TIVOLI, New York – “I’ve never done this before…”
The woman on the bed was almost a skeleton. The flesh had already gone from her. What was left was an 86-year-old empty tube – shriveled, bent, used up.
“I know how to live,” she said. “I don’t know how to die. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think or what I’m supposed to do.”
“Don’t worry about it,” we advised. “It’ll come naturally. Do you need anything?”
“Need anything? I need nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. I’m dying. And I have everything I need to do it.”
“How about some more pain medication?”
“No. I don’t want any. I am only going to do this once. I don’t want to get doped up. I don’t want to miss anything.”
Heaven with Tobacco Fields
People who are dying have a status somewhere between Nobel Prize winners and mobsters. We are reluctant to contradict them.
We remember a scene from childhood: We had gone to visit a dying uncle, Edward. Like all our relatives, he was a tobacco farmer. But now the plant he had cared for all his life was killing him: He had lung cancer.
Other relatives had gathered at the house to say goodbye. The mood was gloomy, dark… quiet. But the conversation, in early spring, ran in a familiar direction – toward the weather and soil conditions.
“They won’t be planting tobacco where I’m going,” said Uncle Edward.
The group fell silent. Some looked down at the floor. Some shuffled toward the kitchen. But Agnes, a cousin, challenged him.
“How do you know where you’re going or what they’re doing there?”
This enlivened and emboldened the confrérie of tobacco growers.
“Yeah, for all we know they’re pulling the plants already,” said one, glancing out the window to see if the rain had stopped.
(The plants were “pulled” from the nursery beds for transplanting in the fields. We particularly disliked pulling them because black snakes enjoyed the warm of the gauze-like covering and slithered among the plants.)
The 12-year-old in the group – your editor – forever admired his cousin Agnes. She could see the truth and had the courage to speak it.
None of us knew what happened after death. Why not tobacco farming?
We tried to imagine Heaven with tobacco fields.
It was so implausible that we had a hard time with it. But we persisted. Rows of the green plants, tended by generations of deceased farmers.
The sun must not be so hot in Heaven, we concluded, for there was nothing heavenly about the scorching summer sun when you were cutting tobacco.
The ghost farmers must hoe each row… and “top” the plants to remove the flower and force the growth to the leaves, just as we did in the Maryland fields.
At the end of the day, sweat-stained and tired, they must gather around their pickup trucks – one foot up on the running board, an elbow on the raised knee, with a cigarette in the right hand.
An Unexplored Mystery
The other professions must have their quarters, too…
Wheat farmers need broader fields. Cobblers could enjoy their trade, too.
Heaven – immeasurably large – could have a place for everybody. Even bankers and lawyers might find a spot.
For a moment, we imagined what it must be like, with mechanics tightening their bolts and dairymen milking their cows.
But if everybody did in Heaven what he did on Earth, what was the point of it?
The juvenile mind, like its adult successor, stalled.
Half a century later, it is still stopped where it was left – like a tractor abandoned on the edge of a field, with trees grown up between the wheels. Rust has covered the hood. The tires, cracked from the sun, have flattened and disintegrated. It has moved not an inch forward… leaving the mystery of Heaven completely unexplored.
“Well, you’re not dead yet,” we replied. “How about a little apple juice?”
The death rattle began two days later. As we write, it is still going on. The goodbyes have all been said. Prayers have been offered. Undertakers contacted. A church put on alert. Remembrances shared.
Toward the end there was no one there to share the remembrances with. The spirit seemed to have packed up and moved out before the body got the message.
Life, like bull markets and credit expansions, always come to an end, sooner or later.
New technology and newfangled monetary policies offer delays, unfounded hope, and stays of execution – but never a full pardon.
U.S. crude oil has slipped below $42 a barrel…
This marks a new low for the year.
As you can see from today’s chart, the next test is the $35-a-barrel mark last seen in March 2009… in the depths of the global financial crisis.
That’s a roughly 17% fall from current levels.
P.S. The oil market is crashing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t profit. According to one of America’s top energy industry experts, Dr. Kent Moors, you can make anywhere from 5 to nearly 10 times your money in oil in the next 60 days – no matter which way the price moves. To discover how, watch here.
Why $40 Oil Is Here to Stay
Former PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian says $40 oil is the new normal. Increasing supply plays a role. But slowing global demand is the really big story… and that’s not changing anytime soon.
What’s Really Warming the World?
Skeptics of manmade climate change offer various natural causes to explain why the Earth has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. But do these really explain what’s going on? [CHART]
12 Investing Lessons from Peter Lynch
Investing legend Peter Lynch averaged roughly 29% returns a year from 1977 to 1990 at the Magellan Fund, almost doubling the return of the S&P 500. Here’s how he did it in 12 simple lessons…
We start the week with some praise…
Your insights are right on. None of us are happy about it, but regrettably, there are some bad times coming down the road and the youngest and those left behind will suffer the most.
Let’s hope that the downturn is less severe than anticipated, and that few will suffer.
– Phil D.
I love your approach to simpleminded people; keep it nice and you’ll always feel better at day’s end. Thank you for the insight you share.
– Eric C.
But not everyone is happy…
Some readers are upset over a promotion we’ve run about “piggybacking” on Canada’s Social Security system. (You can check it out for yourself here.)
Yes, I realize that your business uses the basic letter as a means to offer opportunities to enhance our finances. Yes, I have enjoyed the letter, which offers a different point of view.
Now I am shocked and so very disappointed that a company with such a foundation would allow an ad with the headline “Piggyback on Canadian Social Security: Get monthly checks without ever having worked or lived in Canada.”
You know, Bill, I lived on a farm and I hauled water and chopped wood and had an outhouse. I also worked and contributed to our Canada pension plan for 34 years. To think that you support such an ad – to steal from other seniors by a loophole – saddens my heart.
Perhaps you are the same as the government you speak so highly about.
– Mary W.
Chris Comment: Thanks for your feedback, Mary.
I want to assure you that we carefully vet the claims and strategies behind all the marketing we carry in our newsletters.
Although I agree that the headline is controversial, the investment strategy behind it is not. Agora Financial, the publisher of the advisory, is not helping or even advising people to steal benefits from Canadian seniors.
That would be immoral, as you point out… not to mention illegal.
Instead, it’s a way for investors, no matter where they are, to mimic the returns of the Canadian Pension Plan, which has gained 18.3% so far in 2015.
You make an important point about controversial headlines. But that’s the nature of our business. We’ve found that people don’t respond to boring or unimaginative marketing messages. That is why we, along with everyone else in media and publishing, use headlines designed to get your attention.
One last thing I’d like to mention about advertising is that it’s actually a huge benefit to you.
The sole reason we can publish high-quality, independent information without any conflicts of interest is because of our successful marketing.
That’s what’s enabled us to remain independent of the influence of banks, brokerage firms, money managers, or political groups… unlike mainstream media and financial advisers.