Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Smile Jamaica; it's mourning time

Published:Tuesday | November 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

I've encountered no more soul-sapping blight on family and thus nation building than what Jamaicans call 'dead lef'.

As a lawyer, I've seen many families destroyed after the death of a wealthy patriarch/matriarch as the bereaved fight unrelenting wars of cataclysmic consequences over worldly goods left behind. Worse, I've witnessed qualified adults eschew personal ambition for what Dennis Emmanuel Brown might call 'Sitting and Watching'. That's the art of counting the years, months and eventually days in expectation of a family member's departure, coinciding with their ship coming in.

He: Darling, go home, your husband is ill.

She: He? Is he ill? Let them give him a pill.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man.

As soon as dear departed passes, formerly loving, caring family members turn into snarling, sniping antagonists. They'll fight over anything anywhere anytime. Declarations of war are prompted by arguments about who loved the deceased best; who looked after him/her best; and, my personal favourite, what the deceased really wanted (really, really wanted). Nobody admits selfish motives. It's always concern about the most vulnerable left behind.

He: Darling, go home, your husband is worse.

She: He? Is he worse? Well, I am no nurse.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man."

Every professed Christian principle flies out the window with the deceased's soul. Jesus taught self-reliance, equality and tolerance, but none appear relevant in this sordid struggle over birthrights.

But what's a 'birthright'? Aren't we born with the right to life and nothing else? Aren't we gifted, according to Jesus, with free will to make of our lives what we want? Why'd our lives be dependent on another's acquisitions? Can't we acquire our own?

He: Darling, go home, your husband is dead.

She: He? Is he dead? There's no more to be said.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man.

Then I'll go home to my poor old man."

Laws protect rights of genuine spouses (regardless of 'formal' status) to community property. But if spousey hasn't protected himself/herself during the other half's lifetime and put all eggs in the basket of a will, contents unknown, surely, in practical terms (the law, a notorious ass, may say otherwise), spousey can't complain if the will casts his/her pearls before 19- year-old swine.

I assure you, there'll be no gnashing of teeth when I travel to my eternal reward because The Old Ball and Chain has securely buried her claws in the small number of assets we've managed to acquire while feeding, clothing and educating three greedy reproductive sequelae. It's official. What's mine is hers. What's hers is hers.

Therein lies the rub. Parents' responsibility, in my opinion, is to educate their children according to each offspring's capacity. That's it. That's all. After that, children must make their own lives. Assets acquired by parents may appear attractive as solutions to children's fiscal difficulties. However, should any actually devolve upon the children, they'll soon enough learn that unless they inherited or learned parents' expertise from whence assets were earned, those assets, like IMF loans, will bring more sadness than gladness before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Easy come; easy go. Or, in the vernacular, what sweet yu, it will soon sour yu.

He: Darling, go home, the will's to be read.

She: What's that you said?

He: I said the will's to be read.

She: Oh, no, no, my dear Franz, this is no time to dance.

I must go weep for my poor old man.

I must go weep for my poor old man.

My father once asked me to prepare his will. I declined. I offered him the services of a leading probate lawyer, free of cost, to take his instructions, prepare the will and probate the estate when he passed. My quid pro quo? I didn't want my name mentioned in the will. It wasn't.

One More Dance, written by C.C. Carter, was first recorded by Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte on May 2, 1960 during Belafonte's live Carnegie Hall concert. The album, Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall, No. 3 on Billboard's Pop Album charts, included the hilarious There's a Hole in the Bucket, which Belafonte sang with Odetta.

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.