Stortellers - Marlene
Marlene's Story about Making a Will

Marlene is sitting outside in her favorite chair watching the sun rise. She has finished her morning prayers. Her daughter, Cecelia sits next to her. They are silent together for a long time.

Marlene: Daughter, I enjoy these mornings together with you. Seeing the sunrise. Knowing that the family are pretty much okay. I don't know how many more of these sunrises I will enjoy in this life.

Cecelia: Momma, I think you are going to see a lot more of these sunrises.

Marlene: Maybe. Maybe not. The Creator will let me know (smiles).

Cecelia: Momma, I don't know how to say this in a good way and I want to have you here with us for many more years. I also think that you should have a written will. This does not mean that I think you are going to die soon. I have also made out a will. I do not plan to die soon either.

Marlene: But daughter, those things are for white people. We don't need them here.

Cecelia: I didn't used to think so. But I do now. You remember my friend Lucy who died suddenly last year?

Marlene: Of course I do. She was a good mother to her children.

Cecelia: Well, her family are all fighting with one another. This has been going on since Lucy walked on. She would never have wanted to see her children act this way. It is so sad. They are acting mean to one another.

Marlene: What do you mean? Why would they act mean?

Cecelia: Well, Lucy never had a will written. She had told her children who she wanted to have her jewelry and her grandfather's pipe and her great-grandfather's shield. But nothing was in writing. Lucy just never thought her children would be greedy and mean. But oh, Momma, they have behaved very badly. Her son George stole the shield because he said it was worth a lot of money. He was going to sell it. Henry found out, went over and got George drunk, then stole the shield back. Henry gave it to his son to hide in the hills until George gets his mind back and quits thinking about money. But George didn't get his mind back. He filed a law suit. Against his family for the theft! Can you believe that?

Marlene: But why would he do that. This is his family? I don't understand. Is this because of the alcohol? We never should have let the reservation go "wet". Bad choice. Don't know what the tribal council was thinking of when they passed that. So where is the shield now?

Cecelia: No one knows. Henry's son has disappeared, but everyone knows that Henry knows where he is. But Henry told the son to keep hiding until George gets his mind back.

Marlene: Oh that is sad. Families should not act that way.

Cecelia: Yes, and Lucy never thought that they would. But that's not all. Theda took the pipe!

Marlene: Why would Theda take the pipe? She isn't even a man? What will she do with the pipe?

Cecelia: She just got mad at George and then she got mad at Henry and her nephew for hiding the shield.

Marlene: They are all acting crazy. Lucy was a wise, traditional woman. Why would her children behave so badly.

Cecelia: Well, that is what made me do my own will. I think you should do the same. Even Sancha has made out a will.

Marlene: Sancha? But she is a traditional woman? Why would she need a will?

Cecelia: Because her family from the city also fought about her mother's possessions after the mother walked on.

Marlene: Oh, I don't like to hear these stories.

Cecelia: I don't either. But this is why I think you should also do a will in writing. You can tell me what to write and I will write it and give it to Samuel, the tribal lawyer, so he can make it legal. He can read everything to you to make certain it is what you want done.

Marlene: But daughter, I am poor. I don't have anything.

Cecelia: Yes, Momma, you do. You own this house. You have the paintings and pottery from our ancestors. You have regalia. You have your beautiful beadwork.

Marlene: Oh, I can't think about this now. This is not right.

Cecelia: I know how hard it is. I had the same trouble. But I made myself do it. I asked Lisa to come over and take pictures of all of my things ... even my old Chevy truck. It still runs good. It felt very strange to do this, but I did. I labeled all of the photos of what it was and who it was to go to when I walk on. So many times I just wanted to say, "let my brothers and sisters decide". But I did not. I made certain everyone got something that I think they may like or think of me when they wear it or use it. But it was hard. It took me a long time to do this.

Marlene: When did you do this? I don't remember Lisa coming over to take pictures?

Cecelia: You were taking your afternoon nap. We did it over several days because I kept remembering other things that I needed to decide who they should go to.

Marlene: So you did this in secret? Without me knowing?

Cecelia: That is why I am telling you what I have done now. I did not mean for it to be secret or hidden. But I didn't want to talk with you about writing your own will. I needed to see how hard it would be for me first. Now I know. It was a hard thing to do. Now that I've done it, I am ready to talk with you about it.

Marlene: So talk.

Cecelia: Well, I kept changing my mind about who I wanted to have each thing. Like my concho belt. At first I thought you, but you have your own and rarely wear it any more.

Marlene: No, it is too heavy. So I only wear it for special ceremonies.

Cecelia: Yes. Then I thought Kathy. But Kathy's regalia has the beaded belt. Then I thought about Marylou, Paul's wife; that she may like it. But then I finally decided that Lisa should have it. I don't know why. I just finally decided that Lisa was best.

Marlene: So you gave some things to the wives? That is good. They've been good wives and mothers. But you don't have very much.

Cecelia: No, I don't have much; but I had more than I realized once I started to do this. Like I have the small earrings for a child that I've had since I was a child. Remember Auntie June gave them to me?

Marlene: Oh yes. I didn't know you still had them.

Cecelia: I didn't either. They were down in my old box with my books and things.

Marlene: Oh, this is interesting. What else did you find?

Cecelia: I have old photos of the family and our ancestors.

Cecelia: Well, when I did my will, you can say who is first, second, third and decide that type of stuff. So I said first they went to you. But if you passed on, then they should go to Stacy. If Stacy was no longer alive, then they would go to Paul.

Marlene: Why did you skip Sharon?

Cecelia: Because Sharon has copies of all of the same photos. We did that about ten years ago.

Marlene: Okay, that was good.

Cecelia: So, Momma, will you also do a written will?

Marlene: Why does it have to be written down? Why can't I just tell you who I want to receive things?

Cecelia: Because if it is not written down, it goes through the tribal courts, may even have to go through state courts and nothing oral is legal. It has to be in writing.

Marlene: Hummm. I would rather just tell you.

Cecelia: I know. But you can tell me and I will write it down. I'll read it back to you before I give it to Samuel.

Marlene: Harrumph. How much is this going to cost?

Cecelia: He charged me $100.

Marlene: Where did you get $100?

Cecelia: I sold two of my baskets.

Marlene: Where would I get $100?

Cecelia: We can decide which beadwork or baskets you and I have that we wouldn't mind selling. We can pay for it that way.

Marlene: Okay, let me thing about this for a while. Maybe I should just ask the children to come up and choose for themselves?

Cecelia: I don't think so. They may try to talk you out of doing a written will. Or, they may start fighting now. Or, just be too uncomfortable talking about your belongings while you are still alive.

Marlene: Yes, I think they would be uncomfortable. I would be uncomfortable too. I need to think about this some.

To read more stories about Marlene, click on her leaf above or click Here



top of page