE WAR WILL BE WON BY THE GOOD GUYS. God and His kingdom will prevail. Period.
Please do continue to pray for us through these emotional upheavals, and that I can find a job! (I’ve applied for 27 so far with some action, but no offers. Disheartening, but I’m getting real lessons in trust and patience.)
Much love, Brenda
P.S. My sister Tina had her first follow-up scan at the six month point, and her cancer (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) has neither increased nor reduced, even though she was using a highly-touted fairly expensive daily treatment. So, that remains a “watch and see” proposition. She feels fine, in general.
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Oh my! As I read along, I was reminded of what you went through with your mother and the things that happened. I feel so badly for you and your sister...I lost my husband to cancer and I can't imagine anyone being so blatantly cruel as this man has been to you and your family. I'm glad the Lord is providing blessings and grace to help you all go forward. By the way, I remarried and my husband has nHL, too. He was diagnosed 9 years ago and through treatment and the grace of God, he is in remission now (3 years this time!). I'll be praying for you and your sister. I KNOW God is walking with you and supporting you both.