When the unexpected happened, these people found out how being financially prepared can make a big difference in the lives of those left to carry on.
In 2003 when Melissa Wandall was nine months pregnant, she got the call that no wife wants to receive: Her husband Mark had been in a serious car accident not far from their home. He died soon after.
According to Melissa, she immediately had to embrace what had happened. "From that moment of impact, I had to take care of our family,” says Melissa. "I didn’t want to be a ‘broken mommy’ for my baby. "
The driver who caused the accident hadn’t stopped at a stoplight, so Melissa took the opportunity to lobby for a new speed camera law in her state. Because of her husband’s life insurance benefits, she was able to devote five years to the effort, and on May 13, 2010, the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act was signed. She also started the Mark Wandall Foundation, which cares for children whose parents have been killed in vehicle-related collisions, and is partnered with Comfort Zone Camps, which offer grief counseling for children.
"Life insurance not only allowed us to survive in life, it gave us the opportunity to thrive in life, " she says.
Melissa continues to speak on the value of life insurance, what it does for a family, and why it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
"My husband told me he wanted to assure his family a life in the event of his absence," says Melissa. "He wanted to show us how love really can go on. And it has. "
As executive director of the historic Auditorium Theatre, Brett Batterson knows about the performing arts. But his love of theater goes back to when he was seven and his father passed away from a heart attack.
"My involvement in the theater then gave me the self-confidence to express myself, gave me courage and gave me a support group of friends, " Brett says. "It really helped me get through that whole process of grieving."
Brett recalls that his father also played a role in helping the family heal. "He had a small life insurance policy, which allowed my mother to buy a home," he says. "This set us on a path to stability that we wouldn’t have had otherwise."
His life experiences were the genesis for Hands Together, Heart to Art, a day camp that uses performance arts to help children work through their emotions and regain their confidence after the loss of a parent.
"Performers have to strip their soul bare every night that they get on stage, " says Brett, comparing the camp’s programs to the art of performing. "Walking through that fear is part of the healing process. You get through it to the other side. "
The young campers learn that life is still what they make of it, no matter what they’ve lost. And Brett exemplifies that message through his own life: "If you go with a positive attitude and a belief that you’ll succeed, you will."
Michele Neff Hernandez
Simi Valley, California
Carole Brody Fleet
Lake Forest, California
Michele Neff Hernandez and Carole Brody Fleet had one thing in common when they met: They were both young widows. Soon they were fast friends, working on behalf of others.
Michele had started a pen pal program for those who had been widowed. She then founded the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation (SSLF). Carole had authored Widows Wear Stilettos and was helping widows through their experience. Together, they now team up for the SSLF Camp Widow program—weekend gatherings for widowed people that help them connect with others and reconnect with life.
Michele admits her family was not prepared with life insurance when her husband died: They thought they’d have "plenty of time" to take care of things. But as a 35-year-old-widow, she found herself financially struggling. She doubled her workload, and though she was able to pay her bills, it meant significantly less time with her kids.
"That’s a residual effect that lasts a very long time," she says. "I know for sure that even some life insurance would have made a dent."
Carole and her husband Mike also thought they’d have time, but she soon found out that bad things do happen to younger people—and when you least expect it.
"We were not adequately prepared, either," agrees Carole. "I was left in financial ruin after Mike passed away. You’re already dealing with the emotional ruin when you lose your spouse. You don’t need to compound it with financial ruin."
Because of their experiences—and their mistakes—Carole and Michele are passionate about teaching others the importance of being prepared. "You must know what’s going on in your financial life," Carole says. "You must be financially prepared. And that means life insurance."
Melissa, Brett, Michele, and Carole are each State Farm® Embrace Life® Honorees. Their inspiring stories are featured as part of State Farm Life Insurance: A Promise for Tomorrow recognition.
State Farm Life Insurance Company (Not licensed in MA, NY or WI) State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company (Licensed in NY and WI) Bloomington, IL
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