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Heaven Can Wait — At Least Until My Retirement Runs Out

I have a few things I want to do before I die. When, exactly, that happens is a dispute between my financial planner and the Internet.

Illustration by Ryan Snook

Our dog, Maizy, died this past January, euthanized after a series of strokes left her enfeebled and unable to control her bowels and bladder. I had to call several veterinarians before finding one willing to take my word that Maizy’s best days were behind her. The rest wanted to run tests, charging us hundreds of dollars to verify what was observably true, that our dog was suffering and needed to die. Doctors and vets take death personally, and are therefore reluctant to help it along, even when it would be a welcome relief to the one dying. This concerns me, since I will one day have my best days behind me, unable to control my bowels and bladder. When that happens, I want a kind-hearted doctor to scratch me behind my ears, then give me a big dose of pentobarbital, just like the vet did for Maizy.

The week Maizy died saw a record number of COVID fatalities, none of which grieved me as deeply as the death of our dog. I don’t know if that makes me a poor human or a good dog owner, but when deaths become statistics instead of stories, their impact is lost. It was one thing for 7,800 soldiers to die at Gettysburg, it was another thing entirely when one of them was your son.

Death has been so prevalent this past year, it has caused me to wonder about my own, and what I’d like to do before the Grim Reaper cuts me down with his scythe. I definitely want to see the redwoods. I’ve been within 20 miles of them four times in my life, but didn’t visit them because of a pact my wife and I made when we first married, that neither one of us would visit the redwoods without the other. I thought of sneaking to see them the last time I was in California and just not telling my wife, but she’s a bloodhound at sniffing out deceit. I wouldn’t be home more than 30 seconds before she’d cock her head, stare at me suspiciously, then say, “You saw the redwoods, didn’t you?”

We won’t be seeing the redwoods for at least another five years, when we retire. I know this, because whenever I ask my wife what she wants to do when we retire, she says she wants to see the redwoods. It will take two weeks to tour the area, and I’m not sure what we’ll do after that. I took a test on the internet to see when I would die, and I was informed that I’ll drop dead in 2028, which freaked me out, since I know everything on the internet is true. But then I scrolled down the page and noticed an ad saying that for $50, they could send me a dietary supplement that would cause women to desire me. So now I’m wondering if it was a legitimate website, since even I know it would take a lot more than a dietary supplement to cause women to desire me, unless that supplement were a hallucinogen.

I’m going to be greatly disappointed if I die in 2028, at the age of 67. My financial planner has planned for me to live until 2056, when I turn 95. After that, he says I’ll be out of money and will have to die. My Baptist grandmother believed God ordained our day of death and that exercise, diet, and wearing seatbelts mattered not—if it were our time to die, nothing could alter what God had determined. Of course, in these more enlightened times, we know financial planners decide when we’ll die. Several years ago, my money guy had me dying at 100. But then I made a few bad investments, and now he has me kicking off at 95, hopefully from a big dose of pentobarbital.

With Maizy gone, we’re down to one dog, Ruby, who has been milking Maizy’s death like you wouldn’t believe, slinking around the house looking mournful despite never having liked Maizy. The worst thing about Maizy dying is that she passed before President Biden took office. She was a staunch Democrat and no fan of the previous administration. She died the day before the Capitol insurrection, and I’m grateful she didn’t live to see it. Sometimes, to be honest, I wish I hadn’t lived to see it, but I guess my financial planner had other things in mind.

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, author, and humorist. "Back Home Again" chronicles his views on life in Indiana.
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