when the sky falls

Jennifer was in her thirties and married to her best friend, Lance. They had picked the perfect place among the towering trees and stunning sunsets of Washington State in which to build a life and raise their two beautiful girls. That life was busy, the girls were growing fast, their little family was strong and they had big plans.

Jennifer would be headed back to school soon to finish her degree in communications. Lance had a good job with the state and could cover the loss of her salary. He’d take care of dinners for the girls, help out with laundry, and make sure Jennifer had plenty of time to study for exams. They’d keep the weekends free for family time. That was all part of the plan. A blood clot was not.

When the sky falls from above your head, you don’t see it coming. Jennifer’s sky came crashing down the day that blood clot took Lance away from his family.

Jennifer never imagined a life without Lance. She never planned to be widowed in her thirties with 9 and 3-year-old daughters. After all, she was only in her thirties. She didn’t see this coming. How could she have? None of us could. The sky doesn’t warn us before it falls.

Jennifer now found herself with no job, two children to support and a life to rebuild. The benefits Lance’s job had provided would be running out all too quickly. She knew that going without health coverage may be an option for her, it certainly was not for her children.

Growing up in a small Washington state logging town of fewer than 4,000 people, Jennifer had seen families in need. But they were always other families, not hers. Families that struggled to make ends meet needed public assistance like Medicaid. She’d had a good job. They’d had a plan. This wasn’t part of it… until it was.

“The rural town I grew up in was economically depressed. I knew families who needed things like Medicaid,” Jennifer shared, “I’d seen the need but it had never been my family before this happened.”  

When Lance’s benefits ran out, Medicaid stepped in to fill the gaps for the girls. Medicaid helps countless families, cutting across all social, educational, and economic divides. It was the safety net that this family needed.

So much of our energy as parents go into building a life, giving our families all we can. How often do we pause to truly plan for the day when the sky might fall? After all, it could happen to any of us.

“Don’t be too proud to think this could never happen to you. I hope it never does, but know that jumping through any hoop you need to for your children is something you may one day have to do.” ~ Jennifer

Jennifer’s girls were on Medicaid for around two years, just until she got her footing again. Slowly, bit-by-bit, the sky floated back into place. Jennifer now works in the healthcare industry, a career choice shaped in part by her Medicaid story.

Ali, Jennifer and Lance’s oldest daughter, is now in her twenties and planning her wedding. Sidney, who was only 3 at the time that Lance passed away, is a bright and vibrant teenager currently mulling over her college choices having earned acceptance to three of her top choices already.  

Medicaid isn’t something that any of us wants to have a need for. Personally, now knowing that it is there should the sky fall, gives me a small amount of peace as a parent.

This story was written as part of a paid partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health. I was honored to be able to share the honesty and humanity in Jennifer’s story. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about the many faces and stories of those for whom
Medicaid has been a lifeline.

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