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In December 2007 one of my daughter’s best friends was killed in an auto accident. My daughter was 16 and devastated. My husband and I were in the depths of our financial darkness, at the lowest point we had ever been.

We were in so far over our heads financially that we struggled to find the gas money to make the trip to the funeral and visitation. We simply weren’t able to be fully present to our daughter and to this hurting family during their grief. Our financial distractions included collection phone calls, overdrawn bank accounts and even a sheriff’s officer serving papers from one creditor suing us, all within hours of the news of this tragedy.

I vowed to myself at that moment that we would do whatever it took to get out of the financial hole we’d dug and never let money keep us from living life the way God really wants us to. Two days after the crash we had our first meeting with our Finance Coach.

Fast forward four and a half years. Yesterday my beautiful sister-in-law died after a long and arduous battle with leukemia. I was able to be a very small part of her care during the last weeks of her life, taking her to a few appointments and spending some time with her. Both my husband and I left work to spend time with her at her bedside in her final hours.

The two experiences couldn’t have been more different. Some of the reasons are obvious: age of the women involved and unexpected tragedy versus extended illness. But for our family, one of the main reasons this horrible time has been different is because our financial choices in the last four years.

With the help of our Finance Coach and following the Game Plan, we were able to be fully present to the people we love and want to care for. Here are how implementing these steps helped us handle tragedy:

Because we have a budget and work hard to live with in it, we knew exactly how much money we had in our gas money envelope. The many miles we traveled to services and to be with family didn’t create stress because we had a plan.

Several loved ones have taken a huge financial hit because of this horrendous illness that lead to my sister-in-law’s death. Thanks to our emergency fund we were able to assist them with their needs. Having that fund available also helped ease our own concerns about time lost at work. We could be physically, emotionally and financially available for our family.

We have worked hard to reduce our debt in the last four years. Because of that, creditor’s calls, unpleasant notices of late payments in the mail, and worries of our financial mess didn’t distract us from our needs and those of our family.

It’s sad but true that in times of tragedy money still affects us. However, when life happens, financial concerns need not be the driving force in our decisions and ability to serve those we love. A Game Plan makes all the difference.

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