Ponder It: On Death and Taxes


What a day it’s been. From death to taxes.

So good to finally get the income tax papers and payments dropped into the mail.

So sad to see a once-vibrant woman buried.

It’s one of those blustery gray days that make me feel reflective. I dug out a piece of writing that, while unfinished, is worth passing on here. I hope you’ll agree.

Rainbow Canyon (Part One)

I caught sight of it in the rearview mirror, pulled over, and got out to stare. The narrow canyon I had just driven through was filled, cliff to cliff, with a luminescent rainbow. The roadside pines and firs were silhouetted by its glowing brilliance, and the river below shone with a muted reflection of the arc.

Inhaling the pine scent as deeply as I could, I tried to memorize the moment.

Later, after everything that happened, I remembered that astonishing rainbow-filled canyon. I figure it was God’s way of telling me I was on the right road to the right place that day.

Double Rainbow by Nicholas_T's Photostream via Flickr.

“Dad, I want you to calm down.”

I leaned over and put my hand on his sweaty forehead. His eyes were open but unseeing, his face ashen. His shallow breathing came in gulps.

“Dad.” I took hold of his trembling hand, which was cold and clammy. It had been a day of hospital hell, with one test after another, topped off with a clumsy, painful procedure during which the doctors had inserted a central intravenous device near my father’s collarbone.

None of it had gone well.

Under the influence of generous amounts of morphine, Dad had earlier spouted agitated gibberish to us, something about there being cameras everywhere in this place, and how they were operating a prostitution ring.

“Did the doctor talk to you?” I tried to make my voice sound normal. Did he know?

Dad barely nodded, finally focusing and looking me in the eye. His chin quivered. “I’m one sick puppy,” he said faintly, his brown eyes darting away again.

I nodded and stroked his pasty forehead. “Yes, you are. Did the doctor tell you….?” I couldn’t say it.

He nodded again and took a deep, ragged breath, his eyes tearing.

“…that you won’t survive this…”

He kept nodding.

“OK, I just want to be sure you know what’s going on…” His hand shook. “Everyone is coming tomorrow, Dad, we’ll all be here…” I reached for a tissue and blew my nose, hard.

“They have cameras everywhere in here,” he began, his eyes again flicking around the room anxiously.

“Dad,” I said, my voice breaking, “I know you can do this. You’ve been going to church all your life. You know what to do.”

His eyes met mine again, this time panic-stricken, and he whispered in a shaky voice: “Mom.”

“You don’t have to worry about Mom, you know that. We’ll make sure she’s OK.” I squeezed his hand.

He nodded, breathing unevenly. Or was that a sob?

I sat back, blew my nose again, and wiped my eyes. Could I get the words out? I wanted to talk to him about spiritual surrender. As the Chief Executive Officer of our big family, he had always been a control freak and a Rock-of-Gibraltar type provider. I wanted him to find a way to let go of that tight-fisted control and have a graceful death, a peaceful death, for his sake and the whole family’s sake. How could it be that a practicing Catholic like my dad didn’t know about spiritual surrender? It was beyond me. I took a deep breath.

“You’ll be shocked to hear me talking like this.” My voice again wavered to the breaking point. I couldn’t do this. Maybe I could. “Even though I don’t go to church, I think I have learned a little bit about spirituality…”

I leaned in again, to make sure he could hear me clearly. “What I want is for you to accept this, and be calm by the time everyone gets here. I want you to put yourself in God’s hands, just imagine yourself sitting right in His hands.” I cupped my hands to show him. “Say the Lord’s Prayer, that one line, ‘God’s will be done,’ say it over and over again until you feel it, until you are there. Just keep saying, ‘God’s will be done, God’s will be done, God’s will be done.’”

His chin quivered again and his breath came in small sobs now as he squeezed my hand. “How’d you get so damned smart?” he whispered.



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Maggie Plummer is a writer and editor who lives in Polson with her black lab Peaches. She likes to write about anything and everything. In fact, Maggie has just published her first novel about an unusual topic – 1650s Irish slavery in the Caribbean. Entitled Spirited Away – A Novel of the Stolen Irish, the book is available on Amazon.com in trade paperback and Kindle editions. Maggie’s author page.