I was nearing the end of tax season. Everything was coming together perfectly. Sure, there were stresses. Will I get everyone’s taxes done? But my office was in good shape. I have always ran a proactive firm. We work hard to get clients in early. This allows us to know whether we can take on new clients, whether clients have forgotten tax documents, so they have time to gather them, etc. It has always worked for me. Planning ahead was always key. And to some extent, it was also for the “what if” scenario.
And then that “what-if” scenario happened. It was Friday, April 21, 2017. The office was in a great place. Clients were looked after. We were on top of it. So I decided to go out for the evening.
Then came that dreaded call. My dad had collapsed at a Mental Health fundraiser. He had just spoken in front of thousands. Came off the stage. Barely sat down before collapsing.
I will never forget that moment. My heart racing. My hands shaking. Calling my older sister, driving fast to go pick her up. We rushed to the venue. I drove so fast through the streets of Coquitlam, on the highway and through Surrey. The ride was mostly silent, and it felt like forever to get there. So many thoughts going through my head. I made calls to friends who were near my mom on Vancouver Island. Trying to find someone to go be with her. It was late at night and I knew there were no flights or ferries until the morning. Thankfully I reached a dear friend who contacted their parents to go be with mom, once we knew. My older sister phoned my younger sister who jumped in the car to meet us, who was coming from North Vancouver.
I was praying and hoping that everything would be all right. Thinking this is not going to happen. This is not the way my night was going to go. This was not what was supposed to happen to me or my family.
There were so many cars. So many people. Firetrucks. Ambulances. The parking lot was packed. I didn’t even park my car. We jumped out so fast. Went running in to the building. So many people standing around. Watching. Waiting. And there was my dad, lying on the floor, having CPR. The medical team was trying to talk to us. But all I did was focus on my dad. Praying he would be all right. Talking to him. Telling him we were there. And then the first responders starting counting. I didn’t know what they were doing but I knew it wasn’t good. And the words came “I’m so sorry”. Sorry for what? No, there was no sorry. This wasn’t happening. But my dad was gone. And there was nothing that could be done.
Before I knew it, people had posted on social media. The Great Bruce Kehler, businessman with a Golden Heart, had passed away. It was posted before my mom knew. It was posted before my kids knew. It was posted before my sister even arrived at the venue. Everyone was just standing around. Staring. Watching.
This man was not just anyone. He was MY dad. He was a papa. He was a husband. He was more than the businessman with a golden heart. He was more than an employer. Or a business partner.
He was OUR golden heart. He was OUR life. And it came crashing down in an instant. He had just turned 65 two days prior. He was too young.
The calls. The flowers. The crying. The visitors. So much to deal with.
Consumed by grief, this became my moment to come through for my family. Not a job I ever wanted. Not a job I was ready for. In fact, I remember talking to my dad literally the day before about some updates to his life insurance. I specifically said to him I wasn’t ready for him to leave me yet. He chuckled and was so carefree in his reply that I need not worry about that, calling me Susie as he has since I was born.
You see, my dad, had been training me or rather mentoring me from day one of my life. He knew I would be there to take care of everyone and everything. I never always understood what he shared or why he shared but in the coming months, I realized very quickly. He knew one day it would be his time. He knew he could trust me. He knew he could rely on me. After all, I had the training. Not only as a CPA, CA but being his daughter. Having his business mindset. Having his desire to achieve and excel. To provide and give back to our communities.
By now, you might be wondering why I share this on my business website. And this is why. Even with all my training and background, nothing can prepare you for this. But you quickly learn how much you can handle. You learn what you can and can’t do.
My parents have always been planners. They had life insurance. They had wills. They had most things taken care of. They reviewed them often and made changes when necessary. They involved my sisters and I in the conversations. We knew that one day this would come. Despite us not wanting it to come this soon or ever, really.
We were fortunate that my parents always had a plan. And although we had to make our own choices in those moments and days ahead, we made decisions together that were right for our family. We made decisions based on how we would move forward without the greatest man in our world.
As we approach the one year since my dad passed, I am reminded of everything we have gone through this past year. My family stayed strong. We made decisions together. We have been there for each other. We have reconnected with family and friends. The bond with family and friends has grown stronger. I have made changes in my own business that I never expected to make.
So I share this because I know so many people do not have wills. Do not have life insurance. Do not have a plan. You don’t know when your world will change with a blink of the eye.
My dad had businesses. He was successful. He had a plan. We knew what to do. But even as a professional, I still had to hire many accountants and lawyers to help. We weren’t just lucky to have these resources; we had them as part of the plan.
Even if your loved one had a simple life – one house, one bank account, a pension – there is a lot of work involved in filing the last tax returns, cancelling drivers licences or passports, going through probate, having a will or not having a will, calling employers, friends or family, planning a service, filing for life insurance…the list is endless. Executors have a lot to deal with. Families have a lot to deal with.
Have life insurance if it makes sense for you and your family. Have a will. Have a plan.
Be prepared. Life is far shorter than we think.