February 11, 2014

Death and Taxes

I remember exactly where I was in Sixth Grade when, for the first time, I heard the saying, “Death and taxes.” I was sitting in my mom’s bedroom trying to explain to her why I wanted ‘out’ of something I was supposed to do. She was reminding me that although she was very aware of the fact that I didn’t have to do anything . . . some things are inevitable. She taught me the concept that—in spite of our desires to the contrary—every citizen of the United States will have to pay taxes . . . and each of us will one day die. Paying taxes was a concept that was very far away for me, and at that time in my life . . . death was just a word. Neither of those things seemed like something I would ever have to worry about. I didn’t realize the truthfulness of her lesson, but I loved the power that came from her words. There weren’t many things in life I had to do. It was kind of exciting thinking of life that way . . .  feeling the power of my own strength.

Before Emmett’s death, our family had already come to feel the pain of death . . . but taxes had not been something I had put much energy into. They were always taken care of for me. Emmett handled most of the business side of our family obligations. I really had no idea of what I had to do in that area.

After Emmett died and springtime came . . . I found myself facing tax season on my own. At first, I was overwhelmed, but luckily Emmett had been very organized and our accountant already had everything he needed to file my taxes for me. We had been in contact many times, and I hadn’t had to think a lot about it. It was a miracle. I was relieved that this part of my journey alone seemed to be fairly simple.

One day my phone rang. It was our accountant. “Hey Ashlee,” he said, “this is Rick Sager. I . . . um . . . so since Kandi was an employee of Emmett’s, technically, now that Emmett is gone . . . she is in there . . . as one of your employees. In 2010, she worked for you guys. So, I have tried with all my might to contact someone who can change this . . . but . . . but . . . uh, I can’t get you out of it . . . and I know you already have so much on your plate . . . but legally . . .  man, I feel like I’m pouring salt into your wounds . . . but I’m going to need you to write a big check for her employee taxes for 2010. That’s the only thing left for us to do. Emmett had given me everything else that an employer does for an employee, but he hadn’t yet written that check. I am so sorry. I have tried everything to avoid this call . . . but I don’t think there is any way around it. Legally as her employer . . . her employee taxes have to be paid by you. I will need a check within the week to pay Kandi’s employee taxes. And unfortunately, you will have to do it again next year for this year’s taxes as well.”

I felt like a trapped baby deer surrounded by hunters. I didn’t even know what to begin to say. I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I had all this anger towards this woman . . . and now I had to pay her taxes as well! I felt sick to my stomach. Hadn’t I already given up enough for her? Weren’t the sacrifices I had already made for her sufficient for all eternity? Couldn’t she just pay her own taxes? There had to be an easier way out of this one. Someone had to listen to my story and feel my pain . . . and find a solution for me. There was no way I could do this . . . and I shouldn’t have to.

I stewed about it for days. I was pissed off! I didn’t deserve this. I had already given up enough for Kandi. I made up my mind that I would not being paying those taxes . . . even if the IRS themselves came to my door. It was not going to happen! I did some online research. I called some of Emmett’s attorney friends. I even contacted the IRS myself, but the more I sought for a way out . . . the more I tried to find a loophole . . . the more I realized there was no way around it. I would have to pay those taxes. I would have to write that check.

Heavenly Father couldn’t bail me out of this one. There are only two things in this world we cannot get out of . . . death . . . and taxes. I had known that for years. However, I never realized how true it was until I was forced to pay the taxes for a woman . . . a woman who was sleeping with my husband! A woman whose husband had shot and killed mine. In my mind, she was the reason I was a widow. She was the one who had put herself between two men . . . forcing their confrontation. She was the reason I was in this situation, and now . . . they were asking me to take money . . . money I needed to support my children . . . to sacrifice for HER? I was angry. I felt sorry for myself. I felt like everything that had already been unjust and unfair . . . had reached the very pinnacle of total absurdity. It was inhumane! It wasn’t about the amount of money, but it was about the principle. I shouldn’t have to suffer or sacrifice anything more for HER!

