Death and Taxes

I have new appreciation for Benjamin Franklin’s comment that, “in this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.” Death certainly does not eliminate taxes for surviving widows or give them a gentle reprieve! Los Angeles County grants no discounts on property taxes to senior citizens or widows! I got a nice whopping property tax bill in the mail this past week that I failed to budget for. Income taxes I was prepared for—property taxes were off my radar. Thankfully, I’ve had some extra income from speaking engagements, and I’m expecting money owed from last years income tax return to arrive any day now. It would appear that the Lord is definitely more on top of things than I am and has made provision for the forgotten property taxes! (Jeremiah 49:11 – “…and let thy widows trust in me.”) I am convinced that it would be a great help to widows and widowers if they would establish a relationship with a good CPA before death, because the surviving spouse will likely need their services after. 

Ah yes, taxes. That would involve numbers and numbers are definitely not my favorite thing. Think “total bewilderment” with the income tax form process because all I’ve ever done at tax time is sign my name to the forms Tom “magically” prepared. What the word “taxes” produces in me is shear dread without Tom’s math genius. So last spring when taxes came due at a highly stressful time shortly after Tom’s death I made a decision. Gulp. Income taxes could wait. 

Widowhood has taught me an interesting lesson: When life is in the throes of massive rearrangement due to a death, putting off nonessential stressors (note the word “nonessential”) can be a good option. People do strange things when they are old and stressed, like drive up to a mailbox and give their Mc Donald’s order. Or drive into the wrong end of the car wash. (People get so excited about that.) Take my word for it, sometimes it is necessary for one’s wellbeing to hold off on some things. There are some tasks that need to be done after a death that people want you to do NOW that really don’t need to be done NOW.  

Because I knew we were getting a refund rather than a income tax bill, I knew there would be no penalty for waiting and letting the government hang on to what it was going to owe me—interest free. They like being able to keep our money. (Just don’t try to keep theirs.) So yes, I designated doing income taxes (due last April) as low priority on my “adjusting to widowhood” to do list. I would rank getting an appointment with the “tax guy” and gathering all the papers required to file last years tax forms and having to explain Tom’s death to our accountant up there with waterboard torture. Therefore, it has remained on my low priority list for several months. Until this past week, that is. 

I was actually quite happy that our “tax guy” emailed to remind us he needed documents if we wished him to finish preparing our 2017 return. It gave me the opportunity to write to him rather than speak on the phone about Tom’s death (email is more preferable). Gathering the needed documents wasn’t as horrid as I had imagined and  having the option of letting the accountant do all the math made my job of “signing” that much happier. All this was done the week before I got the whopping LA property tax bill. Ah what timing.

Am i upset about needing to pay taxes?  Nah. Jesus paid taxes (to a corrupt Roman government) and He provided the means for Peter to pay his taxes as well. I think He has my tax situation well under control. Such is the heritage of God’s children. At the moment, I’ve got more pressing things to be concerned with, like a water leak in my yard and counseling classes next week for a fabulous group of women in Pennsylvania!

Luke 20:25 – And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.

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Reality Check

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Don’t you just hate it when the day after surgery some nurse begins urging you to get up and move? The last thing in the world you want to do is move anything because everything hurts! It seems like such a torturous routine to inflict on one who is obviously suffering. Yet we know that it is actually good for us and speeds wound healing. Patients who won’t move, even though it hurts, often end up with far greater pain caused by infections, blood clots, and pneumonia, just to name a few of the potential post-surgery complications. At the same time, this urgency to get the body awake and moving doesn’t mean there is no need to make huge adjustments to accommodate the long process of healing ahead! The healing of wounds takes time. How much time depends on the severity of the injury. The amputation of one’s legs will require a great deal more time and care to heal than a fractured leg. Sometimes healing progresses quickly with no complications, but sometimes it’s a long and bumpy road to recovery.

The invisible injuries within our hearts also need time to heal. And, like those that are physical, inner wounds need more extensive care when they are deep and life altering. We would not expect a patient injured in a major car accident to recover at the same rate as one who walks away from an accident with scrapes and bruises. Our hearts will naturally grieve more intensely for the friend who is recovering after a long coma, brain injury and the loss of limbs than for the one who suffered a whip lash. It doesn’t mean the whip lash isn’t painful or in need of care and understanding, but that we understand the time needed to heal is proportionate to the severity of the injuries.

