Last year, we featured a story from a daughter whose father’s life insurance provided a financial safety net to her after he passed away. But what happens when a family is left without it?
We spoke to 2012 Grand Prize essay recipient, Brittney LaCombe, to find out what life was like without a parent or financial legacy to help her family through. Here is her story:
I live in St. Petersburg, Florida. On May 8th, 2011, my mother, two younger sisters and I drove to a local campsite for our annual Mother’s Day camping trip. When we arrived, my mother said that her foot was bothering her. We thought maybe she had hit it on something, so we didn’t think much of it. But that night, the pain got so bad she couldn’t stand it. She called 911 and an ambulance took her to a hospital.
The doctors thought she had cellulitis, a blood infection, and wanted to keep her overnight to make sure the infection didn’t spread. We brought her presents and balloons to the hospital, to celebrate Mother’s Day. At 9 p.m., visiting hours were over. We said goodbye and went home, planning to come back when visiting hours started again at 7 a.m.
When Life Fell Apart
At 6:30 the next morning I got a call from the hospital. When they had gone to check on her that morning, she was blue. They tried to resuscitate her for 45 minutes, but it was too late. She had died from a pulmonary embolism—a catastrophe that left me without a mom.
Suddenly, at 20 years old, I was the head of the family, and I had to take care of my sisters, who were 15 and 16, on my own.
My aunt came over the next day to help me deal with funeral arrangements. I wanted to bury my mother, like she wished. But when we finished looking through all of her bank accounts and papers, we realized she only had $300 in the bank.
She was completely behind on her bills and had no life insurance.
I knew that our finances weren’t great, but I didn’t think we could be that bad off. A proper funeral, which costs thousands, was out of the question. I hated the idea of cremation, but that’s the only thing the state would pay for. We couldn’t even afford to hold a reception, and all of my mother’s family members never got the opportunity to gather and grieve together.
I felt devastated—I didn’t know where to go or what to do. Within a week of her passing, shut-off notices came for the electricity and water. The bank called every day looking for a payment on the mortgage. Since I was only working part time, paying these debts was out of the question. Even though I explained my situation to the bank, I was told I only had weeks before the house would be foreclosed on and our electricity and water would be cut off.