The family gathered to hear the reading of George’s Last Will and Testament. You could feel the tension in the air amongst those who were present. The family had disbanded many years prior, and this was the first time they had all been in the same room with one another in nearly a decade.
The eldest sibling was Reginald Forester, the CEO of his father’s thriving company, GeoTech, a communications empire that had reached international status. Reginald left home at the age of twenty-one after marrying his high-maintenance wife, Gloria. The more money that Reginald made, the more she would spend. Now, at thirty, he struggles to make ends meet financially.
Second, was Nerissa, a quiet, kind, rather ordinary woman of twenty-four. She was the only one who remained by her father’s side during his last days, caring for him as his health began to fade.
Nerissa chose a simple life over the extravagant lifestyle of her siblings. She felt that money should be earned, not given freely. In her experience, those who were given all that they wanted in life with no effort in doing so, ended up being arrogant and obnoxious.
Lastly, was the youngest sibling, Katherine. Raised with a silver spoon in her mouth, Katherine, now nineteen expected everyone to like her because her family had money, plus she was quite beautiful (after the multiple cosmetic surgeries).
As they settled in for the reading, the attorney, James Quincy, asked them to be seated so he could begin. Reginald’s wife, Gloria sat there in her mink coat admiring her French manicured nails and chewing on a piece of gum while Reginald waited anxiously to find out how much he was left.
Katherine sat at the edge of her seat in anticipation as well, believing that she, as the baby of the family, would receive the most.
Nerissa sat silently, not wanting, or expecting any financial windfall. She just wanted to make sure his last wishes were fulfilled.
“To my son, Reginald, I leave my company so you can continue to build it for any future family members that may wish to take the helm after you retire. GeoTech should provide you with the lavish lifestyle that you and Gloria had grown accustomed to.”
Reginald interrupted the lawyer before he could move onto the next person, and demanded to know what other money was left for him, but Mr. Quincy insisted that was all. Katherine laughed aloud at her brother’s desperate outburst.
“Next, my daughter, Nerissa. You showed me compassion throughout your life, and for that, I wish to leave you all of my personal belongings, including all clothing, diaries, the collection of books that I know you have read a dozen times over, and the photo albums with all of the treasured memories I have kept of our family. I hope you find as much joy in them as I had.”
Once again, Katherine laughed aloud, and the lawyer continued.
“Finally, my youngest daughter, Katherine. For you, I have arranged a scholarship for you to attend the college of your choice. If you remain at the school for a minimum of three years, and finish with a degree in the course of your choice, you will then receive the sum of one-million dollars to help you get started on a life of your own. If you fail to finish school, you will not receive a penny of your inheritance.”
Katherine’s jaw hung open, and for once, she was silent. This time, it was Reginald’s turn to laugh. Katherine picked up a coaster off the table and whipped it toward Reginald’s head. He ducked, and the coaster slapped against his wife’s five-hundred dollar hairdo. Gloria screamed as if she had just been shot.
“The house and all of its furnishings will be sold off and the proceeds would be donated to the list of charities that I have provided to my attorney, James Quincy.”
To this, Reginald demanded to see it in writing. He could not believe his father would sell the family home without first offering it to one of them. Katherine, for once, agreed with her brother and insisted that there had to be a mistake.
Nerissa tried to calmly tell her brother and sister that these were their father’s wishes, and that they should respect that, but as usual, they ignored anything their sister had to say.
Mr. Quincy finished by handing each one of them a handwritten letter by their father. Reginald shoved the envelope in his pocket for future reading. Katherine set hers on the table to replace the coaster she had thrown and sat her glass of lemonade on top of it. Nerissa held hers close to her heart and closed her eyes. She looked forward to reading it.
A few weeks had passed, and Nerissa found herself a quaint little house in town. She was sad to see the house she grew up in being sold, but she understood her father’s logic. He knew that there would be arguments over who “deserved” the house more, and by selling it, he eliminated that problem.
She began to unpack the boxes of her father’s belongings, placing the diaries on a bookshelf in her room to read through at night before going to sleep. The photo albums were set under the coffee table in her living room, and for her father’s clothes, she would need to buy a portable wardrobe and store them in her basement.
She sat on her couch and pulled out one of the albums. As she flipped through the pages, she had found photos of her mother and father’s wedding day. They looked so young and beautiful together.
A newspaper article was folded between the pages. As she opened it up, she found an article describing the car accident that took her mother’s life several years earlier. A drunk driver had swerved into her lane and collided with her head-on at high speed. The article said that she had died on scene.
Tears began to fall at the thought of her mother. It was like losing her all over again. She folded the article back up and placed it back inside the photo album. On the following page, was a picture of Reginald when he was a toddler. Her father had not yet built his company at that point, so they lived in a small, one-bedroom house in a middle-class neighborhood.
Reginald was dressed in a ridiculous duck costume that he insisted on wearing on a daily basis until he outgrew it. Their dad used to tell her stories about how Reginald would wear that costume everywhere and would be teased by the other kids, but it never deterred him.
