Death & Taxes

[ Please note that my emotions are raw at the moment. The post below is not my usual silly, snarky self — it’s just something I had to say. It’s not necessary for you to try to say anything … it will all be OK.]

In this world nothing is certain
but death and taxes.~
Benjamin Franklin

Yes, but nobody told me that my tax accountant was going to die. I procrastinated on my taxes this year, and when I called for an appointment today, I was told that the woman who had prepared my taxes for almost twenty years died six days ago. Recently diagnosed with leukemia, she had undergone chemotherapy, optimistically expecting to be back at work by mid-March. The chemotherapy destroyed her colon, and she never left the hospital.

I’m not so worried about my taxes, because she has had an assistant. But, it struck me hard that Claire had died. I really can’t say why.

We weren’t “friends” who spoke regularly — just at tax time, although we always said, “Let’s get together and do lunch.” We always meant to do that, but … well, you know how life gets in the way.

She did come to my wedding to Mr. Tucker, in fact she invited herself. I had told her that I had written a story for the event, there would be a big band playing, I was walking down the aisle to the tune of “Hey, Big Spender,” and that I would “hop” not only a broom — but a vacuum cleaner (since Mr. Tucker is an engineer, he figured there was a better way). I guess I made it sound like too much fun and Claire didn’t want to miss it. How could I refuse her request to attend?

Have y’all ever met one of those people who feels like an old friend (or a favorite aunt) within fifteen minutes of meeting them? That’s how she was. She was good-hearted, open, and generous to a fault. I’m going to miss hearing her throaty laugh, and watching her face light up with smiles when talking about her family and her church work.

But, there is something more going on here — and I can’t put my finger on it. Suddenly, I feel as if I’ve opened a festering wound. I’m aching from all the blows that Death has dealt me through the years. Memories are haunting me.

I find myself grieving, not just for Claire, but for Momma and Daddy … for my grandparents, aunts, and uncles … and more. My best friend who died in a fire at his home, a dear friend’s delightful husband who was felled by a heart attack in the prime of his life, my favorite cat (whose “phantom paws” I sometimes feel “peddling” against me when I sleep). Even the damned parakeet that I starved to death with my neglect when I was twelve years old!

All of these are old wounds, yet they feel fresh at this moment.

I’m weeping at the loss of my Daddy’s best friend, E. W., who was almost a brother to him (and surely an uncle to me). We had lost track of him some years ago, and knew he must have passed. We searched on the internet; I drove to his old hometown and asked at the Post Office. Nothing. Last month, through a streak of luck, we located his family. Even knowing that he must be dead by now, it came as a blow to find he had been gone for two years and no one bothered to tell us.

How can the lights go out on people as vibrant as Claire and E. W. and there not be some kind of sign? The world is definitely a darker place without their light.

As my Momma lay in a morphine dream, dying of cancer that had spread to her brain, I sang to her. I sang “Moon River” and “Salty Dog,” and other songs she knew. But, the refrain from this song kept springing to my lips: “Oh Death, won’t you spare me over to another year.”

Death spares no one. I know that.

I know the things you all want to tell me. “Death is as natural as breathing.” “It happens to every single one of us.” “They are in a better place.” I know these things, and I don’t fear Death. But, I sure am angry at him right now.

I’ll be back tomorrow and it will all be fine. This is just one of the stages of grief. If you’ve read this far, ignore the words that will appear below this. It says, “Share and enjoy.” I don’t expect you to do that.