Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sorry I missed last week, but it has been a really hectic time for my family and me. On November 9 my uncle traveled to Memphis with friends to see West Side Story at the Orpheum. When they stopped to pick up someone else, he apparently had a stroke, fell back and hit his head on a brick sidewalk and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

We spent Saturday and Sunday at the Med waiting to see just how much he would recover. The doctors gave us little hope, and said that from the brain injury alone he would be partially paralyzed, unable to speak, and maybe blind. After a lot of thought and prayer we made the difficult decision to remove him from life support Sunday afternoon. He died later that night.

After spending Monday taking care of things at home we traveled to his home in Starkville, Mississippi for the funeral and to settle his affairs. From Tuesday until Saturday I got a whole new education on all of the red tape concerned with settling an estate.

Our biggest problem was that my uncle was not a blood relative, and my aunt had preceded him in death. He also had a niece and two nephews that we couldn't even find until Wednesday.

He and my aunt had named my sister as the executor of their estate, and gave her verbal instructions as to their final wishes. In addition, they had written letters to my brother, sister, and me telling us each what they wanted done after their deaths.

Unfortunately, my uncle left a will that was written before they talked to my sister or wrote us those letters. The will differed from what we had been told or the written letters. Since the will is considered a legal document, and their verbal instructions and the letters aren't, we have to follow the directions of the will even though, in some cases it goes against their final wishes.

I don't want anyone else to go through this. If you don't have a will, meet with a lawyer to draft one that will meet all state and federal laws concerning estates. If you have a will, be sure and update it as circumstances and your wishes change. That's the only way you can be sure that your final wishes will be carried out.

My uncle was a wonderful man. We may not have shared DNA, but from the moment he married my aunt, he adopted us as his family, and we did the same with him.

As I wrote in the beginning he was on his way to the Orpheum when he was stricken. He and my aunt loved the theater, and he taught the subject at Mississippi State University. After his retirement he and my aunt were the driving force behind the Starkville Community Theater. My aunt was not only the chief fundraiser in getting it established, they took money out of their own pockets in the early days to keep it going until it became established and on its feet.

In its first years my uncle directed several productions, always with advice from my aunt. In the last few years he helped run the box office.

They built the Starkville Community Theater to reflect their vision of what a community theater should be. They may both be gone but it remains as a memorial to their memory.