Death & taxes
I flew back to New Mexico last week for a quick 3 day trip to help our mom and sort out some taxes still lingering after my husbands death 3 years ago. Apparently I’m still responsible for his taxes even after death and the state actually doesn’t give a shit whether or not I knew anything about them. Till death do us part, Really…is that so?
I picked up my loner car from a dear friend and she thumped a large, probably 6 inch file folder, loudly onto the front seat. What the fuck is that I asked, I don’t want it! It’s Sterling’s medical records from his insurance claim, every bit of paper they’ve ever received- her fiancé who had helped me with the case doesn’t need them anymore. Till death do us part, really…is that so? Even in the physical reality of daily living we’ve far from parted, never mind the esoteric.
I meet my mother for tea at a Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall and over spring rolls we begin what’s probably one of the more sane and grounded conversations we’ve ever had. She thought the spring rolls would be hot and expresses her dismay as her DOM has convinced her that eating cold foods is no Bueno. She somehow manages to enjoy them anyway. I order vegetarian and she orders with shrimp and I refrain from sharing my stance on the environmental imapacts of eating shrimp, but I judge a little on the inside. We start by reviewing an advance care directive my dear 85 year old friend had given me the day before while I sat on her tinfoil coverd couch, intended to keep the animals off- as she severly scolds me for taking care of everyone else besides myself first. It seems to me as if she’s preparing to die after a recent lung cancer surgery and then a fall which has broken her back- she’s in incredible physical pain. We discuss the medical benefits of cannibas and she shares a story of the “red slippers” weed pain pill her daughter has brought her from Washington- they really help and keep her off the heavy narcotics. She wants all of her affairs in order and since she loves me, she feels the need to lay it down straight.
My mother and I discuss life support and involuntary feeding. The discussion moves away from the medical and into deeper logistics such as organ donation, burial vs cremation, the land where she would like her body to rest, the buddhist ceremonies she would like- similar to what I did for Sterling but in her lineage- soto zen. We discuss the importance of 3 days after death to her and the first year, all the while sharing jasmine tea and munching spring rolls. I felt absolutely nothing morbid about the entire dialogue. I told her I hoped this converasation was for 20 years from now, but since clearly we have no fucking idea when or where death will visit, I was so grateful to have had it. We talked about her will and few possessions, argued briefly over who would pay the bill, hugged goodbye, got in our cars and drove to our next destinations.
I left feeling like something real had been shared. An honoring of the process we’d never touched on, even with all my recent experiences with death.
I visited the tax man the next morning to disagree with their assesments but take full responsibility for Sterlings unpaid taxes- it’s apparently my duty. Hours later I boarded my plane back to LA , carefully choosing my seat. I choose an isle seat next to a middle aged, well put toghether blond woman with beautiful big turquoise jewelry. She looks to be from Dallas but turns out she originated from Houston. close. We joke back and forth about silliness and start on the standard what do you do conversation. She’s a New Mexican fashion blogger, and shares her story of how she started at 45 and has been going strong for 5 years. I’m 45 and have been wanting to start this blog for sometime now, so I curiously ask her many questions and she shares openly. She’s inspirational. We move on to me and I tell her a snapshot of my story and shift the conversation to death. I tell her about the last call I had with my Dad the days before he died. She shares the story of her estranged sister who recently died of a fast spreading form of cancer. They’d never been close and always figured they’d reconnect later in life. She flew to England 4 times in the year her sister lived with cancer. Her sister was tired and left behind 2 boys in their early 20’s. One had aspbergers and was suicidal. Her sister and husband had an open marriage but he stayed until the end to care for her sister. He’s now with the woman he was seeing when she died. She’s been having lenghthy conversations now with her mother about getting her affairs in order and the family house. Less logistics to leave her with.
What is typically taboo became airplane banter mixed with fashion and blogging advice... And all these years I’d been waiting for the perfect answer to come on how to shift the conversation around death and meet people where they are…