I’m becoming increasingly more aware that there are many who do not fully comprehend how a severe loss and upheaval in one’s life impacts emotions and inflicts wounds on a heart. For instance, the death of a beloved spouse is typically experienced as an amputation of sorts. The emotional upheaval and adjustment are as real to the surviving spouse as that experienced by an amputee! I say this with a bit of a cringe, because I am not one who favors an overly dramatic view of adversities. I know that the way we respond to disappointments and hardships makes a huge difference in the way we recover, but the best and most godly response in the world does not eliminate the need for time and patience to regain full normalcy. Injuries are disruptive and painful—sometimes for a long time. Good care, the willingness to keep moving and cooperation with the doctor’s orders certainly aid in healing and reduces complications, but it does not produce instant healing. Ask anyone who has undergone a major surgery!

Tom’s death is still an excruciating wound to my heart. Eight months later and I miss him more, not less! I am still adjusting to major life changes. I haven’t conquered occasional teary days, even though I see progress. (Fatigue makes matters worse.) The wounds are still sensitive, and bumps can bring momentary pain. The severing of a one flesh relationship has definitely left a void and the pressing need to learn new skills and responsibilities that were once shared. Quite honestly, rehabilitation requires daily diligence and patience. The learning curve is great, but little by little I’m making progress, by the grace of God. Still, I’m not there yet. Yes, I’m moving and going forward and yes, I am deeply comforted by our Lord’s meticulous care and provisions for my well-being. For this I am daily thankful and rejoice to be one of the Heavenly Father’s dear children.

What have I been doing? I’m back to traveling (probably too much too soon) and resuming life as usual with its new adjustments to routines. Still dealing with house fixing—presently have a water pressure problem that I have to put on hold until I figure out what to do about it and have time to give it attention. (I still have no idea what I’m supposed to do with a tankless water heater!) Travel preparations are different. Hugo needs baby-sitters, the house needs to be prepared for caregivers while I’m gone, I need to figure out the best way to do transportation to and from airport, and I definitely need to learn Logos as I don’t have Tom producing prescreened pages and pages of theology for me to read and study for my lessons! I’m seriously considering a Logos cruise. Crazy, huh?! I don’t even care where it goes! Sounds like a good learning environment. One of my biggest challenges is limiting the input of sad things and keeping my mind on those things that are encouraging and joyful. Sad things are like salt in a tender wound not fully healed, so I find I need to limit things that never bothered me before—like reading/watching news or entering into a highly intense discussion.

Though I said (before injury) that I would never spend a large sum of money on major surgery for a pet, I recognized I wasn’t up to the sadness of losing Tom’s dog. So, I just spent money set aside for home repairs on surgery for Hugo. We are now healing together, though his injuries are visible and mine are not. The fact is, I’m not the least bit unhappy with my decision. How do you put value on the things that aid recovery? I’m just thankful I had the option! I do believe God Himself created animals that are well suited to be pets or working animals for the purpose of aiding humans in some pretty incredible ways. Yes, I know that animals were not created in the image of God as were humans. However, they are God’s creatures and He intends for us to care for them and have compassion on them. Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” My recommendation, however, is to get a cat. They are less labor intense! Ha!

I am thankful for the many ways the Lord brings comfort that eases recovery, from thoughtful and loving friends and family to work and ministry that is meaningful and rewarding. I definitely do not lack for things to do, or the sweet lovingkindness of special people! The Lord has taken very good care of me, just as He promised He would. I am encouraged by the knowledge that healing WILL take place, however long it takes, as I continue to move forward. Others have walked this road and gone through the same experience emerging stronger and healthier, so I look forward to that time!

Thank you for your prayer and love. It is precious to me.

In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:3)

 

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Sorrow and Joy

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Sorrow and joy—two words that seem contradictory, but describe the breadth of emotion in my heart as I adjust to life without my beloved husband. There is so much in my life that gives me great joy.  At the same time, there is much that can bring me into the dark valley of sorrow in a split second. Keeping my equilibrium steady requires me to make daily, deliberate decisions. One of the most important is making decisions about what i think about.

This i know. . . Not one of us is able to keep sorrow under control and joy flowing freely without guarding (and guiding) ones thoughts. It would be easier to control the direction of a massive tornado than to control sorrow without bringing every thought into subjection. Even a wild horse can be subdued in a corral. Therefore, I know it is important that I  carefully and deliberately choose what I think about, especially when my mind is flooded with all kinds of thoughts and memories in this time of adjusting to a different life.

