'Dear Mom, I Wish You'd Had Life Insurance'

Brittney Lacombe / LIFE
Brittney Lacombe / LIFE

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.
Brittney Lacombe
Brittney Lacombe

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.

My aunt and I started looking for resources to get us through the month. At work, where I did customer service for a local newspaper, I asked to have more hours. I tried to get help from the community to help us get through that month and to save the house we had lived in since 2004, but it was a lost cause.
Brittney Lacombe
Brittney Lacombe

How Did We Get Here?

I grew up in a middle class family, where both of my parents always worked very hard to provide. My parents got divorced in 2006, and my father was no longer in our lives.

In 2010, when I was in high school, my mother got laid off from her company in a major downsizing. It was stressful, because I knew we had always lived paycheck to paycheck, and I didn't know if everything was going to turn out OK.

She was collecting unemployment, but by the time we went on our Mother's Day camping trip, it was about to run out and she was looking for another job. Meanwhile, I was working and taking classes toward a degree in education.

Picking Up the Pieces

On June 1st, through assistance from Catholic Charities and the HUD program, we were able to move into a small two-bedroom apartment 15 minutes away from where we used to live, near my sisters' school.

I had to pack up our entire family home. Since we were moving from a three-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment, I had to decide what meant the most to us as a family, and what to let go. I moved through the process slowly, taking box by box to our new apartment. But I didn't move fast enough. The bank came and foreclosed on the house, and they were able to keep what they wanted. We lost a lot.

We also had to give our pets away. Our two dogs went to family members until we could afford to get them back. Our cats went to the shelter.

During that time, a counselor from a local program came to our house twice a week to help us through the grief processing. I decided to change my major to social work, so I could help other young adults who were going through what I went through.

Currently, I work 40 or more hours a week at the newspaper, then attend school full time after that at the University of South Florida. My sisters are in 11th and 9th grade, and I don't want them to work while they're in school. They have enough on their plates.

How We're Getting By

We still live paycheck to paycheck and struggle. I receive no rent or food assistance. Thankfully, if I run out of grocery money, I am able to borrow from friends and extended family. We never really go out, to movies or anything else. If I have to do without in order for my sisters to have, this is what I am committed to doing.

I do not qualify for Social Security survivor's benefits because I was over the age of 18 at the time of my mother's death. Since my sisters are both minors, they qualify. I put the funds into each of their savings accounts so they can attend college after high school graduation.

Up until last year, I had only a grant from the government that paid for 25% of my school tuition. I also took out student loans, but I was limited to two or three classes every semester, and would go to the library to check out textbooks to use. Still, I managed to get honors every semester.

Last year I submitted my essay to the LIFE Foundation, and won a scholarship which allowed me to take the rest of the classes I need to get my bachelors of science in social work. I'll graduate on May 5th of this year, summa cum laude. That will make me the first one in my family to graduate college. I've applied to graduate school, but I have to take off a year, because you have to get experience before you get your master's. Hopefully, I'll be able to attend school in the fall of 2014.

It Could Have Been Different

People get grief wrong: You don't move on, you move through it. One day you realize that it is reality. It's almost been two years, and I wouldn't say we've "dealt" with my mother's death yet. Some days it's just not real.

Death is something we tend not to think about and not to prepare for. My mom had a small life insurance policy with her job, but lost it when she was laid off. Because she was only 49, I don't think she ever thought that it was something she needed.

If my mom had had life insurance and made preparations for her death, my life would be completely different. We would have been able to bury her according to her wishes instead of settling for cremation paid for by the state. We would still be living in our family home with our pets and in our same neighborhood we grew up in. I would not have to struggle to provide my sisters with the basic daily needs others don't think twice about.

I am determined to make my mom proud and be the first in our family to graduate college. It is now my responsibility to see that my sisters have as close to a normal life as possible. I am their role model. We are the survivors of the unthinkable, and we are going to make it.

With additional writing by Alden Wicker

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The insurance industry is THE RICHEST industry in the world.. My husband is retired from John Hancock in Boston, he was there over 30 years, he gets a piddly pension. His Mom however, continued to get his Dads INCOME after he died, he was a Senior Vice President. She died a very wealthy woman but we saw very little of it as his older sister & her jerk of a husband stayed with her to 'TAKE CARE OF HER', they insisted she PAY THEM $800.00 A MONTH!! She (they) paid her bills, bought the groceries which THEY ate, everything. We knew none of this until a year later. They are penny pinching stingy misers!!

