Last Friday, I was informed that the wife of a friend I work with passed away in her sleep unexpectedly. She came home from work not feeling well, went to bed and never woke up. It reminded me of just how quickly your life can be taken from you. The article below is an article I wrote in 2007 about a good friend and co-worker who passed away that same year. I thought it would be beneficial to share Rich’s story with you again.
Rich* walked into my cubicle at work one morning this past February. “Do you have a minute?” Rich and I had been working on a project together and I figured he needed to discuss something concerning the project with me. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. We sat down in a meeting room, and Rich began “It would seem we have more in common than I thought, we both have lots of children, we both have a son with diabetes, we both enjoy football, and now we both have a brain tumor.” Before you get alarmed, mine is a rare but non-cancerous tumor. It can be dangerous, even life threatening, but mine is controlled with medication and is under control. I wish I could say the same for Rich…
Rich proceeded to tell me that he had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the base of his cerebral cortex (the area of the brain that connects your spinal cord to the brain). He was already experiencing symptoms: loss of vision, dizziness, and he said in order to reach for something, he had to intentionally reach about 4 inches to the left of the the object to grab it. I of course was shocked and completely at a loss for words. See, Rich had recently married. Him and his new wife had a child no more than a year ago. Yes, their little boy came a little late in their lives, but was a welcome blessing regardless. The previous day, Rich and his wife had met with their financial adviser, and where informed they had met and exceeded their retirement goals and that Rich could retire whenever he wanted. He is in his mid-fifties.
Within days, Rich was unable to work, and quickly began both chemotherapy and radiation to treat the tumor. All was expected to go well, and his family and doctors had high hopes that he would return to work soon. They had caught the tumor early, and the doctors were hopeful it could be treated and removed.
Fast forward to yesterday. We visited Rich in the hospital. He was admitted last week due to a stroke along his right side. Due to the tumor, he has completely lost function of his left side. He could barely talk due to the loss of muscle control with the tumor, and to be honest didn’t look well at all. To me, he looked like a completely different man. It was so hard to see this vibrant, funny, very strong man laying in a bed almost unable to move. After seeing him, I don’t think I will ever look at life the same way.
We of course are hopeful that he will overcome this. He is strong, stronger than I think I would be, but the cancer and associated treatments are really taking their toll on him. I am not sure he will ever be the same, even if the tumor is gone.
Where am I going with all of this you ask? My point is, there are just too many situations like this that I have run into during my 37 years in this world. Terrible, unexpected things happen to people all the time. Not just “bad” people, but good people as well. Life throws the best and worst of us unexpected curve balls that can completely change our lives, our priorities, our views, and test our faith beyond all we thought possible.
Even myself and my family have had to deal with a major life crisis that has, to be very frank, “rocked our world”. I once heard a pastor say “For a Christian, life on earth is our Hell.” Having recently gone through our situation, and seeing the two situations above first hand, this message from a long time ago has taken on a new meaning.
Regardless of who you are, how well off you think you may be, bad things can happen. They may happen while you are reading this article, on your way to work or church, or maybe even while you are throwing the football in the back yard with your children.
These are things none of us want to think about, but are things that happen to people just like you and I every single day. I doubt the people killed in the recent Mississippi river bridge collapse thought they wouldn’t make it to their destination. I doubt the people in the twin towers on September 11th thought they wouldn’t make it home that night, or make it the gym that afternoon.
These are all things we like to put in the back of our mind, even though we see the tragedy occur to others everyday. We like to think those things can never happen to us. Well, the reality is the people we are watching or hearing about thought this very same thing the minute before tragedy struck.
My Best Friends Father
When I was in high-school, my best friend’s father was hit with a sudden and major heart attack while, ironically enough, conducting a funeral. He died before he hit the ground. He was healthy, well respected in the community and loved by both his family and myself. It was horrible, and completely unexpected.
What can you do?
