It's August, time to think about Life Insurance? That likely isn't an intuitive statement, but those of us in the know understand that September happens to be an awareness month marked by the acronym LIAM or Life Insurance Awareness Month. Usually, we save the brouhaha for September 1st (and for those of us who don't feel punctuality is particularly important, we wait until after Labor Day).
But for one financial blogger, the decision has been made to kick start life insurance awareness about a week and a half early. We all have Jeff Rose over at Good Financial Cents to thank for this one.
This almost seems a tad strange. Life insurance awareness at the Insurance Pro Blog? A place that brings the topic up on an almost weekly basis. I'll admit at first I sort of wondered what exactly I'd do that was so different from just about any post you'd find here. Then the smart ass in me thought “well, I'll get credit for doing something I do every week,” (sometimes more than once a week).
But then I thought, I'd open up a little bit and share a little story with everyone…
It's almost odd that this whole event is taking place just 5 days after the anniversary. It's even niftier that it takes place at an anniversary that places the day (the 17th) on the exact day of the week (Friday) that it actually happened.
He Didn't Make It…
This was the euphemism my brother chose to use when he called my on a Friday afternoon in August to inform me that our father had passed away. My only question (knee jerk response I assure you) was “what do you mean he didn't make it?”
“He's dead, Brandon.”
Ask a stupid question, get an equally stupid answer in response…fair enough.
I was about a half hour north of the hospital that my family was gathered at (I was one of the later ones to know). So, I got in my car and headed south. Weird things start to run through your mind when these sorts of things take place. My most prevalent one was that I was schizophrenic and I dreamed the whole thing up.
Still, I drove fast–much faster than I should have for reasons I'll never really be able to explain. He was, after all, dead so it's not like he was going anywhere. I guess there was a part of me that wanted to believe what I knew to be the truth was incorrect. A part of me that wanted him to be–I guess–clinging to life so I could get to the hospital and at least say goodbye. Or perhaps promptly confirm the prevailing theory, that maybe John Nash and I had something in common and I needed to find a shrink.
The route I took to the hospital was similar for much of the trip as the route I would have taken home. A route I had taken several times. Only this time I was headed straight at the light instead of taking a left. That felt a little strange.
As I pulled up to the hospital (a place I had been before, but it had been a while) I kept telling myself this couldn't be right. I turned left headed up the hospital driveway, following the sign with the arrow that pointed out the emergency room entrance.
When I got to the parking lot I noticed my brother's truck “could be a coincidence,” I thought. So I got out of my car and headed to the entrance. There, parked literally next to the emergency room entrance was my grandparents' (his mother and father's) car. So much for the coincidence.
I walked through the automatic doors leading into the emergency room and was greeted by a very pleasantly mannered nurse who had a very welcoming smile and had a certain grace in the way she walked over to find out why I was there. I gave her my dad's name almost as if I was there to visit him like he was a patient.
Her expression went from very welcoming to deep disrepair as she said “I'm so sorry,” and pointed to a small room with a sign by the door that said “Condolences.”
Standing in the door way was my sister-in-law who greeted me with an embrace and told me she was sorry for my loss (weird approach I thought, but that's what happens to people in times of serious stress).
I walked into the room and looked to my left. I immediately focused on my mom and grandmother, who both sat sobbing at a round table that took up much of the room. I maneuvered around the table and hugged them both and then sat down.
“So, what are we waiting for?” I asked. Down to business. It's how I deal with these things.
Behind the Curtain
I was informed that we were waiting on a few administrative details. After a little while of waiting I got up to use the rest room. On my way back I was greeted in the hallway by my mom and grandparents. Mom looked at me and asked, “do you want to see him?”
My immediate thought was “of course.” I had assumed they had already been into the room. That wasn't the case. I nodded and the four of us walked into the room and around the curtain.
Now, I have a bit of personal (and we'll also refer to it as experienced) advice. If someone you care about has just undergone emergency medicine that has failed in its pursuit to save his or her life, and someone asks if you'd like to see him or her, you're probably best passing on the opportunity–there will most likely be more opportunities to follow after people at the funeral home have had a chance to work their magic.
As we walked in, my mom lost it, and my grandmother wasn't far behind. I stood there consoling my mom, and I got my validation. I'm not schizophrenic, and I don't need a shrink. No, my problems were much bigger than that.
The Sorrow Parade
The events that unfolded from there were pretty customary. We went home and people we hadn't seen in years filed through stopping buy with food, and their assurance that we were in their thoughts and prayers.
The wake and funeral happened pretty quickly. The biggest obstacle was the fact that I lived in a small town and my dad was pretty well known, so neither event was lightly attended nor a short affair.
And then, just as my aunt had warned me when she came to visit the day it happened, there were loads of people around and then suddenly they all went away, leaving just us to deal with the problem at hand.
This whole event took place less than a year before I became insurance licensed. And oddly, my dad had remarked several months prior that he needed to reevaluate his life insurance–dad wins understatement of the year for that one.
Mom went from having pretty much whatever she wanted when she wanted it, and having someone else to sort things out, to having to figure out a lot of things on her own. It wasn't a pretty transition.
No Happy Ending
Not all ends well to this story. Though finances have worked out more or less favorably, it certainly didn't get their in a way that anyone would identify as ideal, and it almost didn't.
The bigger take away for whomever reads this is simply this:
Everyone has a hard time conceptualizing their mortality–I've been in this industry for a while and I still can't. But that doesn't mean you need to run from the situation.
My dad passed away very unexpectedly, and that created a loss of income that was rather substantial. But outside of that, if you had asked me on the 16th to come up with a list of a 1,000 things I could reasonably see myself having to do the next day, beginning to sort the details for my dad's funeral wouldn't have made the list (wouldn't have made the top 10,000 list).
It's ok to have a hard time accepting your own mortality. But allow me to make this plea: As someone who has suffered the consequences, and knows all the crazy things that will ensue. Don't neglect something as easily fixed as making sure your family doesn't have to worry about finances. It's easy to fix, and it takes very little time to address.
We sometimes get into complex stuff at the Insurance Pro Blog. And I admit it's easy to get lost in that. But at the end of the day. We subscribe to the same school of thought just about every financial advisor or peddler of financial wisdom holds to be true (even Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey would be in agreement with us here). When it comes to your financial life, there are certain stepping stones, foundational things you need to address. Having adequate life insurance coverage–I don't care what the product is–is one of those foundational things. And you have no business playing on the roof, if your foundation isn't set. Life insurance is that important.