You Can’t Take It With You

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Life has a way of cruisin’ along just fine for a long while, and then completely overwhelming you all at once. It ebbs and flows like the tides of the ocean, but can hit you like a tidal wave without warning, destroying your reality and leaving you there to pick up the pieces.

I lost two grandparents in the past month.

Cancer Sucks

Before Michelle and I even got married, we were already talking about baby names. In fact, we had already picked out our first daughter’s name while we were dating. And it was no question that her middle name would be June.

My grandma June was the sweetest, most kind and loving woman I knew. And even at 80 years old, she wouldn’t let you lift a finger, but with a servants heart would cook you amazing meals, enjoy wonderful conversation and generally make you feel like the most important person in the world.

Grandma and Nolan

And the tidal wave that came ashore was the day we found out she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

First thoughts of cancer brought my mind directly to all the people who have fought cancer and survived. I mean, why wouldn’t hers be another success story of the advance of modern science and triumph of the human spirit? But maybe I just didn’t want to think of the reality of how cancer kills. I mean, most everyone who has died in my family has died of cancer. Even my dad. But we knew she could beat it!

PETscan confirmed that it had spread all throughout her body. We were able to use our stored up credit card points to hop a last-minute flight down to California to visit in mid-November. She wasn’t feeling well, but came out to chat with us, watch old home movies, and take some pictures with our family. That was the last time we saw her.

It only took 4 months for the cancer to take her. She was diagnosed in August of 2013 and passed in December of 2013. Our family lost an absolute treasure of a woman, and heaven gained an angel.

Absolute Joy

Our hearts were crushed that grandma June did not get to meet her great-granddaughter. But less than a month later, our baby girl was born. We could not be more thrilled about our new little blessing! She was beautiful (of course), precious and sooo tiny (compared to her big brother).

We experienced the highest of highs that day. As a proud father of a brand-new baby girl, my heart was already taken by this little bundle of joy.

Baby Daphne

Along with our joyful celebration came the sleepless nights and adjusting common to all with a toddler and newborn. And we also went through the hardest week we have ever been through as parents. A toddler sick with the flu for 9 days, Dadda with the same thing for 7 days, and 2 week old with a cold. ICK! But we came out the other side stronger as a family unit, and finally healthy.

Cancer Seriously Sucks

Just after our season of sickness was winding down, some more terrible news came.

I’ve talked a little bit about my grandpa on this blog. He was one of the most generous, kind, fun-loving people I have ever known. He always had a joke ready, and wouldn’t hesitate to give you crap just to get a rise out of you. As a kid growing up, he was like Santa Claus, a jolly man with a big smile and even bigger laugh. Visiting “Papa” was always the best vacation!

He owned a cabin on a small lake about an hour north of us that he poured his heart and soul in to. He bought the plot of land, completely logged it, and built a cabin as a getaway for him and his family (of 6 kids!). They learned to swim there, his grandchildren learned to swim there, and now great-grandchildren are carrying on the tradition.

Cabin Lake

It is the most beautiful place I can think of in Washington, and is a place where the happiest moments of childhood are carried in our memories. My grandpa wrote his life story into a 220+ page book, and a HUGE chunk of it was dedicated to all the wonderful things about his cabin.

That is how I will always remember my grandpa. A loving husband who literally took care of his wife for years and years, though she had a tough time remembering who he was, and had forgotten most of our family (Alzheimer’s). A loving father who gave everything to take care of his children. A caring and kind “Papa” who showed his grandchildren what it meant to be generous and put family above all else. And a great-grandparent who will pass on his legacy through more and more generations through his life story.

Papa and Nolan

At the same time my grandma June was diagnosed, we also found out he had a cancerous tumor in his neck. It was inoperable.

He did undergo some treatments to the point where he was flown back to Seattle to see if they could operate. Again, a PETscan revealed the cancer had spread, and they gave him only a few months to live. Since he was nearby, we were able to finish his book (took 6 months to edit in our spare time) and hand him a physical copy on Christmas. We got to say our goodbyes and he met our baby girl. And then we watched another grandparent taken away by cancer in less than 6 months.

My grandpa passed in January 2014, we attended his funeral this past week.

You Can’t Take It With You

I got the chance to talk with my granpda a bunch before he passed. I also got the chance to visit my grandma and enjoy her company once last time before she passed as well. On those occasions, not once did I ever hear them lament over not having earned more money in their lifetimes. Not once did they complain about their lack of stuff, not having the newest shiny trinket, or a new car.

These things have stuck in my mind, and I haven’t been able to enjoy thinking about money or planning budgets or blogging about savings for the past month. There have been much heavier things going on here, and I am still trying to process it all, though I am finding that just writing this stuff out helps.

Money is a necessary tool, and a budget plan needs to be put in place to get it sorted out. But not so you can buy more crap that you can’t take with you. But so you can forget about it and focus on what is really important.

