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2014 Second Runner Up - Essay

Garrett Smith

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Hometown: Rogersville, MO - School: Missouri State University

It was a Sunday afternoon, shortly after attending church service, when my mother found him. Once the garage door was open, and spotting what I now know to be blood, she quickly instructed my 10-year-old sister to take me to our neighbor’s house. We made the short walk over, sat in the living room, and stared at our house through the front bay window. After an hour of waiting, police cars and ambulances began arriving one by one. My sister and I, completely oblivious to the life-altering event that had taken place, continued staring in silence. After what seemed like an eternity, my mother made the short walk over, grabbed my sister and I by the hand, and led us to a spare bedroom. After sitting us down, she said with tears in her eyes, “Kids, your daddy’s gone.”

My father had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for three years before taking his own life at the age of thirty-three. Unfortunately, suicide rates are significantly higher in paranoid schizophrenics, especially in young men. He was a self-employed carpenter and my mother worked at a bank. Together they made a modest living, occasionally living paycheck to paycheck, but always enough to support my sister and I. After he was diagnosed, my mother was forced to stop pursing her college degree and focus on caring for my father. The hospital stays, psychiatrist’s appointments, shock treatments, and medication put our family in tremendous debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.

My father did not have life insurance because neither he nor my mother believed in it. However, after his death my mother learned from their mistake and got a life insurance policy to adequately cover my sister and I if she were to ever die. Even though he had no life insurance coverage, we were able to avoid bankruptcy by selling his truck. However, my mother still had a mortgage and utilities to pay for and two children to feed. Thankfully, because of funds donated by our caring and generous community, we were able to stay afloat.

His death put a large financial and emotion strain on my mother. Fortunately, her strong will prevailed and she successfully raised two, hard-working children by herself. My sister and I have worked since the age of sixteen. Even though it has not been easy, we have both funded our own education. I work thirty hours a week to pay for the commute, books, and tuition that loans do not cover.

It’s safe to say my father’s death significantly changed our lives, and it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if he were still here. I’ll never experience a relationship with my father and that loss is greater than anything money could provide. Even though I can’t bring him back, I can promise to be an active and present father for my future children and to have life insurance coverage so they’ll never have to experience the struggles my family went through.

You can help students like Garrett make their dream of a college education come true by donating to the nonprofit Life Lessons Scholarship fund. Donate here.

2014 Top Recipients