Tracy Basden fondly remembers her father, Eddie, as a fun-loving parent with a boundless supply of energy. Tracy’s mother had died when she was four and just weeks after her brother, Matthew, was born. That left Eddie to raise the kids by himself, a role he assumed with gusto. A Philadelphia area contractor who never made much money, Eddie had a gift for making the ordinary seem extraordinary. “He would turn going food shopping into something fun,” Tracy recalls.
The family’s life changed, however, when Eddie was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. When he could no longer work, Tracy dropped out of high school to care for her dying father. And when he passed away, just after she turned 18, she became legal guardian to her 14-year-old brother. “I went from being his sister to, essentially, his parent,” she says. “I was saying things to him that, months earlier, my dad was saying to us.”
After his wife had died with no life insurance, Eddie purchased a policy. But he let it lapse when money was tight. He later took out a small policy when he first became ill, but it covered little more than his burial expenses.
To keep the family together after her father’s death, Tracy took on a daunting set of responsibilities for a teenager. She had two full-time jobs, working 96 hours a week at one point, while still managing to cook meals and serve as a surrogate parent for her brother. She got her high school equivalency degree shortly after her father’s death and enrolled in college. But financial pressures forced her to take a semester off now and then. “I was wearing so many hats – sister, parent, student, employee – it was overwhelming,” she says.
Today, Tracy, 24, is a student at Neumann College in Pennsylvania. Because she works several part-time jobs, it will take her longer to graduate. But she’s determined to complete college and become a nurse, a profession she hopes will allow her to help other people.
Looking back, Tracy sometimes thinks of how things might have been different if her father had more life insurance. “I could have grieved,” she reflects. “Life insurance leaves you with the comfort to not have to worry so much about money. It’s one of those bills you have to pay. It should be right up there with your mortgage or rent.”