I was about 12 years old when Eddie died. Eddie was my stepdad who suddenly passed away from a massive heart attack. He was in his forties and seemingly healthy (as far as I could tell in my 12-year-old mind). His death came as a shock to my mom, my sisters, and me. He had a significant impact on our lives while he was alive...and an even more substantial impact in his death. But let me rewind a few years and talk about what lead up to this.
My sisters and I lived with my mom and stepdad for several years. He drove a truck for a living and was an extremely hard worker. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and ensured that my sisters and I had the things we needed day-to-day. Eddie was very dedicated to making sure that we could live the “American Dream” and have a home of our own one day. For 2 ½ years, the 5 of us lived in a motel room on the north side of Chicago so that Eddie could save money to buy a home. This was, without a doubt, a tough time. We had to do things a bit differently just to survive. There were only two queen-sized beds, a small bathroom, no windows, and my mom made dinner on a “hot plate” every night. My sisters and I had to sleep in the same bed, and we had to keep our milk in the toilet tank, to keep it chilled (or outside the door when it was cold outside). My sisters and I were not aware that this was a “less than ideal” situation…it was all we knew. It was the short-term sacrifice that was required so that we could have a place to call “home.” That was Eddie’s goal.
He achieved his goal! Eventually, he was able to buy us a home in Romeoville, IL. We thought this was the biggest house we had ever seen, and we were all ecstatic to be able to call it ours. We had a backyard, a deck, a basketball hoop in the driveway, a kitchen, a living room, walk-in closets (amazing for hide-n-seek), and our own bedrooms – FINALLY! This was a dream come true and such an amazing blessing considering the circumstances we left. I remember seeing the joy in my mom’s face in moving around in the kitchen and having the space to create meals for her family. With a new location, of course, came new schools, friends, and activities. It was during this time that I first tried little league baseball and really enjoyed it. My older sister, Jeannine, got into different activities at Romeoville High School that were not available to her in Chicago. Our lives were moving in a positive direction, and it felt amazing. We were sure that our lives would be like this forever.
One day my mom received the news that Eddie had a heart attack at work, and he was taken to Rush Hospital near downtown Chicago. I cannot remember what caused the heart attack, but it did land him in the ICU for a few days. The updates from the doctors seemed optimistic for a few days, and we were hoping and praying for a full recovery. But Eddie never recovered. After a few days, the doctors told my mom that he did not make it. When my mom called to tell us Eddie died, I cried and wondered how this could be. I remember thinking to myself, selfishly, “what will happen with us now?” From that moment, life changed drastically and became a lot tougher. While Eddie did an exceptional job of taking care of his family while living, he neglected to put together a plan for us in the event of his sudden passing. When he died, the protection, provision, comfort, and peace that he provided to our family died with him.
His death caused a ripple effect in our lives that is still impacting us today - nearly 30 years later. We never really had a chance to grieve because the focus immediately shifted to how bills would be paid, especially the mortgage properly. How would we eat and get clothes for school? Without going into too much detail for the sake of my family’s privacy, the years that followed Eddie’s death were very tough years and, in many ways, shaped who my mom, sisters, and I are today.
I have felt the pain of losing a loved one and the pain that ensues from not having a plan when that loved one passes away. I saw what happened to my mom as she tried to deal with the unthinkable and caring for her kids with no money. I saw my older sister, who was only 16 years old, go out and get a job. Not so that she can have money to hang out with her friends and live a teenager’s life, but so that she can help pay the water bill and put food on the table.
I have a wife and four children. We live in our very first home (less than 15 miles away from the home that Eddie bought for us). Changing the narrative for my wife and children is very personal to me. I would not want my wife to have to figure out how she will pay for our home or feed our children without help. I would not want my children to worry about moving and making new friends or being concerned about food to eat or if the lights will work when they flip the switch. The protection, provision, and comfort that I am blessed enough to provide for my family is something that I want them to still experience even in my death. I always say to men that “our responsibilities to our family does not die when we do”. I hope and pray that every man (or woman) who reads this just takes a moment to consider… REALLY consider, the impact on your family in the event of your absence. Mentally, physically, socially, spiritually, and, yes, financially. Having lived through this, I can assure you that the impact is enormous. You have the opportunity right now to ensure that your love, protection, provision, and comfort are felt by your family long after you have passed away.
I loved Eddie as a kid. He taught me a lot. But the greatest lesson I have learned from him is the importance of a man protecting his family. We do this well while we are living; we need to make sure that the job is still being done in our death. Our wives and/or children are counting on us to be there even when we have passed away. We cannot let them down! I am sure many of you have stories like mine, and you can remember the impact of losing a loved one. Men, we have an opportunity to change the narrative and leave a legacy that will positively change the trajectory for future generations.
Below, I have listed a few ideas you can do to build your legacy plan for your family. I would love to have this meaningful conversation with you and help make sure that your family always feels your protection. I am available to talk with you and address any questions that you may have about putting your plan in place. But please do not delay this or put it off…let’s get this done, men!
Leaving a Legacy
Buy a life insurance policy (outside of work benefits).
Update beneficiaries on life insurance policies as needed and review your policy annually.
Get a Will and Trust in place.
Share a list of your passwords and login information with loved ones/lawyer.
Make sure loved ones/lawyer know where to find your policy(ies).