Much of the paper I've been going through was from my mother's estate. Years before she died Mom set up a living trust which included our farm land and her house in town. As Trustee it fell to me to manage all of that during her final illness in 2015 and after her death. It was a tough job for many reasons, so as soon as the land was sold and the Trust dissolved I banished all the papers to the Dreaded Basement to deal with Some Day. Some Day is now, as I tidy my house the Marie Kondo way.
The papers giving me power of attorney and making me primary Trustee brought up a lot of grief. The day she signed them was such a hard day. She knew what she was doing and wanted to sign but her health was failing fast. The attorney and I helped as best we could, but her formerly firm signature was weak and shaky. Poor Mom. She went onto hospice the next day and she died a few days later.
My mother had always. been a force of nature, intelligent and with a strong business sense. Trained as a legal secretary, she kept the books for our family's farm. Going through her papers I also found the original deeds for that farm. These deeds are some of the few papers I kept because they symbolize so much - family history, my parents' dreams and a lot of hard work.
My father grew up on a farm but inherited nothing because his father did not own the land. Sadly, my grandfather took his own life after their landlord announced he was selling the land they had worked for decades. I think Grandpa had some mental health issues that compromised his ability to deal with this blow. Dad was 17 at the time, and I'm sure this loss made owning land even more important to him.
Dad started off farming with $500 and a tractor. He began building a dairy operation which Mom (a town girl) helped run after their marriage. My sisters are a bit older than me and remember some of those years with the frequent moves that come with renting land. Then in the early 1960s our parents sold the dairy operation to put in a down payment on the land where I grew up. This gave them and our family stability and some security, but money was a constant worry.
Farming is a hard life. You all have to work, even as young children. Even if you work hard and well you can still end the year with a loss if the weather doesn't cooperate. By the late 70s we were fortunate if we could pay off the interest on the operating loan each year. Mom took a job to help supplement the family income. She really shone in her work and needed that affirmation.
My father died during the farm crisis of the 1980s. Between his life insurance and the sale of equipment and livestock, Mom was able to pay off the operating loan. His death allowed us to keep our land at a time when so many of our neighbors lost theirs. Mom rented the land and buildings which continued to provide some income for years.
When we sold the land it had gained so much value that my four siblings and I inherited more than I'm sure my parents ever dreamed when they first signed those deeds over 50 years ago. Those deeds symbolize security, dreams, and hard work but now also evoke pride, and nostalgia for a time and a lifestyle long gone, when we were all together.
It was wrenching to let go of the rest of that land, something few but farmers will understand. The land gets into your blood and sometimes your blood literally becomes part of the land. I understand my grandfather's grief better now. I took some of the soil from the farm and scattered it over my parents' graves. They worked so hard for it. I brought some of that soil back to Massachusetts with me. It sits black, rich, and loamy on the shelf above my desk. It smells good. It's beautiful.
For me, dealing with paper has been very emotional. These estate papers brought up grief and nostalgia as well as pride. On the other hand it brings closure. It helped me learn what is most important, what forms the foundation for my life that I need to have with me for the rest of it.