Monthly Archives: January 2010

Thank you, Aunt Elisabeth

Dateline: Nice, France.
December 24, a cold and rainy afternoon.

Exhausted from the long trip from Miami, via Zurich, I went straight from the airport to my 89-year-old French Aunt Elisabeth’s apartment because she hadn’t answered the phone when I called to confirm my arrival details.

There was a red wax seal on the door, marked “Enquête Décès” … investigation of a death.

So started my Christmas holiday.  Christmas Eve spent in a police station.  And three weeks of learning all about French morgues, funeral parlors, crematoriums and paperwork.  Oh, the paperwork.

Three long weeks of paperwork.  And attorneys.  And deciphering the French legal system.

As I sorted through two lives’ worth of ‘stuff’ … that of my Aunt Elisabeth … and of my Uncle Arthur who had died ten years before … I realized how much of their later years was consumed with what they owned.  Material stuff.  What to do with it.  How to protect it.  Who to leave it to.  How to legally minimize the exorbitant French inheritance taxes.

In the end, it’s still ‘stuff’.

I dragged home a few days ago with a reinforced conviction that life is not about what you have.  It’s about who you are.  Who you’re surrounded by.  How often you laugh.  How you spend each precious day.

Thank you, Aunt Elisabeth.