The year was 2006. In early spring, my brother Isaiah and I had taken off to Mexico with the Azusa Pacific University "Team Luke" outreach program. Our goal while we were there was to set up mobile clinics to offer basic medical care.
After crossing the border back into California, we received a phone call from my sister informing us our dad had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The loud engine of the old Ford pickup we were driving went silent as we both sat lost in thought of the possibility that this could actually be true. How could the "Superman" in our lives possibly be susceptible to this disease? Needless to say, it was a long trip back.
Flying home the next day, we realized it was not only true but also a lot worse than we all thought. My dad was in stage four of the cancer with no hope for reversal. His options were undergo chemotherapy and live 18 months, or do nothing and live 12 months. Because he only had a short time left and because he didn’t want my 9-year old sister to see him suffer, he opted to not do chemo.
There are a few things in life a 22-year-old child should never have to do and one of those is help your mom pick out your father’s casket when he is days away from death.
Unfortunately, that was my fate. But I remember heading to the funeral home with no worry about the cost of Dad’s funeral because I knew he had life insurance. I only had to think about picking something that I knew he would love but never see.
Dad’s funeral was beautiful for a funeral. My sister sang, my brother read the eulogy and I spoke about how this Assembly of God minister was now rejoicing with his Father in heaven. How we all conjured up the strength to do these things I’ll never know. Dad was escorted to the cemetery by a line of motorcycles (one of his many ministries).
I’m telling this story to let you know that not once did my family have to worry about where the money to take care of the funeral, headstone, mortuary, cards and other expenses was going to come from. The last thing you want to worry about on such a tragic day is where you are going to find the money to take care of everything and to take care of yourself after all is said and done, while the pain of the loss is still so fresh. But Dad left us with the comfort of knowing it was all taken care of through his life insurance.
Death is not something anyone wants to think about, but we all need to. My father not only set my mom up to be financially prepared for a few years, he also instilled in his children the knowledge that we also need to plan for the future with life insurance. The beautiful thing about this story is that it is now 2013 and my mom still has life insurance money to help her. My dad showed his love to her even in death.
Life insurance is so important for everyone – young or old. How much more can you let someone know you love them by insuring their financial future? Our family has seen the full benefit of life insurance, and I hope by reading my story, many more people may be able to reap the benefits as well.
Editor’s note: Need more information about life insurance? Check out our 10 reasons to buy life insurance. Or give our Life Needs Calculator a try for help estimating the right amount of coverage to ensure your dependents are financially stable.
In January, I had the unique opportunity of traveling to Playa Gigante, Nicaragua, to play softball and share some life-saving cancer-detection techniques.
The trip started as an invitation to play in a softball tournament and share some softball skills and knowledge with the local women. However, members of our group from Oregon have a wide range of life experiences, and we wanted to share those as well.
Among us was a breast cancer survivor who had also lost her mother to breast cancer. She’s a firm believer that early detection and education saved her life. As a group, we made it our mission to deliver as much information about breast cancer as we were able to. Our survivor’s doctor was even able to join us!
As a group, we went through two breast cancer training sessions to prepare for our trip. We also brought training materials to leave in the village. A group of breast cancer survivors in Salem, Ore., even made hospital gowns for us to leave at a local clinic. Not to leave softball out, we also gathered bats, balls, mitts, helmets, visors, shirts and bat bags to leave as well.
We flew into the capital city of Managua and drove two-and-a-half hours to Playa Gigante. When we got there, the women were happy to see us, and we were excited to learn from each other. We even held a breast cancer training session that afternoon!
When our breast cancer survivor told her story, many of the women in the village were very touched. Not only was she sharing her story, but she was healthy and strong. In that area, it is uncommon for people with cancer to survive. The doctor who joined us also shared information about early detection and treatments and later helped train staff at the local clinic.
That weekend we held a softball skills clinic for the local women and girls. On our last full day in the village, we held a tournament among four teams. The local school children cleaned up the field and the entire village came out to watch.
I’ve never experienced anything like Playa Gigante before.
They don’t have many of the things we take for granted like electricity or running water. Many homes have dirt floors and people sleep in hammocks. Cooking is done over an open fire and animals and livestock are free range.
I couldn’t help but notice that life is more stress-free and relaxing compared to the U.S. We have so much yet are so unappreciative as a society.
I realized our trip made a difference for the women of Playa Gigante. I don’t ever doubt the impact one person can have.
Looking back, I’m not sure if we made more of an impression on the women of Playa Gigante or the other way around.
I have been an American Family employee for 25 years, and it’s always been a great place to work. One reason is all the wonderful co-workers and friends who surround me every day.
Another is knowing how much American Family cares and gives back to our communities, including the support of the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis.
I am originally from Madison, and my family still lives there. The summer of 2008, my 10-year-old nephew, Adam, was in the American Family Children’s Hospital, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next two years he was a regular at the hospital for treatments and checkups and we know he received the best care possible. He also felt loved by every doctor and nurse who had contact with him.
Adam’s greatest wish was to meet former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre. In January 2010, Adam had his dream come true through Make-A-Wish – Wisconsin. This is a memory our entire family will cherish forever.
Sadly, Adam passed away six months later, on Aug. 15, 2010. His doctor even spoke at his funeral on behalf of all the staff at the hospital who had come to know and love him.
My daughter was very close to Adam and is always looking for ways to honor and remember him. Last year she decided we should start a team and walk in Adam’s memory for Make-A-Wish – Arizona and “pay it forward” for all the support Adam received in Wisconsin from the American Family Children’s Hospital and those who take such good care of the patients and families who come there. We were able to raise $2,700 as a team and help make other children’s wishes come true.
This year will be our second year as Team “Amazing Adam.” The walk is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, 2013. We are hoping to exceed last year's amount. If you’d like to learn more about our team, here’s our team page.
It’s important to “pay it forward” because we believe every sick child’s wish should come true.
I recently took my family to see the movie “Lincoln.” It’s an amazing film about our 16th president, which has been nominated or already won several awards. You get an incredible glimpse into one of the most important and tragic times in our country’s history.
More importantly, the film – and the trip we took to our local theater – allowed for a welcome escape from the everyday activities of work, school, sports, church and more.
Films are themselves a very American experience, and so is the modern-day movie theatre visit. Even the very process by which we watch movies – the darkened room, the stadium seating, the oversized tub of popcorn, the giant screen – provides something we don’t normally experience in our day-to-day lives. (I’d love to eat movie-theatre popcorn every day, but my arteries wouldn’t.)
At the movies, we can live vicariously through characters of yesterday, today and tomorrow; real people or those completely ridiculous and fictional. They show us what it was like to live years or generations ago, or give us ideas for living our lives today.
I’m partial to films based on historic events, like “Lincoln”. But even if you’re a fan of romantic comedies, action flicks or science fiction films, there’s an escape from reality we can all appreciate. For a couple hours, we can put away the smart phone, get off the freeway and away from the office, and see life through the people portrayed in a good movie.
What films have provided you with a good escape lately? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance powers the 2013 Kids Dream Winter Film Series, which is now showing at participating Marcus Theatres in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. You can get free tickets to these family-friendly films (which run Saturday and Sunday mornings through March 17, 2013) from participating American Family Insurance agents. Otherwise, the films are just $2 per person. Visit our website for more information and to find an agent near you.
Alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.
After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.
Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!
Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.
Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.
- Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
- Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
- A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
- Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
- Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
- Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
- Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.
Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.
Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment.