Sunday, March 27, 2011

Death & Taxes

There is a saying that….”The only thing you cannot avoid is death and taxes”. How true is this! That is why it’s a double wammy when you have to face both at the same time.

As a surviving spouse, I had to file my last “joint” income taxes return for my late husband and I. As I signed for my deceased husband on the dotted line, I was suddenly struck by the finality of this little act. We have filed a joint income tax return over the 33 years of marriage and this final act of marriage has such an impact, it made me face the reality of an ending of the BIG marriage responsibility. Yes, even in death, someone has to pay your taxes. I wonder whether divorced people feel the same when they sign on the dotted line of their divorce papers?

Until that moment of signing off that tax return, I had not realized I was truly unmarried. Next year I will be filing income taxes as a “Single”. I almost feel as if I have cut off a limb or something vitally important. I’m not sure I like this feeling of separation. Perhaps it might have been easier had one divorced and made a willful choice to separate from their partner, but this was not my choice. I expected him to be here helping me work out our taxes on Turbotax. I gathered up all the paperwork, W-2s, 1099’s and worksheets, as I had done in the past, and brought it to H&R Block.

The decision to hire someone was one of convenience rather than frugality. This is the one mistake I realize after the fact. Since I had everything in order ahead of time, all the tax person had to do was plug in the numbers and press a button for the software to compute the tax. I realize I could have done the same had I not been insecure with this uncertain stage in my life in widowhood. Coping is hard enough and I didn’t want to chance getting any taxes wrong. Going through an audit for the first time, without the support of my wise, intelligent helpmate, was not something I wanted to chance and therefore sought the expert’s advice and counsel. I suspect I will never look at a tax return in the same way again without feeling this loss.

In the end, I realize the Lord was with me every step in our finances, so I would not have a deep financial burden. There is no way I could have planned our spending in such a way as to come out even in our taxes. This is just more evidence how God provided for us in our time of need and even after death.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eight Months of Reflection

Ever so often I indulge in a little reflection. It is almost eight months since Walter’s passing. Lately, memories flood my soul and I miss his silent strength and presence, especially in times of stress and trials. There are times I feel my faith in God is constantly tested as I have lately encountered more trials than some might experience.

I reflect on my coping styles and how God places the right people in my path and the right diversions to keep my spirits up and focused on him. I have never been one to panic in times of stress. Perhaps, this is because of my training as a nurse, that demands of me to exercise some self-control to function in life and death situations. I think that having this calm spirit helps a stressful situation rather than hurts it. People who are stressed fear loosing control and will seek out anything that resembles confidence and peaceful assurance.

Yet, this calmness can later catch up on a person. I succumb to feelings of being overwhelmed and need to seek a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. Friends have been so wonderful and available to me for this. It surprises me to be so open and honest with them, sometimes not leaving any thought protected. Is this taking a risk? Perhaps. Yet, God has put in my path friends I trust, more than they know. I have always felt that being honest and open yields much better results than holding back. I expect honesty back, even if it hurts. I have a good capacity for forgiveness. God helps me with this. More and more I am learning to let go of hurts and disappointments as I realize it doesn’t help me move on if I keep them inside to fester and multiply.

I am starting to explore some outside support groups to seek information, and an impartial group to work out the stresses in my life. The hardest step is to go to the first meeting. I feel the need to build my support base beyond my inner circle. Perhaps this is an opportunity to discover additional supports available to me, as well as work on me. I have a choice to alter my behavior to influence the behavior of others. Life is all about choices, isn’t it? I can choose to keep things the way they are or the choice to change it or change the way I behave in it.

If there is anything I miss most with Walter’s absence, it may be the access to human touch. I have friends and family who are not shy about giving hugs. Our church has people who will come up to you to give a friendly hug greeting and this helps tremendously. My sons are not shy about hugs either. All of this helps. But there is something about the simple holding of one’s hand or the intimacy of a simple kiss that I have found myself grieving for.

I feel like I have survived the major hurdles of the calendar, ie. Wedding Anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines’s day. Depression has come and gone throughout these times, but amazingly less than I expected. Supportive friends, family have helped as well as implementing coping strategies I’ve found in books on Widowhood . I still have Easter, Walter’s birthday and the 1st Anniversary of this death to cope with.

And throughout all of this I pray, for He is with me.

Cares Chorus

I cast all my cares upon you,

I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.

Any anytime I don’t know what to do.

I will cast all my cares upon you.

~Kelly Willard

Monday, March 7, 2011

Worship Walking

As the winter thaw begins to take hold in California, I have ventured out to walk every morning before work for about 30-45 minutes at 6:00 am (Yikes!). I dress myself in layers: my wool hat, scarf and gloves and brave the near dark sky and cool temperature (lately in the upper 30 to 40s).

I have committed myself to be more healthy and to give myself some alone time to contemplate the Lord, contemplate my life, and cleanse my spirit for the new day. So I wrap myself up, and turn on my I-pod with Chris Rice Christian music or some other worship album playing, and think about how God has blessed my life. As I warm up to a good pace, I retrieve all the trash and previous disappointments and grief I have long stored in the back of my mind and have a good cry, where no one but God can hear me. He knows my groanings.

“Romans 8:26 ….the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit, himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

He cleanses my heart and smiles on me as the beautiful sunrise arises during my walk. What beauty he shows me as I walk! I see the mountains covered in fresh snow from a previous rain/snow storm. I see deer (yes, can you believe it! There was 7 deer in Duarte!), feeding off the tender leaves of orange trees near the bike trail. I see the beautiful hummingbirds going from flower to flower gathering their breakfast. There is so much God calls my attention to, that I am overwhelmed by his goodness. I start singing to the worship songs as I walk. I must look like a mentally ill person to others, but I don’t care…….I’m worshiping the Lord.

As the sun comes up peeking over the mountains my troubles are left behind me and God reminds me in Romans 8:37 “ In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now, isn’t that something great to wake up to?!!!

Fiber Meditations: I have been working on knitting the Celtic Tradition afghan from the book “Big-Needle Afghans” on Size 11 needles. I started it many years ago for my son and recently brought it out from storage. It is made with Acrylic Yarn that is washable and it is nice and heavy, just like my son likes it. He wraps himself under a pile of blankets like a mole under ground. It is so big, I cannot take it anywhere, but must knit it at home. A few rows every other night is what I am hoping to do. It is coming out so nice, my family and grandkids may have to fight S for it when done.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I have been blessed with three wonderful sons. Being a parent has always been a most cherished dream of mine. I have my ancestors to thank for this as each generation has faithfully stressed the importance of “family”. I saw the sacrifices my own excellent parents made to ensure we were educated and cared for and loved and with this as my example, I have tried to perpetuate the same in my own raising of my sons.

How satisfying it is to pass the torch and witness for myself the development of my son’s loving parenthood with his own children. With only the example of his parents and grandparents to emulate, my son has become a wonderful father. I have the special priviledge to witness this in my own home and oh, how it warms my heart to see the special bond my son has with his children. Who else but a father will let his little daughter paint his toenails, while he is caring for them? Who else but a father will tenderly get them ready for bed and read a bedtime story? Who but a father would plan a special day with his daughter to take her miniature golfing or a day with his son to go Jumping and Jamming at the local mall? Who else but a father would sacrifice his own comfort to ensure his child is warm and happy? I know his earthly father, who now watches him from heaven, would have been very proud of him.