The imminent approach of death does funny things to some people, especially to the relatives of the person dying.
According to family legend, when my paternal great grandfather was lying in his bedroom breathing his last, in the next room, his children were squabbling over who was getting the Rolls-Royce. Apparently, things got so heated that no less than three of the five adult children stopped speaking to each other for the next twenty years.
Meanwhile, the body of my grand-aunt on my mother’s side was barely luke warm when one of her daughters discovered a Cartier diamond necklace was missing from the jewellery box. Before you could say ‘How many carats?’, accusations were hurled, insults traded, barely concealed sibling rivalry dating back decades were uncovered, and two sisters began, literally, throwing pots at one another in the kitchen.
“Pots?” Saffy asked. “They were fighting in the kitchen?”
I shrugged. “I guess. This all happened long before I was born. My mother says the sisters never spoke to one another ever again, not even when they discovered that one of the house maids had stolen the necklace.”
Leave it to Amanda, resident forensic scientist and aspiring gold-digger, to ask the obvious question. “So who’s got the necklace now?”
“They broke it apart and distributed the diamonds. My mother wears one of them as a ring.”
“Isn’t it sad how people fight over the most silly things?” Saffy wondered, shaking her head.
“It was an 800-carat diamond necklace, Saf,” I said.
Saffy blinked. “Oh.” You could almost see the dawning realization that she too would have been up for a fight if she’d had a stake in the necklace.
“It always just amazes me how people don’t make clear wills,” Amanda observed, putting the full force of her Harvard education into the statement. “It would save so much heartache and drama!”
“I don’t have a will,” Saffy said.
“That’s because you have no possessions and no money,” I pointed out.
“Yes, that is true,” Saffy conceded. “But somewhere out there, I might have a wealthy relative who decides to leave everything to me! Isn’t that what happened in ‘Annie’?”
Amanda looked pained. “Not to point out the obvious, but life isn’t a Broadway musical, Saf.”
Saffy giggled good-naturedly. The woman has the temperament of a Teflon pan. Very few insults stick. “You just never know. It could happen. Look at Amal Clooney! Do you have a will?”
“Of course! I had one done up as soon as I started working!”
“Am I in it?” Saffy asked.
Amanda paused. “What do you mean?”
“Did you leave me anything?”
Amanda looked surprised. “Why would I leave you anything?”
Saffy’s legendary bosom inflated at the obvious absurdity of the question. “Because. I. Am. Your. Best. Friend?” she articulated slowly.
As Amanda later remarked to me privately, what do you say to something like that?
“Actually, that whole conversation was just so depressing. I’m not ready to die yet! And why should anyone get a hold of all hard earned cash when I’m still in the prime of my life?”
I assured her that she wasn’t going to die any time soon.
“You don’t know that!” Amanda said, raising a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Freak accidents happen to people all the time. My third aunt nearly choked to death on a leftover siew mai at home while the stupid maid just stood there screaming!”
“How do you know she was screaming?” I wanted to know.
“It was all recorded on the nanny cam! And the only reason she didn’t choke to death was she struggled out of her chair, tripped over the dog, and fell down, and during the impact coughed up the siew mai.”
“Well that was lucky!” I said.
“She broke her hip though.”
“Does she have a will?”
“Yes. Apparently, she’s leaving it all to the stupid dog! Her children are so upset.”
What Saffy is dying to know though is just who is in Amanda’s will.
“Surely we must be in it?” she speculated this morning.
“Must we?” I asked.
Saffy’s bosom trembled. “Well, I don’t see why not. We’re closer to her than any of her relatives! Speaking of which,” Saffy said, pausing as she looked at me with mild speculation in her eyes, “am I in your will?”
“What makes you think I have anything to leave behind?”
“Oh, please,” Saffy told me. “I’ve seen what car your father drives!”
All of which has gotten me thinking about my will. My mother says it’s not who you leave your money to, but who you don’t.
“It’s so much more satisfying!” she told me.
Saffy says I should be worried.