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

45 thoughts on “You Can’t Take It With You”

  1. Sorry for the loss Jacob. It truly is depressing to experience those, I lost my grandpa and grandma last 2010 and 2012, and I experienced extreme sadness losing those sweet and kind couple who helped me become what I am today.
    I’m sure you’ll be able to move on because that’s the only thing we can do when it comes to that, right?
    By the way, good luck with the baby Jacob! 🙂

  2. This is a beautiful testament to those you have loved and lost and the beautiful new love in your life. I recently experienced the death of a good friend, and I have found myself more contemplative of life and the choices I make. Losing someone we love is sad, but it also gives us the gift of awareness of how fragile life truly is. Sending good thoughts your way!

    • Thanks Shannon. It really does stop you in your tracks. As a young person, most of us think we’re invincible, and death is a distant thought, if even a thought at all. But when forced to the forefront of your reality, really puts things into perspective quick.

  3. I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. I’m also happy for you – that you have enjoyed such wonderful grandparents. They both sound like amazing people. Thank you for sharing your life on this blog, and carrying forward that lesson of caring learned from your grandparents. Please accept my best wishes for your loved ones and you.

    • Thanks for reading, Fran. And thank you for the thoughts. I am truly blessed, I definitely know that. My wife tells me all the time how much she loves being a part of our family, as it is huge and everyone loves each other. And her family is great as well, so we are very truly blessed. I think that’s what makes this so hard.

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. I have great memories for three of my four grandparents, and it’s amazing how I see my daughter, who was born after they were all gone, have some of those traits I remember. My Granny loved pink more than any person on the plant. She even had a pink toilet. I don’t care for pink, never have, but my daughter would have a pink toilet if I’d let her. That’s so great your Grandpa got to write his story. Everyone should have something like that.

    • Thanks Emily. Our priorities have not shifted much, but are more cemented in place by these events. I hope to write what I have learned during these times and help other gain some perspective as well.

  5. Thank you Jake, this is beautiful and I love reading your writing. Not once did we ever hear papa or grandma complain about the wonderful lives they both had lived. You are so right, not once did they complain about the things they did not have or the money they did not have. In the end it was not about what they did or did not have, it was about what they are leaving behind; their family and friends and loved ones and the legacy they have built.

    ~Karen (jake’s sister) 🙂

    • Thanks sis! And thanks for reading 🙂

      We obviously has amazing memories and their legacy is ours to cherish and pass on. I am excited to stand on the shoulders of giants and continue to build on what they have left behind.

  6. I’m sorry for your loss. I also lost my grandma last month. It sounds like you were blessed with wonderful grandparents. Loved ones are what truly matters in life.

  7. Sorry, Bud – so very, very sorry for your loss. It sucks. I remember well the pain of losing wonderful, loving grandparents – just remember this – they never really do leave you. They will always leave signs of themselves – just in time, when you need the help the most. So sorry.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Jim. I know I will see them again, excited for that. But while on this earth, their memories and legacy are all around, and we will cherish and enjoy that.

  8. I will never forget my Papa’s funeral. One by one, person after person stepped up to talk about the powerful impact he had made on their life. Students, friends, family members, colleagues. I hadn’t cried when he died, though it was obviously very sad. But hearing all of these people speak such genuine and loving words about this man, I had to step outside when it was done and just sob uncontrollably. I remember being so moved that one man could have such a profound impact on so many people, and thinking that THAT is what life is all about.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve lost two great and important people in your life. It’s hard to lose loved ones, but the best thing we can do is exactly what you’re doing here, which is take the great things they did and try to pass them on. I wish you and your family all the best.

    • The house was packed as my grandpa’s funeral as well. He had such a presence, such and impact on people’s lives. I can only hope to be half the man he was, and I will be satisfied. What a life to remember.

    • Yes! Money is a tool, nothing more. And you should use that tool wisely to building something solid, so you can focus on the REAL important things in life. Financial independence for me = more family time. That’s it!

  9. Sorry for your loss; cancer does suck. I really appreciate you sharing your family’s stories – this was a wonderful tribute and definitely a reminder that the big things in life aren’t possessions, it’s people.

  10. I’m so sorry about your lost. I really hate cancer too, but my father died because of colon cancer. He was diagnosed on July 2007 and on November 2007 he passed away. The doctor told us that it’s hard for me to undergo an operation because he was a diabetic. My father was only 49 year old when he died.

  11. I’m sorry for your loss as well. It’s hard when you lose someone you love. You’re right that you can’t take it with you. Life is short and we need to live it while we can.

  12. I’m really sorry to hear about you losing your grandpa. It sounds like you had many special times together.

    You’re right about not being able to take anything with you. My million dollar goals are all about leaving something behind for my future kids and having enough money for my wife and I to enjoy our retirement years living it up in style!


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