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I have put a lot of thought into this post. I have actually been trying to write this post for one year now. It has been sitting in my drafts waiting for me. For one year, I couldn’t find the words to describe how important paying off my debt had become to me. How important it became to my family and my future. I don’t want to step on any family members toes with this blog post or shed the wrong light on my journey, but this has been on my mind for one year. I have written and rewritten this post so many times trying to word everything just right, but I have found that there are no right words for it.
One year ago today, my grandpa lost his battle with Leukemia.
March 23rd, 2018.
He had been fighting it for over two years and was stubborn throughout the whole journey. He had so many ups and downs along the journey, as comes with cancer. My grandpa fought as hard as he could. He had beat so many odds since his diagnosis. But cancer ultimately just sucks.
My grandpa chose to love me as one of his own grandchildren.
When I was really young, my dad and his family adopted me. My dad and his family have taken my mom and me in as one of them and I am forever blessed. I was young enough that I never really knew a difference. But family is more about who is there during the hard times than any blood.
Growing up, my grandma and grandpa lived down the block from us. I remember them being a huge part of my childhood. Occasionally, I would go there after school to hang out with them until my parents got off work. My grandpa was the custodian at a local church and my grandma was the secretary. Sometimes, I would get to go clean the church and do office work with them. I remember my grandma always fixing a snack for my grandpa and I while we hung out at their house.
I remember my grandpa being the ultimate bargain finder. When I was younger, he found me a bike and brought it home for me. I think he was just as proud of that bike as I was. I am pretty sure that over the years, he brought me home many bikes, but this bike was the bike that I learned to ride on. He was always thinking of others when he was out bargain hunting.
When my grandpa passed away, it reminded me of how important family is.
It reminded me of how short life is to work all of the time. I would like to say that I stopped working so much in the last year, but it really wasn’t until I paid off all my debt that I slowed down. In the last month and a half, I have slowed down tremendously and spend more time with my friends and family. Honestly, it took me a while for all of this to really sink in. Family time and travel are two of the big things that I am adding back into my budget.
Now that I am debt free, I look forward to planning a few summer vacations with my family. I can’t wait to just go hang out at my parent’s house with them and spend time with my grandparents. This summer will bring a few road trips to see family that isn’t as close. I get to continue to make memories with my family.
As I grow older and have a family of my own, I look forward to family time. Because I am debt free (other than my future house), there will be more choices available to me. There will be freedom with my family that some people don’t have. I know that I am blessed beyond belief that I will have freedom with my future kids.
I finally took time for myself and my family.
When he passed away, I was halfway through paying off my $34,000 in debt. The first year of paying everything off included a lot of 60 hour work weeks and putting myself first. I had turned down a lot of invites to events. But the week of the funeral, I took the entire week off to spend with my family. I spend quite a bit of time with my dad. During that week, I went to do chores at the farm with my mom. I just spent time with my family.
I took a weekend trip to spend with my grandma. She took me to all of my grandpa’s favorite restaurants and places in the nearby town. We sat and ate and just talked about everything. She told me the story of how they met, their first date, and about their marriage. She talked about when he started getting sick. It was so nice to be able to just sit and enjoy her company. I learned so many different things about my grandma during the weekend I got to spend with her.
I started saving for my side tattoo in memory of him.
When I came back from basic training, I received his dog tags and stories about his Army service. These were stories that no one else had ever heard before. He entrusted me with details of his past life. While our time in service was short compared to some, it changed both of our life’s. I truthfully can’t imagine my life without my friends, role models and knowledge that I gained through the guard.
I chose the verse Jeremiah 29:11 for my dog tag, because while I am still very unsure what God has planned for me, I know he has a plan for my life. My grandma Vera chose Mark 12:31 for my grandpa. “Love your neighbor..” My grandpa was friends with everyone in their small town and was always willing to help someone else. So now, our tags are placed on my left ribs as a reminder than God and Grandpa will always be close to my heart.
He also left behind financial struggles.
This is the harder part for me to write about. My grandpa had the Veteran’s Affairs to take care of some things, but the VA only takes care of so much. I remember people questioning whether my grandma was going to be okay. There was a lot of talk about finances and funeral costs. It was so hard to watch everyone involved make the right decisions when it came to honoring my grandpa but also worrying about money.
Losing someone is hard enough, but having finances up in the air makes it that much harder. While I am young, it made me realize that I never wanted anyone to struggle to know what to do when I am gone. Losing him made me realize that I wanted to make sure that whoever I leave behind is taken care of.
The financial knowledge that I have gained in the last two years will continue to pay off for the rest of my life. It has put me far ahead of many many others in life. I can not thank God enough that he put me on this debt free journey when he did.
It never gets easier to accept that someone is gone from your life. We will always miss him.
But in losing him, I will always be reminded of how important my time with my family is. Because of my debt free journey, I look forward to spending a lot more time off of work making memories with my family.