I didn’t sleep well for a few nights. I huffed and puffed and tried with all of my heart to figure my way out the mess. One night, after I had tucked my kids into bed, I went to the computer to do more research to find my “easy out clause.” As I sat in my chair, a paper fell out of the basket right above my head. I picked it up. It was a sheet of quotes my sister had given me. She had received it from an Institute class on a night when I was struggling because Emmett had left on a trip before his death. The quotes were all about forgiveness . . . a long list of quotes.

“And blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” (King James Bible: Matthew 5:9).

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (King James Bible: Matthew 5:38-42).

“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.”

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (King James Bible: Colossians 3:13).

 “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (King James Bible: Matthew 6:15).

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (King James Bible: Matthew. 5:44).

“But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;” (Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 12:39).

It felt so simple . . . so certain. It was as if God had come and grabbed my bullheaded little face and said, “Ash . . . AGAIN . . . this is not about . . . YOU. I have asked you to walk in faith. I have seen that you have been wronged. I can see that you are hurting. I am so sorry . . . but I need you to not only have faith in me, I need you to turn the other cheek.” I knew what I had to do.

I opened up the cupboard and grabbed my checkbook. I got a pen from the drawer. I opened up to a clean, blank check, and I began to write. Writing that check . . . in that moment . . . felt like I was being asked to give up my firstborn child. My heart pounded with every movement of my pen. I was angry at her for all she had done to my family. I was angry that she was the one he had chosen that horrible night. I hated that I HAD to write that check . . . but I knew I could do it. Something stronger than me had given me the ability to do it. I signed that check, with regret, but I also signed it with faith.

He wasn’t asking me to pay those taxes for anyone but Him. I wrote that check, not for Rick . . . not for Kandi . . . not for the IRS . . . and not even for myself. I wrote that check for God. I wrote each number one by one . . . because HE asked me to. Heavenly Father knew how hard it was going to be for me to write it. He watched me. He felt my pain that day. He saw the money leave my hand . . . to go to pay for HER. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. He never promised that it would be, but it was a sacrifice I could make . . . because I loved HIM.

I didn’t deserve to have to sacrifice for her, but I did it anyway. I did it for Christ. Our Savior didn’t deserve to sacrifice for me, but He did it because our Father had asked him to . . . and He loved His Son . . . and He loves me. None of us are exempt from the pain of this world. There will not always be an easy way out. But through Christ, the pain can feel less excruciating. His love can show us the path that will lead us back to Him. He knew I needed Him to help me find the faith I needed, before that sacrifice could truly be for Him.

We will all make sacrifices. We will all be asked to give something up in a moment when we feel abused and used. We won’t know until we are there—in that moment—what those hard things will be. It might come when we feel prepared . . . but, it will probably come when we least expect it. We don’t have to do it alone. We might as well do it for Him, because if don’t, it will all be in vain. It will all be for nothing if we are not doing it with Him on our team. I could have written that check the first time I was asked. I could have done it because of my faith in the law . . . but that faith didn’t give me the strength to do it. I needed more than just the will to do what was legally right. I needed the comfort to know that my sacrifice was more than just for her.

We will have responsibilities that are so hard . .  but we can do them. And when we do them for Christ, they will be sacrifices He will never forget. No sacrifice, big or small will go unnoticed. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. In all that we do, we must do it for Him. And when we do, He will give us the strength to keep going during the difficult moments of our lives. We will find that our faith is stronger because it has been refined.

Even in our daily challenges—changing a diaper, making a bed, cleaning hair left in the drain by our roommates, driving to a job we don’t like, making our meals, waving at the neighbor who never waves back—we must devote ourselves to doing all things for Him. Pray that even when it feels too hard to get out of bed . . . you will have the strength and courage to get up for Him, because on some days . . . He will be the only one who cares if you do.

