How a Dead Woman’s Belongings Made Me Think About My Life and Mortality

Have you ever moved into a house to find the previous owner left everything they didn’t want?

Krista Bennett
8 min readApr 9, 2022


Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

In 2005, my husband and I bought a house in Upstate, New York from a guy named Dan. Dan was a widower who lost his wife Shirley to breast cancer.

Rumor has it, Shirley was granted the house in a nasty divorce from her first husband.

Newly divorced, she met Dan at a local bar. Dan mentioned once that he and Shirley had only gone out a couple of times when she received a terminal diagnosis.

Despite only knowing each other for a short time, Dan proposed to Shirley and they were married. Although she was told she had at least a year to live, Shirley died 42 days after marrying Dan.

According to Shirley’s Will, the house was left to Dan. This caused Shirley’s only daughter to file a legal suit against him, claiming he had altered her mother’s Will.

Shirley’s daughter believed that the house was supposed to be left to her and her children. It was the house she grew up in. Understandably, she must have been hurt and angry.

Dan ultimately won the long-drawn-out court battle. During which, he was permitted to remain in the house.

Shirley’s daughter was court-ordered not to set foot on the property.

According to Dan, she sent him hate mail, threatened him with physical harm, and burned down a shed in the back of the house. They never proved it was Shirley’s daughter who started the fire, but Dan said she threatened to burn the house down while he slept. She told him if she didn’t get it, he couldn’t have it.

From Dan’s stories, Shirley’s daughter seemed off-kilter, but it bothered me when he would tell this particular victorious court-battle story. I didn’t like the way he boasted and bragged about how he won, referring to Shirley’s daughter as “the bitch.” It was unsettling.

The neighbors expressed much love and admiration for Shirley.

Dan? Not so much. Most of them believed Dan asked Shirley to marry him because he knew she wouldn’t be around long and to “save his own ass.”



Krista Bennett

Mom to 6 awesome boys & 3 spoiled cats, photographer, writer, homesteader.Enjoy add free reading? Join here