When my mother passed on in 2014, I was appointed executor under her will. I have four younger siblings, and my main task as executor was to efficiently distribute assets to her children according to her intention as expressed in the will. I was appointed to be the executor of her estate because I am a lawyer by training.
The main asset of the estate was a primary residence in the suburbs outside a major city.
There was some hesitancy within the family to sell the primary residence – it was built just after the Revolutionary War and had been in the family since 1954. It was a charming house in its heyday, but hadn’t been kept up. I first put the house on the market in 2015, and the feedback was not encouraging. No one was interested in a large and drafty antique home that needed a lot of work. In the winter of 2016, the pipes froze in the unoccupied house, and the water ran continuously for a week through various ceilings and floors before the house was next visited by the real estate agent and a prospective client. Fixing the damage took six months and the house was taken off the market for that period.
During this time, my siblings experienced various financial pressures and there was an ongoing need to provide assistance to other members of the family.
I saw this as an opportunity to act in a kind and loving manner, and I personally offered to help finance several immediate needs, both of the estate -- for repair costs and ongoing real estate taxes -- and for individual family members with pressing personal needs. As time went on, I jotted down the expenses and the reason for each expense in a spreadsheet. I reasoned that these expenses were loans I was making that would be squared up when the primary residence was eventually sold.
Time went on and there was no interest in the house, and the carrying costs of the estate and the financial needs of my family continued to grow in dramatic fashion. Of course I prayed – I studied Journal and Sentinel articles about selling homes, the balance of supply and demand in God’s kingdom and meeting financial needs within a family. Three years went by, and there was no outward progress.
I then became alarmed at the extent of my ongoing financial loans to the estate and my siblings.
No lawyer representing a client in a situation like this would have acted as I had acted – no lawyer would have advanced funds to maintain and care for the house and various expenses incurred in working on the estate. Certainly all lawyers can be generous, and we all have a special love for and obligation to our families – but the shock of realizing what had happened – and that three years had elapsed, woke me up.
I realized that I had the power to change my own thinking about the circumstance – it was the only thing I could change; and it was the only thing I had to change. I realized the problem didn’t exist within an outside, independent, suppositional reality that included a dependent extended family and a real estate market I couldn’t control. I realized I was responsible for my own thinking and that healing would come once I corrected my own thinking – which was my only real task.
I had drifted off course and had accepted, as real, mortal mind’s false starting point -- that I was a kind and loving person that had been put personally in charge of a tough human situation, and that the responsibility for selling the house, assisting my siblings financially, and even praying for a quick sale and a good outcome had fallen on my shoulders. This wrong-headed thinking needed a course correction and a re-alignment with the reality of my true identity and oneness with God – and my view of my family needed to change to acknowledge that each family member had a primary and unique relationship with God as well.
When I realized that the wrong premise of identity apart from God needed to be corrected, as did my view of my place in the transaction, it was as though I had awakened from a dream. I clearly realized that I had been mesmerized into believing that I was personally responsible for the situation. The dream of false responsibility had been so compelling and real that, even though I had been motivated by kindness, I had acted in an incorrect and unproductive manner.
As soon as I had this realization, I wrote a loving e-mail to my siblings explaining in practical terms that I had taken on a false sense of responsibility for the success of the estate project and three years was enough and that we all needed to understand and work together to help sell the house, whether by maintain it more actively or otherwise supporting the effort. While writing the letter I realized that, in reality, each of my siblings had already been actively helping and supporting the care and maintenance of the house in their own way and that I could gratefully acknowledge everyone’s contribution. Most importantly, I felt at peace and I knew that acting more in accord with a correct view of my siblings as individual expressions of a loving and all-powerful God would be productive. I felt that I was back on course and no longer limited by a false sense of personality or identity apart from God.
I sent the e-mail at 3pm in the afternoon.
Ninety minutes later, a buyer made a good offer on the house, the first real offer we had received in more than two years. The real estate agent said the buyer (who was handy with tools), knew the house would perfectly fit his family’s needs.
We promptly accepted the offer.
For some time, I had thought that this situation was merely a problem about supply and demand and finding a buyer for an old house in a tough real estate market that was external to my consciousness. I learned that even though the circumstances that I wanted to control seemed outside of my control, what needed to be changed wasn’t supply and demand in the marketplace, but rather my view of my role in helping my extended family and my false sense of responsibility for the well-being of my siblings. That false sense hadn’t been helping my siblings and it certainly wasn’t helping me.
Mary Baker Eddy writes in Unity of Good, “[Jesus] demanded a change of consciousness and evidence, and effected this change through the higher laws of God.” (11:10-12). This healing proved to me once again that as we spiritualize or change our thinking, everything else changes too. And always for the better.