Sunday, September 30, 2012

Death, Reflections and Changes


This June my father died of a heart attack. It came as a great shock to all of us because there had been no real warning signs. He wasn't in the best of health, but he also had had several recent checkups for various things where no heart problems were detected. He was a month shy of 68.

My father was living with his now 91 year old mother and taking care of her. So when I went out to California for the funeral, I decided to stay out there for the summer to help give my aunt some time to figure out how to make sure grandma was taken care of in the future. I am very glad I decided to do this, because it was not only good for my grandma to not have her routine completely disrupted, but it was also good for me to not spend the summer virtually alone. Staying with her provided me with distraction and purpose.

My aunt and brother were there for about a week and a half. Then they both had to get back to their jobs. Before they left though, my brother and I started going through our dad's things. We were uber impressed with how extremely organized our dad had his files. We were also amazed by some of what he'd kept. I found *every* single credit card he'd had since 1973. He'd kept ALL of his driver's licenses and ministerial certificates. We also donated approximately 700 VHS tapes, as well as trashing approximately 300 cassette tapes. In his desk my brother found two paper clips with $40 - one with my name and the word "theater?" and the other with my brother's name on it and a question mark. The best we could figure is that he'd started saving money for when I was going to be coming for a visit that summer, and wanted to do whatever he did for me equally for my brother. In his fire safe I found a folder with my brother and I's name on it, and inside were two one-dollar silver certificates. My father was a man who loved unconditionally and generously.

Reflections and Changes

Dad's death  led both my brother and I to reflect on our lives. My brother decided to give up a habit which was harming his health, and I decided to restart exercising regularly.* We both also realized that we needed to make sure that we had our papers/legal documents as well organized as our dad. Having everything so organized made it SO much easier to take care of the final details. One thing dad hadn't done though was to update his will or his final wishes. Both my brother and I had long talks about what each of us would want to happen if something were to happen to either of us.

Since returning home to begin my second year as a librarian, I have done quite a bit of thinking and contemplating. My father dying so young has made me contemplate the importance of not putting off enjoying life for too long. As much as I love my job, I know that this isn't what I want to do until I'm 65. With the ups and downs of my financial life, I have a lot of catching up to do if I want to retire early. And that is what I want to do. I want to be Financially Independent in the next 13 years.

About a month ago I was pointed to the Mr. Money Mustache blog. It is written by a man who retired in his mid-30s and lives in a 400,000 sq. ft. home in Colorado with his wife and young son. I've slowly been reading through his posts and the comments, and realizing that although I've been pretty good with my money, I have a long way to go. In the next few months I hope to write here more about some of the changes I've been making, and about how they are working out for me.

*My brother participated in his first tri-athalon this past August, and is signed up for a half-Ironman in July. He credits giving up the unhealthy habit with his majorly improved running time and endurance levels. Since taking up regular exercise again, as well as eating much less processed foods, I have lost approximately 20 lbs since June.


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