I’ve thought long and hard about writing this letter and decided that in the interest of family harmony, it is well worth my trouble.
As harsh as it may sound, people don’t live forever, and I believe that arrangements made beforehand can go a long toward preventing future family machlokes.
Most of us tend to accumulate various memorabilia in substantial amounts over a lifetime, what with furniture, furnishings, paintings, photographs, knickknacks of all sorts, etc.
Many children and grandchildren are known to have squabbled over “who gets what” when parents “leave” to a better world. It is not necessarily the monetary value that creates the disagreements, I might add; very often it is the nostalgia factor that comes into play.
A favorite chair, a painting, a desk, a vase, even a drinking cup different items have different connotations to individuals. These may involve personal memories, attachments formed, etc. and so forth.
Most parents know their children well enough to be able to stipulate who should get what and what should belong to whom. This can be accomplished either in writing, or in person while parents are still able to. Live discussions are far more constructive than guesswork and the engendering of hard or hurt feelings once “live” discussions are no longer possible.
Nobody likes to focus on the “end of the line,” but preparedness does not have to mean that the end is imminent. It is just a matter of serious consideration for the future (after 120) and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that one’s children will be left feeling cared about.
Just my two cents
While your suggestion makes sense, it is hard enough to cope with each new day, let alone concentrate on a time down the line that most of us would much prefer not to dwell on. And, besides, we don’t dream that the material things we live with daily and take for granted are the kind of items that our children will wrangle over.
That said, I would take your idea one step further – to suggest that parents/grandparents not wait until they can no longer verbalize, “you’re welcome.” And most will agree that there is a level of satisfaction in witnessing a child’s and grandchild’s delight and appreciation over a personal gift presented with love.
After all, none of our accumulated items will accompany any of us on our final journey, so why not indulge our children with gifts of some of our extras accumulated in china closets and attics, for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
Of monetary gain what is the sense in constantly seeking more lucrative investments and making another couple of bucks? How many of our young (and not so young) couples, especially in today’s tough economic times, cannot do with a cash gift to supplement the cost of exorbitant tuition or to help defray the cost of a grandchild’s wedding, etc.?
This is not to say that all of our senior citizens are in a position to dispense as freely as they would like to. And it is vitally important for our elders to maintain a healthy degree of independence, which very much involves being financially solvent. (After the many long and hardworking years, one does earn the right to relax in comfort.) In this vein, it should be stated that young people who are fortunate to be doing well should be seeing to their parents’ needs and comfort rather than vice-versa.
Ultimately, we must all remember that gemilus chassadim (acts of kindness) sustain our world and that our money and possessions are all given to us by Hashem Who intended for us to share them, not hoard them.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, which are sure to open up the hearts and wallets of many.
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to email@example.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.