Back to Life Lessons

2009 Grand Prize - Essay

Lee Geffre

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Hometown: Stillwater, MN - School: University of St. Thomas

My father passed away March 9th, 1998. My mother passed away August 1st, 2008. I have three younger brothers, and I’m the sole provider for two of them. There was no life insurance, and only state medical insurance for my mother’s death. In addition to the overwhelming grief that came with my father’s death, there was the added economic burden, as my mother was now the sole provider for four children. Our quality of life was very modest, with only one family vacation that I can recall. There were long periods of time with no health insurance, though there were various mental illnesses that required treatment. Christmases and birthdays were modest affairs, bringing things such as new shoes to replace the ones we had outgrown. I began working at 14 years, and held a job through high school, sometimes working three part-time jobs to pay for my car and insurance. I finished high school with some college credits, and went on to my first year at the University of St. Thomas. Monetary hardships kept me from continuing my education, and I traded school for some financial stability.

At this time, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her time left with us was short, and put me through a crash course in dealing with end-of-life issues. At 45 years old, she hadn’t prepared to die. There was no will, no Power of Attorney (POA), no funeral arrangements, and no funds to handle anything. I was my mother’s POA, making the final decision not to draw out her life by means of intubation. I was the executrix of her will, securing attorneys to help with guardianship papers and other such necessities. I arranged for her transfer from the hospital to our home, and administered the morphine through the last 16 hours of her life. My brothers and I had a lot to deal with. The presence of my brothers is what drives me to go back to school. Were I an only child, I’d still want to finish my degree, to make my parents proud. But as the oldest of four orphans, school is much more than that for me. I’d like to be able to be the presence that my parents would have liked to have been. I’d like to give them the support they need to continue on with their educations so that they may become successful, stable individuals. I will be better able to accomplish that goal with my degree finished.

Knowing what I do now, it is my wish to never leave my family in the situation that I have been left in, twice. I believe, wholeheartedly, in the value of preparing for worst-case-scenarios. Imagine the difference a life insurance policy would have made. Perhaps each of us could have had school paid for. Perhaps my mother could’ve gone back to school to better provide for us. At the very least, I wouldn’t have had to worry over the cost of my mother’s headstone.

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

2009 Top Recipients