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#010 — What We Learn From Tragedy

February 7th, 2009

Happy 30th Birthday, David

My friend David would have turned 30 years old today.

On September 22, 2005, David was tragically killed in an automobile accident, leaving behind a wife and three young children.  The following, which I posted on his memorial site, is a glimpse of how David’s life has impacted mine:

David was my first friend ever. My memories of David seem too numerous to write down. They range from swimming at his aunt’s pool as little kids, spending the night what seemed like every weekend at his house when we were kids, watching his high school football games, and meeting up with him in between the times we were away at college.

David was passionate, and never did anything half-hearted. He worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen – be it in school, on the job, or even in a hobby – he was always motivated and driven to accomplish more. He never was satisfied with sliding by on his natural talents. He also played harder than anyone else, always willing to live life to its extremes. He would light up and bring life to any room he entered. David also cared for and loved all those within his reach. His sphere of influence seemed to grow with each passing day. David was truly most happy when he was able to serve others.

For David, there was no middle ground. He simply did not live a lukewarm life. It brings me great fulfillment to know that he took the struggles life gave him, and channeled them for the glory of God. His life is a great testimony of what the Lord can do through you when you make the decision to surrender your life to Him.

I reflect back and feel lucky that God blessed me with David’s friendship for a season of our lives, and I feel most fortunate to see his story unfold from the beginning. He has had a profound effect on my life like few others have. I see bits and pieces of his character in myself and all around me nearly every single day. He simply made those around him better, and when around me, he made me a better person too. The only way to repay God for the wonderful memories is to pass along his love, passion, and drive to others. To do anything less would do David a disservice.

What I’ve Learned

There are many emotions that surround a tragic situation or unexpected loss of a loved one.  With time & perspective come an opportunity to learn from such an unfortunate event.  Here are a few things that come to mind given who David was and how his life was cut short:

1. Pursue your passion.

David was a passionate, all-or-nothing type of guy.  What do I take away from it?  Follow your passions and work hard to see them through.  To do less is a disservice to those that came before us, and those who didn’t have a chance to see their vision completed.

2. Fundamentals!

I enjoy — really enjoy — talking about all things money.  It is so intertwined into all we do and a representation of who we are and what values we possess.  I find it fascinating.  But money is only a medium, or a conduit, for goods & services.

It is important to take a step back from bailouts, financial struggles, and budgets, and remember the fundamentals of life do not involve greenbacks or stuff you bought with that money.  Rather, what’s fundamental to life are those relationships we have and seek with others. Relationships — with God, family, and friends — are what make up who we are and what values we possess.  Money is a mere reflection of your values, but it is not a fundamental value of life.

3. Practical Applications:  Be Prepared for Tragedy

Life Insurance

By virtue of happenstance more than methodical planning, David’s company – a local bank – had a life insurance policy on him.  It wasn’t millions of dollars, but it was enough to cover the costs on the home David’s family had just built.  With young kids to take care of, David’s wife is in a position financially where she was not reliant upon an immediate income, but could stay home and care for her children.  If you are married, have substantial debts or assets, or have children — you need a responsible amount of term life insurance.  Do not wait until it is too late.

Estate Planning

I do not know if David had a will, or who was responsible for the household finances in his relationship.  What I do know, is that you need to be prepared.  Some basic things:

  • Get a Will — whether you seek out an attorney or buy a cheap-o online template, get a will.  It makes the financial transition smoother on those that survive you.
  • Prepare a simplified household budget, list of accounts, and usernames & passwords for all relevant accounts — banking, credit cards, retirement, e-mail addresses, online charitable giving accounts, etc.

How About You?

What are your thoughts?  Has a personal tragedy affected your perspective, financially or life in general??


Jason Personal Finance , , , , ,

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