Seated around the oval table at the legal office, six family members waited for the lawyer to read the lengthy document that would explain the details of the last will and testament of Eddie Carpenter. As the young lawyer cleared his throat, the family members one by one found out exactly what inheritance they would receive. We’ve all probably seen that scene played on the television. Some relatives receive precious material things while in more than one situation other relatives may receive nothing.
When I usually think of something that I can receive from an estate my mind automatically goes to the preconceived idea of a monetary “windfall”. Many children put their hopes and dreams on receiving a large sum of money to help them financially and when I was younger that was exactly how I envisioned it. If only there was enough money to pay off those bills or to build a new home then everything would be just fine. Sometimes there is enough money to help with settling the estate and any final expenses that were incurred before the death. At other times the money from the estate has been used to handling expenses such as medical care. If I look totally at that type of inheritance I expect to receive I am actually hoping to see how that gift will benefit me.
I know that other inheritances might be a physical home, one that is perhaps passed down from one generation to the next. Other parents may spend literally thousands of dollars trying to build great houses that will tell others that they have been successful in life. Some parents have nothing to leave behind because they squandered their inheritance and gave no consideration for the next generation. All sorts of possibilities and yet I never really know what I will realistically receive from our parents. No matter what I receive or fail to receive this legacy makes a big impression on me. Everyone has a reaction to the inheritance left behind by parents.
I mentioned earlier that I once thought about money as the typical estate settlement. I realized some time ago that family heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next mean far more. For example, I received a diamond ring from my husband’s mother. When I had it appraised the jeweler suggested splitting the diamond and using the two pieces for a set of earrings. I only considered that briefly. The ring meant more because it had been passed down for three generations. It had a sentimental value to me. I might put the diamonds into an updated setting but the reminder of the generations before seemed more significant.
I have a gold-plated bracelet that belonged to my grandmother after her death. It was given to her by my grandfather on their wedding. Nothing fancy; just a simple bracelet. But my grandmother played an important role in my life and many fond memories are embedded in my mind. Yet to me that small piece of jewelry shows me where her journey began and how two families merged into one.
A small burgundy scrapbook tied together with a corded small rope belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It didn’t look like much on first glance but inside it contains pages of clippings from newspapers on poetry. That little hobby was something that she enjoyed and although I never met her, the poems in that book give me an insight into what she liked.
Colorful handmade quilts, tattered family Bibles and family photos are all things that I enjoy receiving. Sometimes these items are actually given to me before the person’s death and in that case it gives me an opportunity to ask questions and learn more from the person who gave it to me. Small coin and stamp collections came from one relative. I currently am working on gathering information on our family tree so that my own children can have a sense of where they belong and where their heritage started long ago. My writing and information from the past or details about what is currently happening is another way of revealing something of myself to my own children.
The personal items I receive have a connection to my past and help me to understand my own life. Even if I receive no physical type of inheritance or I am completely left out when the will is read there is some type of emotional reaction within my mind. Positive emotions like love, gratitude and thankfulness to my parent for being a supporter throughout my life make me feel secure. Emotions like depression, anger and love can affect my outlook on life and also have an impact on how I feel for many months. Negative feelings like depression, anger, or bitterness can have an impact on my life for many months. I have to choose how I react to the legacy left behind and realize that the most important inheritance is not of a worldly nature.
The same is true for everyone who has to face the finality of life. How we lived and what we gave to others is significant. Memories of our life are interwoven into the attitudes and perceptions of the next generation. Whatever the inheritance that we receive here from our earthly parents leaves an imprint on our life that goes with us until the day that we die.
Application: I Thessalonians 3:6 “And that you always have good memories of us” (HCSB); Psalm 45:17 “I will make your name to be remembered in all generations.” (NKJV); Proverbs 11:29---“He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind“ NKJV)