"People assume that because my late husband was a judge that we were well off. So let me fill you in...
Robert was a former history teacher who had a dream to be a public interest attorney. He cashed in his retirement, took out student loans, moved from KC to NJ and put himself through law school in NY. He was studying for the Bar exam when I met him and as we shared the same values, and we fell in love. We moved to Syracuse NY where Robert was offered a position as attorney with Legal Aid and I gave birth to our son. A year later, he was offered a position with Social Security Administration and because he was so good at what he did, he was eventually promoted to division chief judge of appeals. Serving in that capacity enabled him to help more people.
Robert came into my life with a lot of debt, and big dream to serve others. As such, we rented in Virginia for 13 years until we decided to move to rural VA where we could buy a home for far less than in Fairfax County where we were renting. Moving to rural VA would reduce our cost of living, and enable us to pay down his debt, and finally own a home of our own. He used most of his retirement account as the down payment because he had no savings. The house was an investment, and it had already increased in value by the time we went to closing.
Three months after we moved in, a sudden and unthinkable tragedy struck our family. Amidst our deep grieving, I have been trying to find full time employment to care for our son. Our home was purchased on my husband's salary, not mine, therefore it is unlikely that I will earn enough to afford to keep our home and support our son. At some point, I will likely have to sell the house that we worked so hard for.
We lived simply. When Robert asked me to marry him, I told him that I didn't want a ring, or a wedding or a honeymoon....I just wanted to plant roots and have the stability of a home for our family and I did not want to move again. We moved 5 times in the time we were married which was stressful for both myself and our son.
We were a 1 car family. We didn't go on vacations, but had local adventures and camped instead. Most of our furniture predated Robert and was from my flat in NYC. Most of my clothing predates Robert. Anything that we've added along the way was thrifted or on clearance. The few new things we have were cheap. We so seldom bought anything, let alone something new unless it was a very special occasion and it was within budget. We lived very simply, and frugally.
It turns out that my husband only had basic life insurance, and that will not cover the cost of the house. There will be some death benefits, but not enough to afford our home and I was told by HR that it can take 3 months or more to come in. My appointment with social security isn't until Nov 15 and I don't qualify for widow benefits until I'm 60. I may qualify for a benefit for widows with children under 16 but that will end in two years when our son is 16.
In the meantime, there are hospital bills, the first of which is 13k. I put Robert's cremation on my premarital visa because I knew he had very little in checking and that I would need every penny to pay mortgage. I should add that I have never carried a balance on my visa and I had no debt when I met Robert, so this in itself scares me. I want to keep my good credit.
I'm sharing this with you because we all make assumptions, and many people think because Robert had this title and a good salary, that we were well off. That is not the case. He fulfilled his dream of working in public interest law, of being a public servant, but he went into debt to do that and we have spent the term of our marriage digging out of that debt.
I hope that by sharing this, it will make you consider any assumptions or biases that you may hold regarding the people you meet. My beloved friend, Petra, set up this gofundme to help with the financial catastrophe of my husband's death. If you wish to donate to the fund or simply share this info with someone who may be able to help in any way (legal advice, employment, financial planning), we would be very grateful."
We are organizing a fundraiser for my dear friend Wendy Cook, owner and founder of Mighty Girl Art (mightygirlart.com), artist, advocate and activist for kindness, human rights, the planet, wildlife and all animals.
Her husband was admitted to a DC hospital on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack at work. He is currently in a medically induced coma and on life support, but it's looking grim. Wendy, who is like family to us even after we moved overseas and haven't seen her in over a year, is the most caring person on the planet and the last one to deserve this. She is a stay-at-home mom with 14 year old Satchel to take care of and she and her husband Robert just settled into their first house in Shenandoah two months ago. We are devastated by the news and are raising money for her as it seems to be the only thing we can do right now, not being able to help locally or comfort her in any other way. She should at least not have to worry about paying for meals or accommodation in DC or other immediate expenses, while she needs to focus on other things and be there for Satchel. Please help if you can.
- Lisa Koop
- Giving Circle
- Frances Jimenez
- Patricia O’Brien
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