I’ve found that some thoughts need to be immediately tossed and rejected as unprofitable. Other thoughts are sweet, yet need to be controlled and pondered when I am alone (and free to cry). But other thoughts pass the “whatsoever things are lovely” test and are a crucial part of living each day in the spirit of Psalms 118:24. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we (I) will rejoice and be glad in it. Thoughts, whether good or bad, are building blocks of emotion.  So if we desire joy and peace, we need to fill our minds with those wonderful Philippians 4:8, true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praise worthy thoughts.  I suppose if one prefers to be miserable, it can easily be accomplished by focusing thoughts around worrying, complaining, criticizing, surmising and picturing worst case scenarios. But I definitely like the other alternative better, so that’s my plan! 

It’s taken me awhile, but I am able to occasionally look at family pictures, listen to videos of Tom singing, or just reflect on memories that are precious to me. I’ve found it helpful to deliberately set aside time in which to do this. At the same time, I limit grieving, and always conclude times of reflection with prayer and thanksgiving. Tears can be a good release of tension, but indulged in too long, they can steal the joy that is the core of my strength. (…for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10). Besides, too many tears can also leave me with a huge headache and cause poor Hugo (the dog) distress!  No, I can’t control the things that trigger tears or an instantaneous longing for the familiarity of my life as it once was. Teary times just happen and are a part of adjusting  to a new life. The way I’m able to regain composure is by redirecting my thoughts, comforting myself with (preselected) scripture or occupying my mind with thoughts of ongoing projects. However, I can not predict or prevent moments in which I simply miss Tom. Like when I hear myself singing in church and miss hearing his strong tenor voice next to me that used to  make mine sound good! Or when the thought, “Tom would have loved this…” pops into my head. Or when I hear myself saying goodnight to the dog and Alexa. 

Sad thoughts are a normal part of grief, but if sad thoughts are allowed to linger, I know self pity is knocking at the front door.  While I can’t control who knocks on my door, I can control who I invite inside my home! Likewise, I have a choice to indulge unhappy thoughts, or refuse to let them in. I have a choice whether I stand by the door and listen to them, or walk away and direct my attention elsewhere. Yes, my human heart wants to accept self-pities’ invitation to party, but the still small voice of God ‘s Spirit nudges me and I tell myself, “Don’t do it. Self pity is a’ weapon of mass destruction that takes down even the strongest Christian.” Bottom line—if I let my guard down and do not rule my own spirit and bring EVERY thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), l leave my heart open to a very sneaky enemy that is all too eager to crush joy and make a quick end of comfort. Sometimes I need to tell myself, “No! We are not going there! End of discussion.”

Many have asked how I’m doing, what I’m doing and how they can help. The Lord has been merciful beyond my imagination and has more than supplied all my needs. I’m slowly getting the house repairs finished, and am able to take on some light counseling and speaking. My emotions are still fragile at times, so I’m avoiding the emotional strain of more difficult counseling, but little by little, I’m able to do more. Staying focused can be a challenge, but as I continue to move forward and stay engaged with others, I’m finding joy in daily life, even in the midst of missing Tom’s fellowship, love and laughter. 

I do have a very full fall schedule that is going to be quite demanding (prayer appreciated), but I am also looking forward to it. I’m excited about an upcoming trip to Israel. This past month I enjoyed having one of our grandchildren with me for a couple weeks and then traveling to Michigan to help my cousin post knee replacement surgery. Needless to say, I have no lack of things to do and projects waiting on the back burner. I do miss Tom as much or more than ever, but I am daily comforted by the shepherding care and love of our awesome God. Spending time with the Lord, studying His Word, and reflecting on His goodness keeps me anchored and filled with hope as I ponder His amazing promises that are as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow.  One of the sweetest of these promises . . .

And He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 55:17)

 

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Mrs., Ms. or Mx?

Yep, you saw that right, Mx. It has been announced that Mx (pronounced mux or mix – a commonly recognised gender-neutral title) will be added to the Oxford English Dictionary. I came across this while searching for title etiquette for widows. My question is this: How does one address a widow, or more importantly, how does a widow address herself? Is she a Mrs. or should she be Ms.?  

Many are proposing the elimination of all titles added to a name. I’m one of those who believes titles have value, when used appropriately, and should not be discarded. Sure, some use titles as a status symbol and like to be part of a hierarchy of some kind.  Most people, however, simply regard titles as something that identifies significant information about a person or conveys an attitude of appropriate respect.

