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To continue from my prior post ( about the philosophy of RE and FI lifestyle I would like to reiterate that I am not financially independent or retired. However, the act of pursuing this lifestyle has led to a much better life and not just in terms of hard cold numbers. I would like to keep to the facts but I feel a somewhat complete story regarding the events will tie in nicely with the point that I am trying to make.

In August of 2001 my father was diagnosed with cancer. It was a most unexpected turn of events. At times like this I like to use the term 'circle the wagons'. I was in that mode. We had just purchased our new home and were still in the process of eliminating the small amount of consumer debt that remained. On the surface, these financial matters were insignificant compared to the emotional turmoil that confronted my family, but their importance were yet to be seen.

I was an integral part of my parents support team. For various reasons I needed to be the one to drive my father to and from his medical treatments. I took off of work frequently for my fathers Dr's appointments and chemotherapy. We went through this for six months. I did not miss any pay at this time. I used a lot of accrued vacation and much goodwill from my employer (in the form of flexible hours and quite a few free personal days off). I tried to remain focused at work to 1) have something to keep my mind of what my father was dealing with. 2) to repay the support that my employer had given me. I did not fear for my job but I knew that the 'freebies' couldn't keep coming.

After the chemo my father got a clean bill of health. The outlook seemed good and life got back to some semblance of normalcy. It was short lived. In July of 2002 at a routine checkup the good doctor found some symptoms that were troubling. An MRI and some other tests were performed that showed that the cancer had returned, but the extent was not known. Surgery was scheduled in August (exactly 1 year from the date of the first diagnosis) to ascertain how serious the cancer was. Once again I received tremendous support from my employer. I scheduled time off to be with my parents through this ordeal. My mother and I were in the operating room the day of the surgery and the doctor came out of the operating room way earlier than we expect…….. The news was not good. The cancer had spread and is on all his major organs. What was the toughest to hear was that it was terminal. My father had 6-8 months to live.

There were a lot of emotions going through my mind. The relevant one to this post is this: Nothing at work seemed important. Things that had recently been do or die at work now seemed very hollow. Again, more time off to help with my dad's recovery (from the surgery) and to just 'be' with my parents. A lot of stuff was thrown at us in a relatively short amount of time. We would probably need hospice care. We needed to make arrangements for living wills, power of attorneys, etc.


Things went as the Doctors had predicted. My father got sicker, more care was needed and it was getting difficult for my mother to physically handle things (even with hospice assistance). The time for action from me was at hand. If things didn't change my mother would probably be in the hospital from exhaustion. I had spent as much time as possible in helping with my father to the extent that I was missing time with my own wife and 2 kids. Work had finally become a huge liability. It had become meaningless to me and the time that I spent there could be much better invested.

So on March 11th I started unpaid Leave of Absence. Now, a few years ago I couldn't have even considered this because of my poor financial habits. We were living week to week and had no emergency fund. We probably would have sunk ever farther in debt and possibly lost our home or some such. I discussed the issues with my wife and told her that I was hesitant to dip into our emergency fund. “If this is not an emergency, I don't know what is” are the words she said to me.

Things spiraled worse for my father. His mental faculties declined very quickly. Without getting into the gory details the verdict was that the cancer had metastasized to his brain. My mother and I felt that we could not give him the best care at home any longer. We placed my father in a hospice facility. Again, without getting into the nitty gritty details medicare would not pay for him to stay in this facility for more than 5 days. So mom and I would split the $130 a day price.

I was no longer receiving a paycheck and I now had the potential to be paying a couple of thousand in expenses a month on top of my regular household expenditures. You know what………… IT DIDN'T MATTER. I didn't doubt the path that I selected. All of the hard work, discipline, and diligence had come together at this moment in time to allow me to spend my time as I CHOSE…… with my mother and father.

My father died on March 25th. I was there with him during his last breath. I spent so much time with my parents and I was able to do so much for them. I have no regrets. What made this possible was I was no longer a slave to money. It now worked FOR ME!

The time that I actually took off did not amount to a whole lot ( I did not return to work until april 7th so that I could continue to assist my mom and decompress). It amounted to 3 weeks. I had planned on being off for however long the process took; 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or more. Whatever was needed.

I don't know what more to add so I will just sum up. The lifestyle or philosophy of FIRE, as espoused by MANY of the wonderful posters on this board, are POWERFUL. I am very envious of those who have reached FIRE and I will work diligently to someday achieve it. However, it is important to remember the old cliché': “It's not the destination, it's the journey”. If I never get to FIRE the philosophy has already made a huge impact on my life for the better. A big Thank you to all who have contributed to this board.

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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