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“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin

Early last year I lost my job at an oil & gas company due to downsizing (not a surprise in this area). I prayed for something with great pay, some challenge (not so routine), and most of all, industry security. That prayer was answered in the form of an administrative role with a tax firm. While we are busiest from 2/15 – 4/15, I have come to realize that since we handle corporate taxes, there is some sort of deadline EVERY month. Every day is a challenge, but mostly in the “how am I going to get all this done today?” kind of way. In hindsight I should have been a bit more specific when I put that prayer out to the Universe. But I did get my secure industry because nothing is more constant than taxes.

Except death.

Last week my stepmother passed away. At 69 years young, this unassuming woman had been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. She never cursed (although there was that one time she said ‘shit’ instead of ‘shoot’ and we laughed because she was so embarrassed to say a curse word). She never wore makeup or jewelry either – she was simple and unadorned and we loved her more for it.   Since she came from a different generation, she had a long list of causes she had been devoted to for multiple decades:

  • 51 years at the same church. 34 of those were spent serving in the nursery. It was her ministry to take care of the children so their parents could attend worship service. She cared for babies in the nursery until they were old enough to go to Sunday school classes. And yes, she saw more than a few mature to adulthood and get married in that same church.
  • 44 years as a teacher in the same middle school (she set a district record). Most of that as a science teacher, but later as a special-ed teacher. She had taught students who were kids of former students.
  • 42 years married to my father. If you knew my dad, you’d understand what kind of amazing record that is.
  • Various clubs and organizations that she devoted time to through the years, none of which she had been in for less than a decade.
  • She always had a crochet project in hand and made countless baby blankets and afghans for any expectant mother or ill friend she knew of. We could probably cover a smaller state with the amounts of blankets she made over the years.

Her spirit was not only generous but resilient as well. She had survived multiple bouts of cancer, a severe car accident a few years ago, and open heart surgery more recently. But all of that takes a toll and she had gotten to the point where her body just stopped fighting and she succumbed to congestive heart failure. But that spirit of hers had touched so many others, as was evident by the outpouring of support during her funeral.

Her devotion to her causes also showed me that I have no sense of accomplishment, nothing like the years of giving this selfless woman amassed. There is nothing in my life that I have ever felt so passionately about that I would devote decades to it (kids and family don’t count). I fear that if I died today, my epitaph would be short and uneventful, and I really don’t like that feeling. And while taxes may be a constant, a soul-sucking, mind-numbing job is not where I want to spend my days. I’m ok working 50-60 hours a week, but I’d like that time and energy to be put towards a cause I can believe in.

I have lost the woman who was a second mother to me, a simple woman who made incredible gumbo, knew how to handle my father, always gave and never took, loved gospel and 50’s music, was the world’s biggest Audie Murphy fan, loved pansies and the color purple, and acted as a conduit to bring friends and relations closer (because even if we weren’t getting along, we WOULD get together and make it work for her sake).

As a family, and to an extent a community, our way ahead is going to be harder without her support and generous spirit. But as she has shown us, while death and taxes may be certainties in this life, so is the fact that it takes so little effort to make great changes in the lives around you.

 

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