The story I’m going to tell you belongs to my family. My mother’s father was more than seventy years old when he was widowed. Soon after he met a women in her early twenties and they got married. They had two children. Seven years later he died, leaving his wife a widow with young children. Three years earlier my mother had had me. She was a single mother. My aunt (my mother’s sister) was married with children, but her husband had a good job and money in the family.
My grandfather left everything to his new wife and didn’t think to leave anything to my mother or my aunt, his two other daughters. Shortly before he died he had called my mother and expressed concern about his young children’s future.
My aunt didn’t try to claim her inheritance as she had a husband who could support her. My mother decided to renounce her inheritance because she remembered what her father had said to her on the phone and she did not want a family dispute. She was in a difficult position, I was little and her resources were scarce as my father had taken no responsibility for the situation. She thought that in hard times the rest of the family would be there to help her. Things didn’t always happen that way; sometimes she asked for financial help when she needed it was not given to her.
I should not feel resentment towards the family members involved, because things happened as they did because my mother chose to give up her inheritance at that time. She chose to put family harmony first, instead of risking a possible dispute over money if she had laid claim to her part. Her step brothers grow up wanting for nothing and their mother was able to educate them because she didn’t have to work as she could live off her private income.
If things had happened differently, perhaps today we would not have such good family relationships. I cannot blame my mother for the decisions she took in the past, even though they may have had repercussions on my life. In some way it has been a lesson for me. The less we argue over money the better, even if this means making sacrifices. Money is ephemeral, unlike family love. I am also sure that money should be spent and not saved and if anyone close to me needs it and I can get it for them, I will do all I can to do so. I hope not to repeat in the future the mistakes I have seen made in the past.
From an ethical point of view I think that it would have been fair for my mother’s stepmother or my aunt to give my mother the financial support she asked for. Support to pay for school or her flat in those times when her work wasn’t going so well. It’s not easy to bring up a child on your own. Perhaps my mother’s stepbrothers and sisters have learnt something from this story and if a similar situation was to happen in the future, maybe they would act in a fair way. If in the future I was to need money to look after my mother it would be ethically correct for them to help me, not because they owe me something, but because they have the financial resources to do so and family members should help each other out when times are hard.
To sum up, what happened in the past cannot be changed and we must try to accept it, even if it’s not easy. We should not seek out the guilty party, but take it as a lesson for life, so that it does not repeat itself. If it is possible to help repair the misdeed done in the past or prevent future damage, it is fair to do so if it can be done. We are responsible for what happens in the present, there is no doubt about that.