I wanted so badly to be the exception that day. I searched for someone to get me out of it. It WASN’T fair. I had suffered enough. I wanted to run away from all the pain I had suffered, but instead . . . I was asked to turn the other cheek.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).

All men! In that bold declaration made by our Father to us all . . . there was no “with the exception of” or an “unless of course!” His plea for us to forgive wasn’t written with an: “except for you Ashlee. You are the exception.” He asked us to forgive ALL men . . . every time. Even the ones who might have wronged us and who have never asked for our forgiveness. Even when it feels like they don’t care or see our pain. Even the ones who have left a hole in our lives with a single blow. … All men.

Writing that check that day was another big steppingstone for me. It was a moment when I felt like I should have been bailed out . . . but instead of giving me a “get out of jail free” card that day, God sent His words to remind me of why I was being asked to sacrifice for Him. He reminded me that I was not forgotten . . . that He knew I would have to do hard things . . . but that I could be strong enough to let it go, and blindly obey in faith. I don’t know if I will ever SEE any good from writing that check, but I have felt the power that came from obeying my Father in Heaven.

There are some things in life we cannot control . . . death and taxes . . . but we still hold power over the rest. We have the power to choose who we want to be. Don’t let your fears keep you from living the life you have always dreamed you would have. Don’t let your fear of being taxed hold you back from all the moments where signing the check helps you realize that you have faith in more than yourself. Don’t let your fear of dying . . . keep you from living. If we fear the things we cannot control, they will control us. Let them go.

In those moments when the universe seems to be giving you the last drop you can hold in your vessel . . . turn to Him. The sacrifices you make are hard, they are overwhelming, they are annoying . . . and sometimes, they cause unbearable pain. You don’t have to make them alone. Turn to Him. Lean on Him when you feel you can’t take one more thing . . . on your own. He will not leave you. I promise you He is there. Let the light of Christ cross your “t”s and dot your “i”s when the taxes of life are thrown in your face . . . and when you sign your signature on the bottom of all the big checks, His name will be right there too. It will still be hard . . . but YOU will never be alone as you make those sacrifices.


Elise said...

I needed to hear this today... You are truly amazing... I am not so sure I would not have added in the comment section. I think forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do... Because you may forgive but you never forget!
Again thank you for being so honest your journy to healing is also helping many!!!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate reading about your hurt and the anger moments. It's real and not just church fluff (I don't mean to sound disrespectful). It's just nice to read about real emotions and challenges and then see the light. Thank you for being so raw. As I've read your blog I've felt emotions and anger and hurt and hope with you. Thank You !

Ali said...

I also needed to hear this message today. Thanks for being so honest in your writing!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and your story. But I am confused on why you are paying her taxes. Aren't you just paying with holdings on her paychecks like all employers do?

Ashlee said...

Yes, it was just the normal employee taxes... it was not her personal taxes.

Anonymous said...

I too LOVE your blog and am so very thankful you share it with us. You are an amazing writer and explain gospel and life principles so clearly. Your faith, optimism, and strength has helped me so much. Thanks for giving me that extra nudge to forgive and move one! Thank you and keep up the posts!

Anonymous said...

This has helped me so much. I can do it for HIM.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I'm struggling with this today. My husband relapsed this week. He has been fighting addiction for the last 8 years of our marriage. I have forgiven many many times, try forgiven. I have not forgotten however. Today I am trusting in our Savior. I am searching for that forgiving heart in myself. I'm mad and I needed this. Thanks

A Mother's Love said...

You are an amazing person and beautiful child of God. Thank you for teaching us how to be a good Christian. Please know you and your beautiful kids are in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

you should write a book. Your posts are so well written and inspirational. You have a way with words and your strength and testimony is awe inspiring. Thank you for telling your story

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie said...

Hi Ashlee,
My name is Natalie Hodson and I found your blog after a friend shared the link on her facebook page. You have such a beautiful way with words and each post you put up really pulls on my heartstrings. I hope you don't mind but I reposted your story on my blog http://nataliehodson.com/blog/blogger-love-the-moments-we-stand/. If there is anything I can do to help you and your family please let me know.

