Friday, November 2, 2007

An Estranged Parent's Journey in Life & Death: Part III - Discovery

This week has been an adventure in oddities in discovery after the death of our estranged father. We knew from discussions with him that he lived alone in a little town in Alabama in a trailer. That he was befriended by a married couple who lived in a nearby town. When I questioned him about having a will, and final arrangements in the event of his death, he simply said, "it's taken care of" and that the woman "will call you in the event of my death." Who was are these friends? How did they know him? How long had he known them?

What do we know about what his wishes were? According to the woman the only will he had was a living will, and that he had appointed her as the responsible party should she need to execute that will. She says he left no other will, had no insurance, and wanted to be cremated. These are all of the things she told me before my younger brother got involved. She had taken it upon herself to begin processing his affairs with no will appointing her executor. As far as I understand it, will or not his immediate family members have the right to process his affairs, to ensure resolution of debts with his resources, and to have closure by completing these tasks.

Within 24 hours we began to have some uneasy feelings about this woman's eagerness to help settle our father's affairs. It would turn out that this woman's stories were changing daily and after making a discovery of apparent fraud at the morgue, we decided to relieve her of her involvement in any further actions. After talking for nearly three hours my younger brother made the decision to do whatever it took for us to have closure and by week's end we had sent documentation of relationship and made arrangements for our father's cremation and military services. He is entitled to a full military honors ceremony as he was a retired Vietnam veteran. My brother will call this woman next week when we are sure of the date of his memorial service. She has mentioned that she and her family want to attend the ceremony.

At some point I want to address the issues involved in our decision to pursue assuming responsibility for his affairs, but for now we are still gathering the facts. We may never know her motives for lying to us, and to date we have not let on that we know what she did at the morgue, but there will be a time when we do. For now our concern is to lay him to rest and to resolve the other issues after his memorial. His death was considered service related as he retired with an injury with 100% disability after twenty years of service. I'd also like to share our journey in discovery of information, researching for necessary documents, and what we learned in order to protect a family's right to closure ... estranged or not!

Related Posts: Part I - Notification, Part II - Reactions, Part III - Discovery, Part IV - A Full Military Honors Ceremony,
Part V - The Ceremony & Update from Biloxi, Part VI - Lessons Learned

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