Real Estate and the Dead

My niece, a real estate agent in central Missouri, called me today with welcome news: The sale of her mother’s (my oldest sister’s) home was finally closed today, four years after my sister’s death.

It’s hard to sell a house when the real-estate market is depressed, as it has been since 2008. It is hard to sell one of the biggest houses in a economically depressed small town, no matter how well restored it is. It is hard to sell someone’s house when, perhaps, their “crossing over” was not easy.

Last winter, however, I was reading Robert Moss’s The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead: A Soul Traveler’s Guide to Death, Dying, and the Other Side, a book that I will have more to say about in a later post. (Thanks to Anne Hill for telling me about it.)

Something hit me:  As trustee and thus de facto manager of her properties, I had dealt with lawyers, tenants, ex-tenants, insurance agents, city and county government, and via my niece, the on-site manager, with contractors, inspectors, and potential buyers.

When I went back to Missouri in March 2006, I was preoccupied with tenant issues at another building, not to mention straightening out other issues that my sister’s death left unresolved.

But I forgot one thing. I was so busy inventorying the “big house’s” contents and thinking about water damage on the porch roof, etc., that I forgot to cleanse it.

Gods below, man, and you call yourself a practitioner.

This is the fourth time in my life that I have served as an executor or personal representative or trustee for someone who died. When you are the youngest kid, everyone expects you to outlive them, so they name you in their will  to clean up behind them. I have seen the same pattern in other families.

In two out of three previous cases, I received pretty definite confirmation that the deceased had made it to the Other Side successfully. (Although my stepmother and I were close, perhaps the absence of a blood tie meant that I was not on the mailing list, so to speak?)

But the message on my sister was much more ambiguous, which troubled me.

In all those previous instances, the homes of the deceased had sold relatively quickly. Of course, they were in more desirable areas—not in depressed little Missouri railroad towns.

Reading The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead, something hit me. My sister loved to restore old houses. In fact, a friend of hers once joked that she liked houses better than people. Was she still holding on to this one? Was that one reason why two or three deals on it had fallen through?

I called my niece about it. And I sent her a copy of the book, which she said brought her to tears, for she had been having her own dream-life issues with her mother. I asked her if she could arrange a cleansing.

(My niece is a sort of eclectic Jew—my family is nothing if not religiously diverse.)

She said she would get some sage or something and do it herself, for she agreed that we had been remiss not to cleanse the house.

A couple of months later, the house was under contract again. This time the deal went through. Maybe the federal government’s tax credit for homebuyers—which expires today—had something to do with April 30th being the closing day as well.

All I can say is that after we finally cleansed the house, we got a buyer.

And I am so relieved.

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