Less than three months ago, the beloved journalist and television personality Motti Kirshenbaum passed away at the age of 76. Kirshenbaum was a widower, and in recent years he had a partner. Although he loved the attention of the media, It seems to me that, he would have hated to think about the public inheritance feud between his adult children and his partner, following his death.
Of course, inheritance feuds do not happen only in families of public figures or millionaires, people could fight bitterly over their parents’ money even when there is hardly anything left to divide.
But when it comes to individuals who chose to open a new chapter in their life, the hatred and contempt, between the opposing sides: the children of the deceased and the remaining partner,are often not concealed. From the two articles in Ma’ariv about the Kirshenbaum family, it was evident that in this case the gloves were off.
In Hebrew we call that new chapter “Chapter Two” and it refers to the meaningful relationship, which occurs if or when chapter 1, in which people get married and have children, ends. Many people are lucky to have only one long chapter in their life, others, due to unfortunate circumstances such as death or divorce, are left on their own. Some of them choose to find a new partner.
A good friend, who is a widower, told me once that the main bones of contention in chapter 2 are children and money.
In novels, unlike the significant first chapter, the following one is somewhat secondary. While chapter 1 sets the action and the tone for the whole book and creates certain hopes, chapter 2 works best when it develops the themes of the first, and fulfills some of its promises. If it doesn’t it could confuse and irritate the reader, and may lead to frustration and disbelief..
It happens outside literature as well, and as couples who choose chapter 2 try to be independent and carve out a new life for themselves, it often creates feelings of suspicion and even ill-will among children and other family members. And, as my friend suggested, most often this mistrust manifests itself in issues related to money.
Like a skilled author, those new couples find themselves trying to give power and significance to their allotted chapter 2 while trying to keep promises which were given in chapter 1.
I don’t see how, following the death of a parent, conflicts between adult children and the remaining partner could be resolved, especially as both sides are motivated by anger and suspicion. But it helps if there are specific instructions that both sides know. My husband explicitly told me that he hoped that I would start a new chapter once he was gone, but that he trusted me to take good care of our daughters’ future.
Thus, the first thing I did once I got up from the Shiva was to fulfill his wish and wrote a will. We have no way of knowing what happens after we are gone, but putting our affairs in order ahead of time is a small step toward leaving our children a better world, and keeping our legacy unmarred,