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My dad was always a hard-working man, bestowing his strong work ethic on both my younger sister and I. We grew up watching his blood, sweat, and tears pay off and by the time he passed away he had become a manager at the company he’d spent almost thirty years working for. When my dad was younger, he knew that if he ever wanted anything he would have to work to get it himself. While his own father was a hard worker, they never had a lot of money left over for life’s luxuries so my dad and his siblings went without the extras most of the time. So at 14 my dad got his first job at a gas station and worked from then until the day he died.
Looking back I realize how privileged my childhood really was. My sister and I wanted for nothing; we did ballet, played soccer, attended summer camps, and joined the swim team. Dad always made sure we were able to do the things we wanted, and now I realize he was giving us the things he probably didn’t have from his own childhood. We were very fortunate, and it was all because of how hard my dad worked to make sure all of us were taken care of.
Then, on September 29th, 2006, I came home to find ambulances in the driveway with a dozen or so people gathered around a gurney in the backyard. My mom and sister were standing at the front door waiting for me, sobbing uncontrollably because the unthinkable had just happened to our family. My dad wasn’t sick, and other than needing his gallbladder out there were no other signs of danger. He had come home from a work trip and while working in the backyard when it happened. My younger sister found him, without a pulse, and called 911 but there was nothing she could do. He was gone. Our family dynamic was changing and none of us truly knew what that was going to mean in the years to come.
For the next few years my family was in a state of transition. We were learning slowly how to navigate life without my dad, and that was hard. None of us thought that he would pass on so early, and so each day became a learning experience and a transition to our new normal. When the unthinkable does happen, it truly makes you reevaluate things and look at the world a little differently. It makes you more cautious, more aware. More realistic.
Fortunately, my dad was realistic. While I never imagined a world with him not in it, he knew he wasn’t going to be around forever. So when he did pass on he had set up parameters to make sure we were all taken care of. My mom did not have to worry about how she would live because of the amount of money from his life insurance policy, they had money for my sister’s college education, and there was still some left over to be able to do some fun things as well. He was prepared. And we were set.
Now that Chris and I are going to be parents to our own little one we have had numerous talks on what we would do if something happened to him. It’s not something I like to think about or even want to think about, but it is necessary. And I think one of the reasons I’m so adamant about having a plan is because I know what it’s like to get caught off guard. And I never want to feel like that again.
My dad taught me the importance of having a safety net. He put away enough money so that we could all survive for a set amount of time without him. He made sure my mom had what she needed to take care of my sister and I. And in doing so, he made sure he was taking care of us even after he was gone. This isn’t something we like to think about or even want to think about because it’s sad to loose the ones we love. Especially when it happens unexpectedly and too soon. But the unthinkable does happen and we must be prepared. The loved ones we leave behind need to be able to survive, so it’s important to have a plan. My dad taught me that, and I am so grateful for that lesson even if it came at the expense of loosing someone I love so very much.