We received a call from Linda’s brother that his ex-wife passed away early in the morning on October 26. She died of complications from Cirrhosis of the liver. She had massive internal bleeding and basically bled to death.
Not a week earlier, we had talked to one of our nieces on the phone and she told us how well her mom was doing – both physically and mentally. She had just sold their old home and had bought a new one and was in the process of moving stuff in – with her boyfriend of two years.
Apparently, the stress of the move contributed to her health condition worsening.
As I mentioned in a recent comment, I had a feeling that the funeral was going to be a “difficult and uncomfortable experience.” Fortunately, I was wrong.
Sure, there were a few moments where our nieces and nephew’s emotions (primarily anger) crept out, but for the most part everyone was civil and maintained the calm.
For those of you who are not familiar with the whole back story of my brother-in-law’s situation, the Reader’s Digest version is that he had an affair, divorced his wife of about 30 years and married his affair partner. This caused an outrageous amount of pain, hurt, resentment and anger. Not just with the ex-wife either, but with the kids as well.
So, it was somewhat logical to assume that a fair amount of the pent-up anger towards their father would come out at some point during the week.
Rather than write this post in story format, I’m going to simply list my observations and/or thoughts of the last few days. Here goes…
My Observations & Thoughts
- Somewhat surprisingly, Linda’s brother attended the visitation, the funeral and the reception after the funeral. In fact, he paid for pretty much everything (including all hotel accommodations for out-of-town guests). We were thinking that he would want to stay away from any and all services.
- Not only did he attend everything, he handled himself and the situation quite well. He more or less stayed in the background but didn’t shy away from mingling and talking with old friends and relatives.
- The week prior to the funeral, his wife was in town as well since they were babysitting his grand baby. He (they) made a good decision to take the wife back home so that she wouldn’t be a distraction. It was kind of strange though that he had to drive her back home and then turn around the next day and take a plane back to North Carolina where the funeral was. Why not just send her home on a plane? Is it perhaps because she is so insecure and coddled that she couldn’t handle traveling by herself?
- We also speculate that his wife was not at all thrilled with him being around family members and friends. She is funny about that for some reason. Trust issues perhaps?
- Linda’s brother (Let’s call him Ken) and I went together after the visitation Sunday evening to pick up some pizzas, beer and wine for everyone to eat back in the hotel lobby. While in the car he mentioned that he felt guilty for pushing for the sale of their home and for the stress it may have caused her. Since the divorce decree nearly 3 years ago called for the home to be sold, it had languished on the market all that time. It was obvious his ex-wife (Let’s call her Mary) didn’t want to sell it. Since he was paying the hefty mortgage payment on it, he recently got more aggressive in pushing for the sale to happen.
- The kids (our nieces and nephew) were mad that they were thrust into a situation of having to plan a funeral, be an executrix of a will, handle their mom’s financial dealings, meet with attorneys, etc. If not for the affair and divorce, it would have been their dad doing all of the arrangements. (Deep down, I don’t doubt that they may feel that she wouldn’t have even died so young, if not for the affair and divorce.)
- Though we were not surprised that all of Ken and Mary’s friends showed up, we were a bit amazed at first that none of them seemed to harbor any animosity toward Ken for the way the marriage ended. These were close friends and neighbors. People who went on trips and stuff with Ken and Mary. There were lots of hugs, laughs and conversation amongst Ken and his friends in attendance at the post-funeral reception. Later we learned from one of them that though the marriage ended badly and Ken made many poor choices, he always treated Mary well after the divorce – financially and otherwise. For that they were grateful.
- My observations of Mary’s siblings and other relatives indicated that there is still a bridge to be repaired between them and Ken. They were a bit ‘cool’ towards him at first, but I did notice that they lightened up as time went on.
- Our nieces and nephew are harboring a bit of anger and resentment towards one another. One niece is resentful because she was the one who had to take care of their mom over the last few years and had to make all the funeral arrangements, etc. on her own. Our nephew is mad at the other niece because she also had an affair and divorced her husband – a person we all loved – and now lives with her affair partner.
- It will be interesting to see how things play out with the kids as they are eventually going to inherit quite a lot of money. They were raised wealthy and somewhat spoiled, but each are now struggling financially as adults. Our hope is that they seek wise financial counsel so that their sudden wealth can last a lifetime.
- After the funeral and reception, about 20 of us family members went out for a nice dinner. (Again, paid for by Ken.) After the dinner and a fairly ample amount of alcohol in our nephew’s system, he shared with us his dislike for Ken’s new wife (Let’s call her Nancy) and his anger towards his dad. However, he did say that he wants to rebuild the relationship between him and his dad, but he wants to do it just the two of them – without Nancy involved and/or present. We feel that Ken will want to include his wife but needs to make a sacrifice and leave her out of it for now. And if Nancy really wanted to have the relationship mended, she would voluntarily step back and allow them to do so.
Mary’s death was extremely sudden and unexpected and it’s going to take a while for the kids to get over it. Though it’s never easy to see any silver lining in a person’s death, it appears that in this case there might be a catalyst for healing to take place.
Healing can take place between Ken and his ex-wife’s siblings and extended family. But more importantly, relationship healing can take place between Ken and each of his kids individually.
Linda and I feel that we should help here because we’re not confident that they will reach out to one another on their own. We can’t do a lot, other than talk to them and express the need each to take the first step. We hope that they will.