I always thought that love makes a family; nothing more, nothing less. Now I know that love makes a family while everyone is healthy, but blood and paper give you the rights to show your love in the bad or hard times.
Whether you are gay or straight, formalities and legalities matter. Legal marriage and legal adoption matter. Wills and advance directives matter.
ULOB (Mom’s brother) and AROB were together for 65 years. AROB and ULOB were always a part of our lives. Neither was a trailblazer or a patriarch/matriarch. They didn’t seek out the American dream like so many children of immigrants. Escaping from their families was probably success enough.
On Christmas, ULOB found AROB dead in her apartment and called the police. They were never married and kept separate apartments (relationships are complicated). The police took all the keys and sealed the apartment (procedure when someone dies) because, as a matter of law, ULOB had no right to be in AROB’s apartment. Even though he probably spent most of the last 65 years of his life in that apartment, he had the same rights to be there after she died as a next door neighbor: NONE.
All my life, AROB was my aunt and I was her niece. Now, I am nothing under law.
Who has decision-making authority? Nephews she hadn’t seen more than once in over three decades.
Through the generosity of the local police, ULOB, SOB and I were able to look through her apartment (with a police escort) to find information about her blood nephews or burial plans. We came up with nothing.
So, her body lies refrigerated at the coroner’s office.
Luckily, ULOB remembered enough information so I could find these nephews.
One nephew lives nearby. He is willing to help so we can bury her, so that we can perform that last act of respect and love for a dead relative. RELATIVE, not friend. My AUNT, not my neighbor or colleague. My FAMILY.
I want her to rest in peace. I think that starts with being buried by her loved ones.