Looking at him as he whispered with the left side of the mouth on his hospital bed, we all prayed. He was sick, and had suffered a stroke that left his left side immobile. I had just gained admission into a higher institution, and more than before I understood the role of a father in my life. I remember the last time I came home barely two months that I went to school, we had a fight, I was hurt by his words, but I knew they were momentary, he would soon call me and we would laugh it off.
True to my thoughts, he called and complained I move about like an owl; and in defiance of his joke he looked at my mother. I knew it was a comparison joke and that elicited a laugh from me and a heavy frown from my mother. She was “happily- angered” by his incessant jokes and the rub on her, but such was his ways; Jovial, good provider, friendly, great, generous and principled. One thing was missing though; he never said it all. I can’t call it secretive as every other part of his life was an open book except his finances which he held such traditional views about.
He believed men should not tell the source of their income to their family especially to their wives, as the women may go overboard. As the breadwinner, it was and still is the notion of the traditional man that taking care of the families is important, but to show the woman the source was considered a weakness. Whether there was a great deal of sense in this belief, I never knew until it dawned on us that he had died without a will. We could only lay claims to the property we lived in while the locations of other lands and properties remained unknown. He never suffered the result of this view, we did. We toiled, we searched, but the secrets were well locked in the deep of his stomach, and he died with it.
At a time I wonder why my mother allowed it, but then, when a friend of mine shared the story about the death of her father and the tussles that went on years after years about properties they never knew existed and the throngs of children and wives that came after his death to lay claim to him being their father and husbands, I realized that some certain aspect about the traditional man are systems, culture and opinions ingrained in them from age-long, which indeed can be detrimental to the health of the wife or children and the future of the family. One opinion that disturbed me was shared by an older aunt when she came visiting and told us that men are gods and whatever they keep away from their wives and families must be accepted in fate that things should be like that, as this has been the case from age-long.
Some tradition, culture and its sentiments are a bad rub on good logic. So many patriarchy views just like this has hurt and displaced the destinies of families that could have been great if there were indeed transparency and plans as well as written wills before the death of the breadwinner or head of the homes. The African man aside keeping the issues of their true state of finance from their loved ones believe that writing will is an invitation to early death. Writing wills in Africa is still a custom left to old age or most times never at all. Will writing is not only for a certain class of people but for every discerning adult, so as to put things into clearer perspectives for the sake of the family and other relatives at large. It may be permissible for the old century man not to divulge information regarding his social, mental, health as well as financial status to their families, it is not permissible for any man or woman in this century to die without a will.
With information technology and the turn of the millennium came a shift in the age of discernment and of course achievement. There are so many 19-year-old billionaires and 25 years old hard-working young men and women who have drawn plans for the next 10 years on where and what they want to achieve. Of course nobody expect death, yet it is called good planning if as a young married man or woman you begin to put things into perspectives for the sake of your immediate family or loved ones by planning for when you are not going to be there anymore . I believe forty is a safe age for any man or woman to start planning and writing will which can be updated years and years afterwards till the last will before either untimely demise or timely as the case may be.
Death is inevitable, yet agony and despair of loved ones can be abated when the right thing is done. I heard of a friend’s story whose in-law chased away some couple of months ago after her husband died because she had no child, and the story of the man who was humiliated by the wife’s family for killing their daughter to inherit her properties.
For children, and wives even husband not to suffer the ridicule of untimely death, financial disasters and all family traumas may bring, every man should attempt to write a will once he gets to the age of 40. Death is inevitable, but then, there must be preparation for any eventuality at a certain age.
Can women write will too?
Obviously, this is a question a lot of women shrug off as unimportant and also considered as morbid. Many of us actually laugh it off thinking "what do i have" that i want to write a will on. Yet in Africa and some parts of the world we see many women being disowned from what is rightfully theirs and some can even be killed for laying claims to what is truly theirs. You may ask of what good will a will be in the part of the world that you are that men/ boys are favoured more than girls.
Simple. It serves as the information, the legal bid that can get you to fight for what is truly yours. Women should encourage men to write wills at a certain age, as for single parents, writing will is not bad as well as it proves as the standing instructions in case of any eventuality.
Women need every help they can get to help them fight for themselves and their children. they need help to raise their voices in cases of undue maltreatment from family members. The will may not be an absolute defense in terms of combating against the societal beliefs about women holding inheritances, yet it can help to bring justice through the right channel for the oppressed.