Now that I have your attention, and hopefully have you in the mindset of realizing that you are no different than the thousands, maybe millions of other people in the world impacted by unexpected, uncontrollable life changing events, here’s a few things you can do to to prepare for when tragedy strikes:
Get Life Insurance
If you have a spouse or children that are dependent on your income, you need life insurance. It’s no more or no less complicated than that. What of your chances of dieing? Slim, but do you really want to risk your families future on statistics? I don’t.
Get term life insurance. Depending on your situation, I would recommend 8 – 10 times your annual salary. Term life insurance is cheap, and should be considered a necessary expense just like the power and water bill. I have mine with State Farm and they have a neat calculator that will help you determine how much you really need.
Do not and I repeat Do not let your insurance agent sell you whole life insurance. Do not confuse life insurance and investing, they are not the same. If you want to invest, open a mutual fund. Let you insurance company handle the insurance and your brokerage company handle investing. Insurance agents make big commissions on whole life insurance, and trust me they will really turn on the sales pitch, show you numbers, use your emotions, etc, etc. Just say no.
If you have a family and you don’t currently have life insurance, stop reading right now. Open up another window, do some quick research and get life insurance. Maybe even call your companies HR department, as companies often offer life insurance policies at group rates that are very cheap. That is what I have. I am insured at 12x my salary. 8x through my employer, and 4x through my State Farm agent.
Don’t wait, you might need it sooner than you think.
It amazes me the number of people that don’t have health insurance. I know, here in America our heath insurance and associated costs are just plain crazy, but you need it. Just like you need water and food, you need health insurance. Sure, for those twice yearly doctor visits it may or may not be worth it, but if some really bad happens, like a brain tumor it will make all the difference in the world.
As I said with life insurance, if you don’t have health insurance, stop reading now and go get it. If your company offers it, get it through them, it is much cheaper. If they don’t, go get independent insurance. A number of health care providers offer independent insurance. If you are self employed, a number of associations or trade groups offer group plans you can take advantage of for a small yearly fee. This is a good option.
What if you can’t afford it? Can you afford not to? Seriously, if you don’t have health insurance, take a hard look at your expenses. Make a budget, reduce your expenses, and include health insurance as part of your overall budget.
Long Term and Short Term Disability Insurance
Depending on your financial situation, you may not require short term disability. What I mean is if you have a significant emergency fund, you might not require the guaranteed income from short term disability.
Long term disability in my opinion is required. Regardless of your profession you need long term disability insurance. Some professional office workers don’t think they need it, I mean after all, who much damage can a paper cut or carpel tunnel syndrome due right?
What if you have get cancer, have a stroke, take a baseball to the head while playing ball with your kids and get permanently brain damaged (yes this happened to a church member of ours)?
Talking with Rich’s wife yesterday, she said the long term disability insurance was a God send. It has made all the difference in the world in her ability to pay the medical bills and cover what the insurance hasn’t covered.
A number of large employers offer long term disability at a fairly low cost. I would strongly advise you to consider it. Unfortunately with my tumor, I applied and was denied so I am looking at other options and will keep you posted on these as I learn more. If your employer doesn’t offer it, do a little Google searching, and you will find a number of companies offer really good plans.
I know this post isn’t in line with my typical up-beat and positive articles, but visiting with Rich in the hospital this week, I was snapped into reality about what can happen to you in the blink of an eye. While we can’t control the things that will happen to us, nor can we always control the outcome, we can take steps to mitigate the risk and impact of these events. We can take steps to make things easier on our friends and loved ones when life throws us curve balls, or when the Lord calls us up.
Remember, we don’t know when today may be our last day. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. Be prepared and be responsible to yourself and your loved ones.
Proverbs 22:3 – “A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences“
Update: 10/9/2007 – This post is dedicated to “Rich”. “Rich” passed away on September 26th. He was surrounded by his family when he took his last breath. He is dearly missed here at work, and my only wish is I had gotten to know him better.
* Names have been changed to protect their true identities
Photo by: HyperBob