We are trying to sell the house. By “we,” I mean my brother and sisters and me – Mom died in May of last year, and the only real asset in her estate is the house they lived in for forty-one years. You may be thinking, “So what? Just sell the house!” Were it so simple – you see, first we needed to clear out the house, which besides over four decades of “stuff,” also was fairly packed to the gills with tons and tons of everything imaginable. The physical labor involved was tremendous. Then, it ended up that Mom’s will had some big hiccups to it being easily executed and probated. We spent the better part of the year trying to work with a lawyer to make it happen, and then trying to work around it, all for the purpose of taking the proceeds and setting up a trust for our youngest sister, to care for her over the next few decades. And guess who Mom asked to be the executor of her estate? I have often told folks lately that if someone wants to bless you with that honor, you should turn and run, drive, fly or however you can move yourself as far away from that “honor” as you can. By the way, did I mention that I am living in North Dakota, and the house is in Texas?
So, with everyone’s best efforts, the house went on the market, had numerous bids and the sale seemed to be close to happening. The top buyer bailed, but the second in line followed through with everything… but then the ol’ Cross magic kicked into gear. In setting up a trust that could receive the proceeds of the sale, you first needed a trust (duh…). We managed to have the paperwork put together, and then it had to be notarized. Honestly, one of my sisters has said if she ever hears the words “notarized” or “affidavit” again… After being notarized, I then needed to set up a checking account, to hold the trust. Let me tell you that this particular process is far different that going to the bank and asking, “Can I please open a checking account?” and the bank person says, “Sure – here are some checks!” Oh no – I estimate it took two and a half hours of my life that I will never get back, before the laws of banking, commerce, estate and trust were all satisfied, and I was able to walk out with a simple checking account, which now could take the proceeds.
Not done yet! Apparently, every sibling (there are six still alive) needs to sign granting waiver to their inheritance – notarized, of course – that gives their inheritance away to the trust, so that our little sister can be care for… aren’t we wonderful? With this newly discovered exercise, we missed the first deadline for closing on the house. Then, there were some other technical, legal things that had to also be satisfied before anyone could sign, and then the waivers needed to be reissued, and hopefully everyone could find a notary and… so we missed the second deadline, but hopefully it can all be achieved by 5pm today, before the long holiday weekend commences.
I wish I could say this has been fun. This was not the way I wanted to start my leisurely, carefree retirement! I have fifty-five pages of documents, requiring about 5000 of my signatures that all need to be notarized (there’s that word again!) and then carefully scanned and sent and then overnight mailed before the beast is slain and we can move on with the next joyful task of buying the youngest sister a place to live. It’ll all get done, but what a massive effort on the part of so many people, and cost and expense that is just simply ridiculous.
“If only” is perhaps the saddest expression in the English language. If only we had thought ahead, if only we had done this, if only I had been able to avoid that, if only life could have been done differently, now that I know… Ruing, or even mourning an experience that went the wrong way is part of our human nature. We are so good at predicting what has already happened! And we so often think we have the plan all in place, when indeed, we are walking blindly, accidentally into a chapter of life that should simply not be written, or at least written with a different color pen. And we do it all the time! We accidentally move forward, naively expecting that things will work out just fine, and then we find out that the execution of a “thing” to be done is far more complicated than we thought. The old saying in woodworking is “measure twice, cut once,” but most of us at best decide to estimate, and hope for the best – and then end up cutting three or four times, or having to get a new piece of wood.
I’m not terribly wise, but over the years I have tried to remind myself to act intentionally, and not live by accident. Living intentionally means that we measure, that we ask the deeper layer of questions before moving forward – it’s not so much acting out of fear, as it is acting out of a thoughtful bearing in our lives. Of course, we don’t have to live that way – we can jump in the car, put the blindfold on, and start accelerating and steering, hopeful that we won’t hit the tree down the block – but there is a better way, don’t you think? Take the blindfold off, think about what could be unintended consequences, and try to move into life as intentionally as possible. Granted, there still could arise some big boulders in the road, but at least we can see them from a distance.
Time to go meet the notary…
Word for the day: liminal. The word means “the place of transition, like the space where the sea and the land meet.” It defines that murky point as we move into a new thing or a new chapter, or a new experience that requires some new thought. It comes from the Latin, limen, which is the narrow part of the doorway between two rooms, or between the inside and outside of a home. It’s that thing you hit as you carry a particularly wide item through a doorway, and it reminds you to be more careful…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.