For instance, when someone earns the rank of Colonel and serves in the military until retirement, his rank continues to be listed before his name like this: Colonel James So and So, USAF, Retired. It shows respect for an officer who has an earned rank and who served in the military honorably until retirement. If the officer leaves the military before he earns full retirement or is dishonorably discharged, the title would be dropped. In a similar way, we  refer to former presidents of the United States as President So and So, or, Former President So and So, or the Honorable Mr. So and So. It is appropriate to give such honor to one who has held such a high office. We also give respect to Pastors who have served faithfully until retirement by continuing to use the title, Pastor So and So when we address them in a formal setting. In fact, the Bible instructs us to give “double honor” to pastors who lead well.

I was happy to learn that when addressing widows, it is still appropriate to continue using a woman’s married title, Mrs. before her name unless one has a personal preference otherwise. There are no hard, fast rules, so preferences rule the day. I happen to like the title Mrs. and consider it an honor to be remembered as Mrs. Pryde. I am one of those who have a strong distaste for the modern title Ms. but I admit it’s more a generational thing. Because Ms. became the calling card of radical feminists way back in my teen years, I still bristle when I hear a woman refer to herself as Ms. (pronounced mizz). The truth is, it’s not really a bad idea, and was actually proposed in 1901 by a newspaper writer who was seeking a tactfully ambiguous compromise between Miss and Mrs. when neither title fit. Kind of like the male title Mr. that applies to any male, married or single, young or old. I’m ok with it, but my preference is to avoid Ms. I like Mrs. Debi Pryde just fine.

Since I have no intention of going back to my maiden name and I am not in the market for a new married name, I’ll just stick to the name I’ve had for nearly fifty years. It’s an honor, actually. Since Tom is no longer here, I probably won’t refer to myself as Mrs. Tom Pryde in most situations, but I will continue to refer to myself as Mrs. Debi Pryde. You can call me whatever you want, but please note, there is no “i” in our name. smile

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

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What about wedding rings after death?

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Perhaps you recall the day you married your sweetheart and repeated solemn marriage vows followed by the words, “til death do us part…” Said one woman to me, “Does this mean that I should remove my wedding ring now that I am a widow?” Being a new widow, I replied, “Let me think about this before I answer.” Several months have passed since then, and after thinking about it, I am ready to give her  an answer.

The giving of wedding rings didn’t originate in a Biblical command, but from a custom that historians tell us began in ancient Rome. Tradition says that the ring represents eternal love, having no beginning or end. It’s a nice sentiment and I think an appropriate custom for a believer. But I would remind you, it is just a custom—not a biblical mandate. There are no “rules” a believer is compelled to follow with regard to wedding rings! That being the case, we are at liberty to wear, or not wear, a wedding ring after the death of a spouse. I have decided to continue wearing mine and here are my reasons why.

First, if the ring represents eternal love between myself and Tom, nothing has changed except my marital status. Tom is living in Heaven, I will one day live in Heaven, and we will continue to love one another throughout eternity. No, there is no marriage in Heaven according to the Bible, but there is perfect and enduring love there! Since love (not marriage) is eternal, I’m content to leave the ring Tom designed for me on my hand, until death do I also part. After that, I will not care what’s done with my wedding rings. (Gold is just pavement in Heaven.)

Second, a woman who openly wears a wedding ring signals (to anyone who might wonder) that she is not looking for a new spouse. Sure, the widow is no longer bound by a marriage vow and is at liberty to be married to whom she will, according to 1 Corinthians 7:39. But note that word “liberty.” That means she is free to remarry, or not. I propose we begin a new custom. Widows who are not looking for a new spouse, and are happy to remain widowed, should continue wearing their wedding rings after the death of their spouse. That way, people can know they are content to be widows and aren’t available for dates. And, should she change her mind, the removing of the rings would signal she is open to exploring a potential marital relationship. As for me, I am taking the advice of the Apostle Paul who said, “but she (the widow) is happier if she so abide (as a single widow) . . .”  (1 Corinthians 7:40) If I change my mind, I’ll take off my rings. Until then, the rings let you know I’m not in the market for a husband.

Third, wearing my wedding rings gives a layer of protection when I am traveling among strangers, and when I do business with people I do not know. I’d prefer the gentleman sitting next to me on a plane get an immediate, visual signal that I am not available. Wedding rings can symbolize more than eternal love—they can symbolize “not available,” and squelch flirting. Or “not alone,” and better not swindle. Wedding rings can be a kind way of saying, “Back off.”

Fourth, I am very fond of sparkly, pretty things and I like the way they look on my hand! I think gold and diamonds are far too beautiful to put in a little box and tuck away in a drawer. Besides, I’d lose them if I took them off.