June 02 2013 at 1:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, darlin', you learned an important lesson. She gave you life. She did the best she could. I don't think life insurance factored into her life as she went along. Life is not easy so remember that your life is more payable to your mom that hers is to yours. Live it.

April 30 2013 at 8:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Why cant the Government give everyone life insurance?
It would be dirt cheap given the demographics involved.
Just take it from the rich!

April 29 2013 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know if the author comes back to read the comments,
this young lady did a good job and will continue to do so and hopefully the younger ones will stay on the straight and narrow.

life can and WILL throw us more than a few curve balls,in this case a foul ball that SHE HIT and it seems like a home run.

April 28 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For all of you with your negative comments, it's easy to be hateful until you have walked in someone else's shoes. I lost my mom as an adult and I couldn't imagine losing her at such a young age and going thru what Brittany has gone thru. She is doing her mom proud and taking good care of her sisters. All of us who know Brittany love her and her sisters so stop being such cruel people and just be thankful that you are not going thru the same experience.

April 27 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

First of all, this was an article written on a financial website. Perhaps if the story was written on some human interest or a charity site, then it would have received better reception and replies. Of course people are going to think they used this woman's story to promote life insurance and hopefully use one of their advertisers. Look at the headline of the article.! We know all good and well that advertisers love to embellish and even downright lie to get a customer.

If this article was not used as a lead to buy insurance, then why was it published here? I doubt it was to give kudos to a 20 year old who takes care of her sisters. She could get all of those sentiments and attention from her peers or a church. I see that she has a few her personal friends posting on here doing that very thing.

That headline is so misleading and that young lady knows perfectly well why her Mom didn't have insurance. Sure she wished Mom did but it the real world, it was unaffordable. Even a 7 year old could understand that you can't buy something without money. I wish I grew up with rock stars but I had to deal with my unknown, middle class family.

You want to hear some real heartbreaking stories? Try listening to people from third world countries like Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. My husband,who is military, was deployed to all three of those countries. Talk about some children in tragic situations? They make this Brittney look like she's the queen of wealth.

April 26 2013 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to desmoi225's comment
James Elliott

Yes life insurance cost. My wife and I pay $270.00 for life insurance for her and me. The two sons and three grand kids are inculed in the payment. We pay $92.00 a month on Cancer insurance and another $100.00 on insurance to buary( mispelled) insurance. There is not much left from my SS checks after I pay the house payment and for life insurance and house and car insurance. Guess I could add my medicare insurance payment too that goes up every time we get a COL raise. We know the insurance will help her when I am gone. I am 21 years older than she is but no one knows I may out live her. I lost my oldest son almost 5 years ago and he was 39 years old with no insurance. I know this young lady is having problems but she is doing something about it which is more that some that sit at home and let the government pay them to live. Their dad should get off his A** and help her but he is probably a dirt bag that only thinks of his self. But he may bo sitting at home ment check.

April 26 2013 at 8:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I Can not believe the way some of you have been talking. As if you know Brittney Lacombe. She did lose her mom 2 years ago. I dont recall her asking for any money from you people. You do not support her and her sister. She does not have state funds. Except what the state gives her sisters. She does not take all the girls money to support them. They pay for part of the rent, If they want a new outfit they have to buy it with their money after rent and schools savings had been paid. Brittney does not hide the girls money & she does not keep it. Because its not hers. I know parents out there keep their childs support money from the death benefits at this same age as these girl now 17 and 16. I have watch Brittney change into a great role model ( mom ) for these girls. She runs them to the doctor, denist, school meeting etc. Everything that a mother would have to do with their own child. So please keep your nastyness to your self and grow up.I hope for the best Brittney and girls. Keep your heads up and dont worry what people say behind the computer , They do not walk in your shoes. And may they never have too.

April 25 2013 at 6:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Now this is a WORTHY story!!! My prayers go out to this young girl and her sisters. She is an excellent role model for her younger sisters. And putting their SS payments into a savings for each, while they struggle to live and survive.... very admirable!!! I love this story!!! Everything happens for a reason and their mother passing away at a young age with no money saved, makes them all realize you have to work hard and appreciate what you have have in life. Love and family...

April 25 2013 at 5:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

$300 in the back. How was she supposed to AFFORD life insurance?

April 25 2013 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply