Death and Taxes

I titled and started this post a couple of weeks ago the night after I filed my business taxes. Problem was I had no idea how it was going to tie together or how it was going to end so I saved it in my drafts. This morning when I woke up and looked at my text messages I instantaneously knew how to finish it, so here it is. I sure wish I never figured out how to end it though and that it was still in my drafts…

Death and Taxes

A really long time ago a pretty famous guy that has his picture on my favorite denomination of money said something like this, “Our Constitution is an actual operation and everything appears to promise that it will last: but in this world nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.” He actually wasn’t talking about death or taxes at all but rather the likelihood of impending change. How appropriate.

I’m not sure what year I got this antique Dell laptop but it’s really old. If I had to guess I’d say it was about 1999. Every year when its time for me to do the taxes for my small business I drag it out of the closet and pray that it will fire up just one more time. I actually leave it plugged in, on and open from the time I start the process (about a 3 week adventure) just in case this time when I fire it up it will be the last time that sticking old on button says yes. Tonight I will close the screen for the last time. Ever. Ever is a long time! Strange as it may seem it’s a bit of a changing of the guard for me in a number of ways. This is my last year as 50% owner of the martial arts school I’ve been involved with for the last ten years. It’s the last time I’ll see the picture on the screen’s desktop of my ex-wife and I lounging in the surf in St. Martin. It’s the last time CJ will have to ask me how long that thing is going to be on the kitchen table. It’s not like I’m founding a new country here, but times they certainly are changing. It’s a lot exciting and a little bit terrifying like most things in life.

After I met with my accountant and my current business partners this afternoon I decided to drop in on my Mom. We see way too little of each other for people who live only 30 miles apart so I wanted to steal this chance to have a quick visit and a meal together. We had the nicest simple meal of grocery store bought roasted chicken, rice, green beans, some naan bread and hummus. It was totally unplanned and wonderfully special. After dinner and as I was getting ready to leave my Mom’s friend John said something that turned out to resonate with me quite loudly over the next few hours. To paraphrase it he said,
“people say two things in life are for sure, death and taxes. I say it’s actually three things, death, taxes and change.” I went home later that night and started to put away my tax paperwork and as I looked at that old Dell computer I thought even more about the changes I’ve gone through in the last five years. If I had to describe my mood at the time I’d say reflective and content. Not such a bad place to be, eh?

Jump ahead 10 days to the text message I got this morning that I mentioned at the top of the post. This is what it said:

“I want you to have a few minutes to process this –Correct. No good/easy way to say this — Ciaran collapsed at the restaurant last night and died.”

The text came from a co-worker and close friend who was kind enough to get me the news before I had to walk in the door and be on stage at the door for the next six hours with no advance notice. Ciaran is, rather was a senior server and a legendary fixture at an icon of a restaurant. My job is no stranger to tragedy. In the ten years I have been there we have lost at least five significant family members to unthinkable deaths. It really makes no sense at all. Each time it happens I am once again amazed at the sense of community that we share as a family of some 250 people who work together and I’m so proud of the resolve we demonstrate with the show must go on mentality. I am humbled by the kindness and the compassion that I saw today and each time in the past that we have had to grieve in a very public setting.

I would say I knew Ciaran well in that we worked at the same place for many years. We had occasional casual conversations about a few common interests. We had one or two fairly deep conversations that I won’t go into detail about, but I can say that from those IMG_4426conversations I know there was a tremendous mutual respect. I didn’t know him well enough to know the names of his kids, which part of Ireland his family lived in or what Sensei he got his black belt from. I wish I had taken the time to find those things out but I guess I waited a bit too long. Those that did know him better than I did often speak about his wit, his love of his kids, his zest for life, his love of fast cars, his sarcasm, his eloquent speaking voice and his truly Irish smile to name only a few things in a list that could run on forever.

So why does a fitness aware, fun loving father of three collapse and die at age 42 while at work? My answer is, I have no fucking idea! Of the many things I found myself saying today while talking with co-workers, customers and friends, the one thing I seemed to say most often was something like this. “There’s no way to put a positive spin on this thing and certainly no way to get it to make any sense, but I will say this. That dude left at the top of his game and never had to know life any other way. They said we has laughing seconds before he collapsed. That’s how I’ll think of him…”

I’ve heard a number of people say or post things today about how this tragedy has made them reflect about what’s truly important in life or others have asked questions about why something like this has to happen. I think that it’s great that we have so many ways to connect with people in times of need whether it be a text, a phone call, a Facebook tribute, a photo or even a blog post. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll ultimately take out this when it’s all said and done, but I do know this. Just like Mr. Franklin and my Mom’s friend John said, change is a coming and you can either fight it or go with the current and see where it takes you. It doesn’t always seem like it’s for the better at the time, and often time it comes with great pain, but in all of our greatest challenges we find opportunity for growth. Mr. Franklin also said this:

“I’ve lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men.”

That is a concept I can only pray I live long enough to examine in much greater detail. I’ll break my Lenten sacrifice before I go to bed tonight with a shot of Jameson perhaps. I would think that God will indulge me in this matter as a tribute to a coworker and friend who has gone ahead to blaze a trail for those of us who will follow later. Now off to put a postage stamp on my taxes, find a glass of whiskey and publish a blog post I wish I never wrote. Be safe Ciaran. Travel well…


About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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1 Response to Death and Taxes

  1. Darren says:

    I have to admit to being in a daze at the moment – still shocked and saddened at receiving the news yesterday of Ciaran’s sudden death. It has caused me more than one moment of reflection, but mostly reflections of with good times. I consider Ciaran to have been my first friend, only months older than me. Some of my oldest memories are of him and I playing in and around the area where we lived, or of visits to the Furlongs with my mother during later years after their family had moved a few miles away. I don’t think we were ever ‘best’ friends, but I can recount the times I spent with the Furlong family better than most. After secondary school we moved to different universities and then to different countries, but I was often curious to hear how he was getting on. I last met him eleven years ago, at the funeral of his father, and am glad that we managed to catch up. I find it strange to say that I will miss Ciaran, especially as we only managed to meet once in the past two decades, but I always had the hope that we would catch up again at some time in the future. I can not imagine what his family are going through right now, especially his young children. I only hope that they find some comfort in the knowledge that anyone who met Ciaran found him to be always happy, approachable, helpful and kind. At least we still have the good times to remember.

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