Sometimes things happen that are so convolutedly coincidental that it could make you believe in superstitions such as destiny or parallel universes or divine providence. Sometimes these things are magical and wonderful, like when you retrace all of the things that had to happen in just the right order for you to meet your spouse, or for life to form on a barren planet so that your spouse could even exist. Sometimes they are horrific and guilt-laden, like when you retrace all of the things that had to happen in just the right order for you to be languishing on Death Row, or for an asteroid to wipe out millions of years of history in a day. Sometimes they are a mixture of the two.
I've been walking my dog in my little neighborhood for a dozen years now. There are about 300 houses in this neighborhood and, even though it's not a gated community, it is a distinct place with its own pool and POA and a lot of us know each other. I know a lot of the folks who live here as a result of the walks with the dog. When I see that houses have turned over, I try to go out of my way to meet the new owners and see if they might also be potential clients of mine. I sell financial-type stuff for a living and what I sell primarily is life insurance. As of March of next year, I will have been doing that for 30 years, so don't try to talk me out of it. It's too late; plus, I love my job.
Sometimes it annoys folks when they find out I might be trying to sell them something. I try not to annoy folks, but my theory is this: When it comes to life insurance, if you give me any hint that you might need it and don't have it or don't have enough, I will keep asking you when you plan to solve that problem until you specifically tell me that you are not interested in hearing any more about it. So, if I hear, "Well, the wife and I are still discussing it," or something along those lines, you can expect to get another call or visit from me. If you think that's being pushy, see how you feel about the rest of this story.
It was last winter when the dog and I were on one of our approximately two-mile walks. I saw a young woman with a toddler getting her mail at a house that had recently had a "For Sale" sign in the yard. I crossed the street and introduced myself. She was friendly enough until I told her what I did for a living, and then the atmosphere got a bit chilly. I did, however, manage to get her to give me their unlisted phone number. I put it on my to-do list and called around half a dozen times, always getting the answering machine even though I was pretty sure someone was at home. (I don't usually leave messages. Everyone has Caller ID now, anyway, so they already know everything I'd tell them in a message.) I let it drop off of my to-do list and forgot about it.
Then, around the end of winter, I was going by that same house again and I saw her husband leaving in his car. He must have been going to work because she was standing by the side of his car and holding their little boy up to the window so that he could kiss his daddy good-bye. It was the closest thing to a Norman Rockwell painting I've ever seen. I didn't bother them, but I did notice that she was visibly pregnant. I put them back on my to-do list and called another half a dozen times. Finally, he picked up the phone. He knew why I was calling and didn't waste much time in telling me that he did, indeed, need to discuss life insurance with someone and it might as well be me.
Soon afterwards, I was in their house and he and I were sitting at their kitchen table working over the final paperwork. This was one of those interviews where I considered the sale already made before I got in the car, and I'm not usually wrong about these things. I don't like putting on long pants and dress shoes, so I try to make sure I'm not getting in the car for nothing. I'm not being cocky here; I'm just saying that once you've been doing this for as long as I have, you get a feel for these things. He told me that his dad had died in an accident at age 36 when he was a toddler. I asked him his age. He said he was 36. He said that his mom had just had a new baby and that if his dad hadn't had life insurance, their lives would have been changed dramatically. He said that he'd been putting this off too long and seemed glad to finally be doing something about it.
What got me about the time I spent in their house was how the wife was ignoring me. She didn't say two words to me and just worked in the kitchen while I was there, basically pretending I didn't exist. I felt as if she was unhappy about the whole deal but was deferring to her husband. I assumed it had something to do with either their budget situation -- she stayed at home with the child and he sold medical equipment -- or that maybe she just didn't like the idea of life insurance. Anyway, even though the policy was slightly rated due to his weight, it was issued and I delivered it to him a couple of weeks later.
I got a call from her the other day. She asked if I remembered her husband and said his name. It didn't register at first (I talk to a lot of different folks every day), but then she mentioned the street they lived on and it all came back to me. I asked if she'd had that new baby yet. She said, "Yes. But my husband got killed in a car wreck." And she started to cry. It was a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler and it was instant. I felt bad that I hadn't known this already, since I try to make a point of reading the obits every day in order to stay ahead of the curve on things such as this. We had a long talk on the phone and her demeanor would alter between being very matter of fact and then breaking into tears. We talked about how many times I'd called before I finally got an interview with her husband. She admitted that she hated the idea of it and had even tried to talk him out of accepting the policy after I'd gotten it issued. Then she said, "I don't even know how much life insurance he bought from you." I told her and reviewed how he and I had arrived at that particular figure. He'd wanted her to be able to pay off their mortgage and all their debts and then have at least a few years of his income if something were to happen to him. Something happened is the preferred American euphemism for "dying." I'm not sure if that's strictly an American thing or if it's universal. Anyway, when I told her about how her husband and I had arrived at the amount of the policy, she totally broke down and said, "Oh, my sweet baby." It was hard for me to say anything after that.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me, but it's the only time it's going to happen to her. Hopefully. She reminded me that his dad had been killed at the same age and that his kids were the same age as theirs when it happened. This is the first time that something like that has happened to me, and it made me think about all the coincidences involved. Then the coincidences started piling up.
I eschew Facebook for obvious reasons, but my wife and daughter both use it. My wife asked me a few days after this phone call what my client's name was. I told her and asked why she wanted to know. She said that a good friend of ours who got married and moved away last year had posted a deal on her Facebook page about how upset she was that an old boyfriend of hers had been killed in a car wreck. It turns out that this old friend of ours had invited us to an outdoor picnic several years ago when she was dating this boyfriend and I had actually met him. Obviously neither he nor I remembered this when I was in his house fixing this life insurance policy up for him.
Then a few days later, my wife showed me an article in the paper I'd overlooked, like I'd overlooked the obits the one day I should have read them. It was a human interest story by a guy who writes a regular column and it was about my client and his wife. He'd interviewed her and gotten her permission to write the story. It concerned an email she'd found when going through her husband's account to get contact information and material for his funeral. The email was a reply to a friend of theirs who was having trouble in her marriage. My client's wife put a copy of the email on her Facebook page and it has gone viral. Now, according to the article, she is spending hours on the phone each day talking to people from all over the place about the effects of reading that email and then finding out that her husband was killed not long afterwards. One woman told her it had saved her marriage. A pastor in Georgia read it in a wedding ceremony he performed.
The gist of the correspondence was that the friend with whom he was having this email conversation had told my client that she was afraid that the man she'd married was not her soul mate. He replied by eloquently opining that there really was no such thing. He said that a soul mate wasn't someone you find; it was someone you intentionally become. Someone you become with hard work and sacrifice. He talked about how he thought more about his wife's needs than he did his own, and how this seemed to be the key to a happy marriage for him.
At his funeral the email was read by their pastor. As folks were leaving, the pastor said he overheard the widow encouraging all their friends and relatives to love their spouses as much as he'd loved her.