For the past year our country’s economy has slowly spiraled downward. The effects are everywhere and the impact has been felt by many, just not me.
As 2007 ended and 2008 began, my cousin Ella was diagnosed with cancer. That wasn’t a good day. I remember sitting in the exam room with Ella and my mother. The doctor gave my mother and me the preliminary news, away from our cousin, before he performed any biopsies. A CAT scan showed there were masses in her lymph nodes and all over her chest. “Don’t tell her yet,” he said. “Let her have a good Christmas.” I had to lock eyes with my mother to keep her from crying. The official diagnosis came a few weeks later. It was widespread and would require aggressive treatement: rounds of chemo and radiation. Thinking back on it, a meeting like that changes the path of your life forever.
That wasn’t a good night, either. As the murmurs of recession and sub-prime started, I sat on the floor of her apartment in my bedroom, my back against the bed, tears kissing my face. I was suppose to be getting ready for my job’s holiday party. Needless to say, my fun was subdued. I disguised my hurt well from my coworkers, and tried to dance my pain away. But I still had my sorrow at the end of the night.
The middle of winter brought less work for me, a fact that should’ve bothered me more. But I found myself floating in an emotional bubble. Yes, I worried about my finances, but I worried more about getting Ella to all of her doctor appointments and treatments. It hurts to note that, at times, I did breakdown. Never in front of Ella, but to my close friends I talked about my financial worries. I never wanted to put her through that. Who was I to talk about paying off my credit cards when she was fighting for her life. I would’ve taken on double that debt to keep her here, but that’s not the way life works.
Ella died May 15th, the height of spring, when life was blooming. Work was up. I had been paying all her rent by then, and I had received my stimulus money. I used it for moving expenses and trying to clean out her apartment.
Since our economy has gone from bad to worse, my financial life has steadily improved. I received my first two insurance payouts as homes were being foreclosed on. It is an odd, raw feeling receiving money from the death of a loved one. It is possible to have survivor’s guilt when you never had the disease. It is possible to feel bad about receiving money for merely loving someone.
Because I missed out on work to help care for Ella, I was low on funds during the time of her death. The first two insurance payouts saved my year. I paid off my credit card debt, loaned my mother some money (she had helped me with Ella’s bills in the beginning of the year), and paid my first two months rent. I was okay.
Now, when our stock market sunk to a five year low, I received my last insurance payout, more than the first two combined, from a policy I didn’t even know about. At first, I was scared. So much money on one seemingly fragile piece of paper seemed unreal to me. I hurried to deposit it, irrational fears of theft or distruction overwhelming me.
Now that I am more than financially secure, everything is put into a peculiar perspective. Two of my closest friends are getting married. I’ve blocked out the event days, not caring about missing some work. In fact, work has slumped again. Recession woes will do that. But I’ve just not cared.
I have a huge lump of guilt in my throat. Why am I okay when others are suffering? Why is my life soaring because of the death of a loved one, someone who was akin to a second mother to me? Yet, I have equally realistic notions about my life. Okay, work is slowing. Since I’ll be losing out on hours, don’t spend as much. I’m researching private health insurance in case I loose my benefits through my job. I’m making myself write, as evidenced by this entry and the other ideas I’ve written but not fully conveyed on paper. I’ve got to start somewhere.
I cannot let my built in worries about work, money, and how people view me take away from the opportunity I have been given. This is the first time in my life where I have financial freedom. It was paid for with the love of my cousin. To squander this would be unthinkable, reprehensible, and just not me. Too many people are scared about their financial welfare right now. I’m just not one of them. This was the last gift Ella gave me. I will not waste it.
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