She put the album away and took out the letter her father had left her and read it once again:
“Dearest Nerissa, if you are reading this, I must have passed away. I am sorry that I had to leave you without any parents, but I believe in you. Of all my children, you are the one I have the most faith in. You have a strength in you.
I have left you what I feel you would appreciate more than Katherine or Reginald. Please cherish them and keep them safe, for one day, you may find something in them that is of great value to you.
With love always and forever, Dad.”
Later that night, as she laid in bed, Nerissa began reading her father’s diaries, beginning with the oldest, dated 1992. He wrote about his short-lived football career in high school. It was their third game, and he had caught the ball and was running for a touchdown. He tripped on a divot in the field and fell hard to the ground five yards away from the goal line.
He was carried off the field on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital. The doctor told him that he had a bad break on his fibula and would likely be out for most of the season. During his downtime, he focused his time on learning about electronics.
It wasn’t long before he was taking old radios that no longer worked and bringing them back to life. When the doctor gave him the okay to return to the football team, he chose to pursue a career in electronics instead.
Nerissa had gotten through half of the diary when she began to get tired, so she closed the book and fell off to sleep.
The following day, Nerissa returned from shopping with two portable wardrobes for her father’s clothing. Once they were assembled, she brought everything down to the basement and began to carefully remove them one-by-one.
Lifting out a cardigan that her father wore quite often, Nerissa held it closely to her face, taking in a deep breath. The scent of his cologne still lingered in the fabric and for a moment, it felt like he was back with her again.
She slipped the cardigan onto a hanger and hung it on the wardrobe. Noticing some stitching coming loose on the inside lining, Nerissa pulled it closer to have a better look. There seemed to be a square-shaped pattern on the inside where a pocket might be, but she didn’t recall there ever being a pocket there before.
As she grabbed that section of the cardigan and began to pull the thread, she felt something beneath the surface of the fabric. Nerissa carefully removed the stitching along the top of the square, then taking her scissors, she sliced open along the line where the stiches had been sewn.
Nerissa slipped her fingers inside the opening and felt a piece of paper. Not wanting to damage whatever it was, she extracted it slowly. It was a folded piece of paper
She opened it up to find a key and account information for the Savings & Trust Bank in town. Unsure what it was for, she drove the bank and asked to speak to someone regarding what she had found.
One of the associates had come out to greet her and asked her to follow him to his office. He explained to her that the key was for a safety deposit box and there were instructions attached to the account that in the case of her father’s death, Nerissa would be able to access the contents of the safety deposit box.
Shocked, Nerissa could not believe her father had entrusted her with this instead of his lawyer. She was lead back to the room where the boxes were stored and the associate handed her the key while removing a second key that was hanging on a lanyard around his neck.
Inserting both keys into box number 106, they each turned the keys clockwise and he slid it out and set the box on the table. The associate then left her in the room by herself so she could examine the contents privately.
As she lifted the lid, the first thing Nerissa saw was a letter that she opened up and read. It was from her father, and he stated that, although she doesn’t feel money is that important, he wanted to help her out. He said that he did not want this mentioned at the will reading because he did not to cause tension between her and her siblings.
Below were certificates for several Bonds and GICs in her name. When she brought them to the associate, he searched the value of the certificates, and found that they were valued at close to two-million dollars. The associate recommended that she speak with a financial advisor and look into investing the certificates in alternate ways that would better suit her needs.
Nerissa took the man’s advice and found an advisor who found several long and short-term investments that would keep her financially secure for the rest of her life if she did not live extravagantly.
She invited her sister and brother over for dinner one evening. It took a lot of convincing, but they finally agreed. Reginald came without Gloria. When she found out that he wasn’t given any inheritance but the company, she filed for divorce. He was embarrassed, but happy for the first time in years.
Nerissa brought out the photo of him in the duck suit and they had a good laugh over it. She said that if either of them wanted to look through the photo albums and keep some of the pictures for themselves, they were welcome to do so.
Katherine seemed quieter than usual and was dressed casually instead of trying to stand out in a crowd. She told Nerissa that she had gone back to school like their dad wanted and was taking courses in business management. She asked Reginald if she could apprentice at GeoTech when she reached her third year. He welcomed the idea.
It seemed like the two of them were going to be fine after all, Nerissa thought. She was just sad that it took the death of their father and his afterlife guidance, to bring them close again. She suggested that they meet at least once per month to keep up-to-date on how things are going, and they each agreed.
Three years had passed and the siblings had continued to get together. Reginald, after a messy divorce, got the company running better than it ever had, making a higher profit margin than his father had ever dreamed. A lot of that had to do with the ingenuity of Katherine, who after a year of apprenticing at GeoTech was offered the position of senior analyst. Her investment strategies doubled the company profits within a year.
Nerissa continued to live in her quaint little house and kept her meager job but would anonymously donate money to her father’s favorite charities. Eventually, she had scanned all of the photos and created an online album that she shared with her brother and sister. She also printed one off of the entire family before their mother died. She made two extra copies, framed them, and gave them to Katherine and Reginald to hang in their homes.
It says in the Bible, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” but perhaps it is not the money itself, but the people who possess it. Money can be used wisely or frivolously, so it is up to each individual to decide if they control money, or if money controls them.