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.(1 Corinthians 7:39-40)

 

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Love Doesn’t Die

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I thoroughly loved my life with Tom, from our first date in 1969 at a Detroit Auto Show until his very last breath on January 14, 2018, as I sat next to him. I was surprised at how quietly he slipped out of this life into the next, out of my view but into the presence of all who were awaiting his arrival in Heaven. I don’t imagine he is missing life on earth, but I do wonder if he knows how much he is missed. Sometimes waves of sadness roll over me at quiet times when my heart is longing for that familiar touch of kindred love and the laughter and conversation of marriage partners who are also the best of friends. It’s in those moments that I miss him most, for I am in love with him now just as much as I ever was. Although his body lies silent in the grave and his soul has taken up residence in Heaven, my fervent love for him has not died even one iota. Perhaps that’s what Solomon meant when he wrote that, “love is strong as death.” When a beloved one dies, we don’t stop loving them—not if what we shared was authentic love. Our hearts may certainly expand to love others, just as we love every child and grandchild no matter how many we have. But I am convinced that nothing ends love, not even death. It might change it, but it does not end it.

Count on it–Tom and I will laugh together once again when we meet for the first time in Heaven! We will thank our God for the years He gave us as husband and wife and praise Him for the eternity He will give us as beloved brother and sister in Christ. In that moment our love will know it’s greatest fulfillment and experience its greatest joys. Best of all, it will go on forever.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. (Song of Songs 8:7)

Tom

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Life goes on

fullsizeoutput_1133At the moment, I’m in the air, high above the clouds, headed to Michigan and preparing to begin a week of classes at Camp CoBeAc. Hugo was distressed to see a suitcase by the door this morning, but he is in good hands with live-in dog and house sitters holding the fort!  This is the first I’ve traveled for a long while, so it seems a bit strange to be headed for a conference without Tom reading over my material, fixing my powerpoints, giving me pep talks and praying for the meetings. He’s been such a big part of the speaking ministry I’ve been privileged to enjoy. I would never have embarked on such an endeavor without his encouragement and help!

When i first began to accept speaking invitations, our kids were grown and Tom was a busy executive for Raytheon Corporation. He did a lot of traveling and usually timed his business traveling around mine. Many times, we went to the airport together and flew in different directions! When he became ill, he insisted I continue to keep up the speaking and writing while he would retire early from Raytheon and work with Pacific Baptist College while waiting for his lung transplant. Even when he became weak with complications over the past 5 years post-transplant, he insisted I keep going and use honorariums to fly one of the kids out for a visit while I was gone. Looking back, I realize those one-on-one visits with our precious grown children were one of the highlights of his life. I’m so thankful they were able to come and give such enjoyment to their dad. Even after Tom became too ill for me to travel, he repeated often that he wanted me to continue and not think about quitting.

I don’t know how much our loved ones know about things happening on earth, but I imagine the angels encamped around my home (Psalms 34:7) talk to the angels ministering to Tom in Heaven (Hebrews 1:14). My guess is that Tom smiled with approval to hear that I’m in the air again, headed for a meeting. It’s a fun thought, anyway. Just for the record, I think the writer of the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer” got it wrong when he wrote that we will say “farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer” when we leave earth for our heavenly home with the Lord. Prayer is communing with God, and people in Heaven are definitely communing with Him in perfect harmony! I don’t see evidence saints in Heaven don’t pray! Certainly, their perspective is different, and their opportunity to live by faith is over, but communion with our Lord would only be more full and sweet and requests more purified by an understanding that we don’t have down here. Someone ought to write a better line for that song!

The picture at the top of this page was taken from the resting place of Tom’s body—it is the view we will have when we hear the trumpet of God and reunite with our transformed body that only God can resurrect in perfection! “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) What a glorious day! But until then, I will happily meet the Lord in the air in an airplane, and land back on earth where I will be delighted to continue serving Him as He gives opportunities!

Having a meaningful life with an eternal purpose changes the way we handle disappointment and sadness. It greatly cushions turbulence in our lives. Time isn’t what heals the heart—the Lord does, for all who embrace Him fully. Don’t misunderstand, I will deeply miss coming home in a few days to the warm embrace of my sweetheart and talking about all the blessings of a good meeting. And I will fight tears for sure. But I will also be filled with joy because that’s just what happens when we love the Lord, serve others and see His unmistakable hand working in our lives. Even in sad times.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  (Psalms 147:3)

 

 

 

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