Much love,
Natalie Hodson

cre8ivesky said...

Ashlee, I just want you to know that your blog just pulls me in. I am so touched and motivated by what you share. The lessons you pass on apply to people in ways you surely would never even imagine and I'm so grateful to you!

Tawnya said...

Raw and beautiful! You are an exampke .

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine "liked" your blog post today. I'm not sure why I decided to read it, but thank you. Today you have been a voice of answer to many tears, heartache and prayers. I greatly admire your wisdom and strength. Keep on keepin on. All the best to you!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee I feel I can relate to you as my husband was having an affair also. No kidding it would sound like a daytime soap opera similar to yours but no death and no children involved. We are now divorced. I always way women have intuition for a reason. It sounds as you may have suspected it or at the very least felt you two pulling apart. As I did with mine, but was in denial and made excuses for the ways I was feelings. And like yourself I am sooo private now. Limited facebook, no posts, no photos. as social media was involved with his affair and how I found out about it. I applaud you for being so strong and am envious for your strength and ability to move forward. My divorce was in 2012. And still not able to trust or forgive. At that time in my life when I found out it hit me like a ton of bricks and I say stuff just got real!!! I have realized some put on a show better than others but at the end of the day they have the same problems as myself and money, looks, and career doesn't make you immune from a cheating spouse. it is a weakness and insecurity within themselves. I am such a private person. I had no privacy when I was married he didn't do it on purpose. he has asbergers and had no boundaries on the things he would say. I felt so violated. Nothing was just between he and I as it should have been. I love the idea of blogging but not the fact that it is essentially etched in stone forever online. I may regret it one day as I was at that point in my life when writing what I was thinking and feeling, where I may not be there later in life. Kudos to you Ashlee I love how your faith and family and friends have gotten you here. Congratulations to you

Anonymous said...

I find it touching that the man who called to ask you to write that check was so compassionate in his request..truly something sad for you to do. I appreciate hearing of your positive spin on this, in refocusing on doing this for God. Nita

Anonymous said...

I have been struggling for 2 yrs as a single mom ages 2-11. I have read your whole blog in the last 24 hrs and have found the strength and answers that I have been searching for. He will carry me, but I need to stand. Thank you so much for your writings and sharing your story. You have truly saved my life. I wish you could understand how much this blog has effected me.

Jana said...

Ashlee my heart was captured in your story. A friend of mine posted the link on Facebook and I'm extremely grateful I saw it. My husband was cheating on me as well. I can relate wholeheartedly to your "need to understand the fear, but hesitancy to look." I knew it would force horrible decisions. I was so scared of losing my family and just couldn't wrap my head around his choices to throw away our marriage. We resolved our issues eventually and started the long journeyback to good. Unfortunately, his affair had aftermath similar to your tax situation. We got into a fight and I walked away to calm down. That next morning I found my husband of 25 years hanging from a rope. I was given a strong message before this moment. I do not know if it was a voice? A dream? Or the holy ghost but he said I would be fine. To be strong and know that more would learn from my sacrifice. That my sacrifice was so that others could learn. I've rambled. Point is You, to have chosen to help through your words. You really helped me.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee. You are so strong women. Amazing. You are SO Loved by our heavenly Father-God. Bless You and Your amazing children. I Hope you don't mind, but I copied some of Your wise words and shared with my friends. Your Blog is amazing and inspiring in many ways. It gives many answers to many people, including me. I've been single mum for years, (Divorced from man who had many affairs and children from other women while still being with me) and didn't know how to Love again, but there came a man, who wouldn't give up on me and would be really patient and still is :) Bless him. There is a light. Thank You for Your Blog. :) Have Faith and Forgiveness :) Those are most important things we need. Love to You from my little family xxxx You are Loved xxxx

it's just lisa said...

Sending love and prayers from Georgia.

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